THE charity which looks after a nature reserve hopes to attract more visitors– from nature stewards of the future to business meetings.

Durham Wildlife Trust has taken on a new member of staff to promote its recently-refurbished visitor centre at Low Barns.

Located on the outskirts of the village of Witton-le-Wear, near Bishop Auckland, Low Barns sits on the banks of the River Wear.

The old farm buildings that give the site its name are now a visitor centre and café.

Following extensive redevelopment work over the summer– funded by North Pennine Dales LEADER and the Weardale Area Action Partnership– Durham Wildlife Trust hopes Low Barns will appeal to a much broader range of people.

Officials say it is a great destination for wildlife enthusiasts, families and businesses looking to hold meetings somewhere a little bit different.

The coffee shop, under new management, is open seven days a week.

Rachel Richards has recently been taken on as wilderness ranger, a new post based at Low Barns.

Her focus will be on engagement and education, developing and delivering the Trust’s youth engagement activities at Low Barns and providing a range of new opportunities for young people from toddlers to teens to help them engage in nature conservation.

The role was developed to inspire and foster future stewardship for the natural world by reaching out to the nature enthusiasts of the future.

Rachel, who has more than 20 years of experience in conservation including protected species work and environmental education, is perfectly placed to deliver the Trust’s vision.

She is also a familiar face to regular visitors to the reserve, having previously led the local monthly Wildlife Watch Group at Low Barns, an activity which sees about 15 children and parents regularly enjoying hands-on learning at the nature reserve and other locations.

She said: “Since I joined as wilderness ranger earlier in the year, I have introduced a range of new initiatives to encourage people to visit this hidden gem, including toddler muddy welly walks for local families and winter bird watching sessions for our members.

“The building provides a space for education, enjoyment and refreshments with food and hot drinks served all day.

"The paths and bird hides around the site are suitable for all users, so everyone can experience the wildlife that thrives across the woodlands, lakes, grasslands and riverbanks.

“It’s a fantastic place, if you haven’t been you must visit.”