A beautiful nature reserve situated among the industrious environment of Middleborough and Stockton-on-Tees. These wetlands offer a vast space with a wide choice of footpaths and trails meandering around the nature reserve.
Image taken by Aiden Dawson
Among the wetlands, hides are dotted around the area where you can spend as much time as you like just sitting and taking in the peaceful nature or observing the wildlife. The visitor centre overlooks the entire land and you can see as far as to the horizon, the iconic transporter bridge standing as one of the area’s famous landmarks, as well as the many chemical plants and cooling towers towering in the distance.
This nature reserve is owned by the RSPB, whose mission is to protect habitats, save species, and help towards tackling the nature and climate emergency. The RSPB own many nature reserves around the country that are intended to provide a reserve for endangers wildlife and to attract people who love/care about nature. Click here to learn more about the RSPB.
Saltholme is one of the largest in the Northeast of England and is also home to the UK’s largest inland breeding colonies of the common tern. It also has several satellite sites around including Saltern Wetlands and Dorman’s Pool. The main reserve has abundant water pools and shallow pools (scrapes), and the reedbeds where water rails, reed buntings and reed warblers thrive. You can see some stunning sights of the UK’s beautiful wildlife and birds all year round. Click here to learn more about Saltholme Nature Reserve.
Why you should visit this Saltholme Nature Reserve
Image taken by Aiden Dawson at Saltholme Nature Reserve
The wildlife is the number one reason why we would recommend a visit to this nature reserve. All year round, there is something to see that cannot be missed if you’re a bird enthusiast and nature-lover. In the spring, come and watch the lapwings perform their wonderful flock formations as they begin to nest on the grassland. See the young ducklings and grebes ride their parent’s backs during summer. During winter time, flocks of golden plover gather and feed across the wet grasslands and pools. In a nutshell, there is always something to see that is worth travelling to the nature reserve.
The visitor centre has a giftshop and café as well as plenty of seating areas to look out the large windows looking over the entire land where you can see up to the horizon. There is an information desk and the reception area and an activities room for young children. Please check the website for the shops opening times as this varies to the rest of the visitor centre and nature reserve.
The café is open all the time that the reserve is open. Just upstairs in the visitor centre, it is a sun trap, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the nature reserve. The food in the café is not limited- from jacket potatoes to sandwiches and kid-friendly meals. There is menu options for people of all tastes and dietary requirements. There is always coffee and other hot drinks on the go, and the cake shelf is always full of tray bakes, Victoria Sponge, and other cakes.
If you are a bird enthusiast and are into birdwatching and photography, the hides are the best places where you can sit and observe the wildlife. You can stay in as long as you like and sit and watch over some of the pools and grasslands. Some of the hides are bigger and have an upstairs that offers a higher vantage point for viewing. Each hide also has information about all the different wildlife species so you can identify them as you look out the hide.
The nature reserve has a wide variety of different footpaths that are colour-coded on their map (click here to view). The footpaths are mainly wide and easy to walk on, but there are some rougher trails too. You can go on different lengths of walks depending on how you want to spend your time there or what part of the wetlands you want to go to.
There is the walled garden that is located near to the visitor centre. It is filled with lots of beautiful plants and bushes and has a sheltered bench area. This area is not very big so you can take everything in a short time.
The nature reserve is also a good place to bring the kids because there is a children’s play area which is located near the carpark and visitor centre. There is also plenty of child-friendly activities and events to entertain the little ones.
Family-friendly events that take place at this nature reserve are ideal for the whole family and the kids. From birdhouse building to photography walks and craft fairs. You can visit the website here to view all upcoming events taking place.
Image of some wildlife taken by Aiden Dawson at Saltholme Nature Reserve
All nature reserves owned by RSPB, including Saltholme, provide opportunities for you to get involved as a volunteer. This is great for work experience and to feel good about yourself for helping the charity obtain its mission to tackle the crisis faced by nature and wildlife. Volunteering projects and roles include everything from admin work to ground work. If you’re interested in volunteering opportunities, then click here!
You can become a member of the RSPB and this grants you free access to all RSPB nature reserves. You get the quarterly magazine for free too, and you can attend and take part in free activities. RSPB events also take place throughout County Durham that are free for RSPB members to attend. You can come to the reception desk at this nature reserve to sign up and also to enquire about volunteering. You can also join the membership on their website- click here to see more!
A big part of why Saltholme Nature Reserve is worth visiting, is that it is very accessible and inclusive to people of all needs and requirements. It is good for people of all ages including children and elderly people. There is something for everyone to enjoy and get out of visiting. Main points of accessibility include:
Most of the footpaths and trails are wide and have an even surface so it’s easy for wheelchairs and pushchairs to travel across. There is also some parts of the nature reserve where you have to open a gate to get access, all the gates have latches that are easy to pull and the gates are wide enough for wheelchairs to pass. There are board walks in parts of some of the trails which have rails and wooden surfaces. The visitor centre has automatic doors at the entrance and is very spacious inside. There is a lift to gain access to the café upstairs. The two main doors leading to the outdoor nature reserve are also automatic.
There are rugged pushchairs and electric mobility scooters free of charge. Rugged pushchairs allow parents to push the infants around all the rugged paths and trails no problem. For visitors who require extra assistance, mobility scooters are also available and can be booked over the phone.
The car park holds up to 100 spaces and includes disabled spaces closest to the visitor centre. The visitor centre is easy to get to from the car park as it’s all on a wide footpath. Some of the parking is also sheltered. The children’s play area can also be accessed directly from the car park without having to go through the visitor centre.
All the hides in the nature reserve are easy to access and they are all varied distances from the visitor centre. They are all accessible from a main footpath and have wide entrances to get inside. There is a bench to sit on while you look out the window. There is also information and signs in all the hides to provide information on the wildlife. One of the hides (the Saltholme Pools Hide) has an upstairs room which can be accessed by a lift.
The upstairs café at the visitor centre is accessible via a lift as well as some stairs. There is a wide choice of menu options catering to all needs. From child-friendly meals to healthy options like salads. Gluten-free and vegan-friendly options are available. You can ask members of staff about other dietary requirements and allergen information.
There is a bus stop right outside the entrance to the nature reserve. The number 1 bus service runs here from Hartlepool and Middlesborough. The nature reserve is additionally connected by extensive cycle routes around Stockton and Middlesborough. There is a cycle path going through the reserve and is open during the nature reserve opening hours.
This is probably the best place to visit if you are looking for peace and tranquillity. If you’re looking to destress, get some fresh air and feel relaxed- the nature reserve offers the perfect atmosphere and facilities for this. The space offers plenty of outdoor seating as well as some indoor seating in the visitor centre. It never gets crowded but can get busy during weekends, bank holidays and school holidays.
We hope you have found this listing helpful. For other similar listings for days out at accessible venues like this, check them out here!
Unfortunately dogs aren't allowed on the nature reserve, but there are plenty of footpaths and trails around the area to take your dog for walks.
QAm I allowed to take photos at the nature reserve?
Yes definitely! Whether you're a professional photographer or just want to take a selfie with the birds! You can also hire binoculars at the visitor centre to use around the nature reserve during your visit.
QDo the opening times vary year round?
During the summer season (1st April-31st October), the nature reserve shuts at 5pm. Between 1st November-31st March, it shuts earlier at 4pm. NOTE last orders at the café are 3.15-3.30pm depending on the season.
QHow much is it to visit the nature reserve?
Costs per adult are £5.00, and it's £2.50 per child. Students can enter for £3.00. Children under 5 have free access. RSPB members can also get free access and carers/support workers too.