1. Gosforth Park Nature Reserve
To the north of Newcastle is this gem – a 60ha Natural History Society of Northumbria reserve that encompasses a lake, woods and extensive reedbeds. Star species include roe deer, otters and a handful of red squirrels. Woodland birds, foxes and badgers are also resident, while marsh harriers visit to hunt and bitterns overwinter.
2. Big Waters
These former mine workings in north Newcastle are now a pond and fen managed by the Northumberland Wildlife Trust (NWT). They are home to a thriving colony of tree sparrows, a variety of damselflies and dragonflies, and great crested newts. There are also plenty of notable plants here, including pepper saxifrage. Access is to NWT members only.
3. Lemington Gut
The saltmarsh and tidal mudflats on the north shore of the Tyne next to the city’s busy A1 western bypass support wintering waders and wildfowl, including 2,000–3,000 golden plover, redshank and black-tailed godwits, together with numerous teal and shelduck.
4. Jesmond Dene
This tranquil haven, a narrow wooded valley and stream, was donated to the city by Lord Armstrong in 1883. Highlights include dippers, grey wagtails, noctule bats, badgers and flora typical of ancient woodland, such as wood anemone.
5. Lower Ouseburn Valley
Sandwiched between the Byker viaduct and the Tyne’s north bank, this ribbon of wilderness has woodland birds and otters, kingfishers, grey wagtails and redshanks in its lower reaches. The inspirational Ouseburn City Farm project (and its tea room) is also well worth a visit.
6. Tyne Bridge
Kittiwakes nest on the Tyne Bridge and surrounding riverside buildings. They are noisy and easy to observe. In 2001, a unique kittiwake tower was built to house pairs displaced by the Baltic Art Gallery redevelopment.