Wild Saltholme

Protecting and restoring wildlife abundance 

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At a glance


Cowpen Bewley, County Durham


100 hectares

Start date





Lowland, Wetlands (including peatlands and marsh) and Lakes and ponds

Key species

Lapwing, wigeon and Golden plover

Rewilding actions

Habitat restoration, Tree Planting, Natural regeneration and Reduction in grazing

Engaging people

Tourism, Recreation and Education programme

RSPB Saltholme is an important habitat for wintering wildfowl and wetlands, supporting an abundance of wildlife. However, in response to the nature and climate emergency a new vision is being developed – one that will expand the existing reserve, as well as the diversity and mosaic of habitats supported by the site in the long-term. A rewilding approach is being taken to allow natural processes to lead the way on 100ha of former farmland to improve the resilience of the site for wildlife and people.

Grazing across the Wild Saltholme area will be removed to allow vegetation to be restored. Arable cropping will cease across the area to encourage the restoration of natural habitats, including grassland. This will aim to restore natural habitats and create opportunities for more wildlife to move into the area.


Visitors are already encouraged to the area, supported by a visitor centre, shop and café. Wild Saltholme will provide an additional educational resource for visitors to learn about the project and how nature is returning.


Arable cropping ceased on the site, and grazing livestock have been removed. The removal of grazing animals will give the vegetation the opportunity to naturally regenerate, restoring a mosaic of habitats including grassland and scrub. Some supplementary tree planting will be undertaken to restore the seed source for the area, which has been lost. Six new ponds have been created to restore the natural hydrology to the area. Small areas of grassland have been ploughed and harrowed along some hedgerows to encourage germination of seeds.

Images: Chris Francis and Alastair Driver



Future Plans

  1. 1 Baseline surveys and monitoring have been set up by Teesside University, including biodiversity and water quality monitoring. Further work is planned for 2022 to monitor changes to soil structure. The site team will continue to monitor bird activity across the site.
  2. 2 Next winter a new hedgerow will be established along the western side of the site.

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