Opportunities for visitors to live the wild life at Kielder Water & Forest Park will be created with the support of new funding of more than £330,000 made possible by National Lottery players.

At the end of 2015, an initial Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of £17,700 was handed to the Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust to develop its ‘Living Wild at Kielder’ project. This has now been followed with an additional £336,300 from HLF.

The project will help create “nature hubs” to allow people to experience and learn about the area’s special animals and plants. This will be complemented by a year-round events and activity programme.

The Trust will create wildlife trails from Stonehaugh, Falstone and Greenhaugh villages with support from the local community. It will also work with businesses to increase take-up of the events and activities, while wildlife ambassadors and volunteers will inspire and engage with visitors.

Lynn Turner, Director of Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, said: “The wildlife that lives within Kielder Water & Forest Park is incredibly diverse and impressive, so the creation of an increasing array of opportunities for people to experience and learn about the species and habitats is fantastic.

“The awarding of this new support from the Heritage Lottery Fund is wonderful news for the ‘Living Wild At Kielder’ project. With this enhanced offering for nature lovers, alongside the largest man made lake in northern Europe and England’s largest working forest, the attraction of Kielder as a destination for visitors goes from strength to strength.

“The park is already well known for walking and cycling, as well as its Dark Skies status. This funding adds even more, with different experiences to be had throughout the year.”

As part of ‘Living Wild at Kielder’, there are plans to improve visitor interpretation boards and support the long-term protection of the Park’s wildlife, particularly at Bakethin Nature Reserve which provides an important sanctuary for local plants, birds and other wildlife. The Trust will be working alongside Newcastle University School of Architecture students to create a new wildlife hide and visitor welcome point at Bakethin.

New nature trails are planned around Kielder Castle, linking to Kielder Salmon Centre and there will be a new wildlife themed exhibiton at Tower Knowe Visitor Centre.

The award-winning Park is home to England’s largest red squirrel population and in 2009, ospreys returned to the area following an absence of more than 200 years in Northumberland.

Nick Mason, Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s Development Manager said “We are delighted that money raised by National Lottery players is going to help us bring nature and people closer together at Kielder, adding to the significant attractions of the Forest Park.”

Ivor Crowther, Head of HLF North East, said: “Kielder Water and Forest Park is already a popular attraction in Northumberland and this project provides a fantastic opportunity for thousands of visitors to venture further into the park and experience the incredible natural heritage it has to offer.

“Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, ‘Living Wild at Kielder’ will have a transformational and lasting legacy for Kielder’s visitors and wildlife.”

Northumbrian Water, Forestry Commission, Northumberland Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency will help deliver the project with the Trust, with the support of Northumberland National Park Authority and Newcastle University.