Living the wild life is on the agenda for visitors to Kielder Water & Forest Park thanks to a National Lottery funding boost.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust an initial grant of £17,700 to develop its ‘Living Wild at Kielder’ project.

The project will help people experience and learn about the area’s special animals and plants through the development of ‘nature hubs’ and a year round events and activity programme.

Wildlife trails will be created from Stonehaugh, Falstone and Greenhaugh villages with support from the local community, while wildlife ambassadors and volunteers will inspire and engage with visitors.

The Trust will also work with businesses to increase the number of people taking part in wildlife events and activities.

There are plans to improve visitor interpretation 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.

Kielder Salmon Centre, which has been a major contributor to turning the River Tyne into the best salmon fishing river in England and Wales, will also benefit from the project by seeing improved visitor facilities at the site.

Lynn Turner, Director of Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, said: “We’re home to the largest man-made lake in northern Europe and England’s largest working forest, so it’s no wonder we attract such impressive and diverse wildlife with the sheer variety of habitats on offer.

“We’re delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund have given us the support for our ‘Living Wild at Kielder’ project, and it’s great to know that we are a step closer to animating the Park’s amazing wildlife for the benefit of our visitors and the local community.”

The award-winning Park is home to 60% of the UK's native red squirrel population and in 2009, ospreys returned to the area following an absence of more than 200 years in Northumberland.

Mike Pratt, Chief Executive of Northumberland Wildlife Trust, said: “This is a great opportunity to really bring to life the amazing variety of wildlife that lives in and around Kielder Water & Forest Park, which is one of the main reasons people visit to the area.

“A wild day out at Kielder can include seeing everything from raptors to red squirrels, ospreys to badgers and owls, and there is a real sense of being in a really wild place.This funding will help people find out about the wildlife spectacle that is Kielder.”

Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust plans to progress an application for a full grant of £341,500 from Heritage Lottery Fund in spring 2016.

Ivor Crowther, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund North East, said: “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, we’re delighted to offer our support to this project which will transform the way visitors can experience the fantastic natural heritage at one of Northumberland’s key attractions. We look forward to seeing the plans develop.”

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.