A NEW addition to Ponteland Park is proving to be a hive of activity.
Park users and councillors gathered at the Oxbow Lake area of the facility on Tuesday for the official opening of the boardwalk and dipping platform.
The small lake, located in woodland next to Fox Covert Lane, had been virtually inaccessible due to steep, slippery banks and muddy paths, so the Friends of Ponteland Park (FOPP) set about improving access through sturdy steps and a walkway.
Members also asked for a platform where people can dip their nets into the water to search for wildlife.
Heather Forshaw applied to the Big Lottery Fund for a grant of almost £10,000 under the Awards for All scheme after receiving advice from Duncan Hutt and Paul Salmon of Northumberland Wildlife Trust (NWT), and it was approved in November 2011.
The structure was constructed last year between May and October by EcoNorth – the ecological consultancy for the NWT.
The material used is very strong and needs no maintenance. Workers had to don waders and get chest deep in the lake to get the dipping platform posts in place.
The area is well used by people of all ages, particularly since the weather became warmer a few weeks ago.
FOPP Chair Margaret Stainsby said: “The dipping platform provides a lovely view of the lake and it’s quite a sunny spot so people can come here and relax when the weather is nice.
“It helps us to manage the lake, which is an important part of the park’s wildlife network.
“We’re extremely grateful to the wildlife trust and EcoNorth for their efforts and Ponteland Town Council for funding a seat for the dipping platform, which our grant was not able to cover.
“In addition, the town council has improved access to the area by installing drainage and a path through a very muddy section at the top of the steps.
“We have received many positive comments from members of the public and now we’re looking to put in another seat at the top section of the boardwalk.”
A range of wildlife has been spotted in the lake, such as tadpoles, water shrimps, caddisfly larvae and spined stickleback, and kingfishers have been seen in the area.
Work has recently begun on preparing areas of bare soil to put in native plants suitable for a damp wooded area. Parts of the lakeside are to be kept inaccessible to provide a refuge for wildlife.
The opening was performed by Ponteland Mayor Peter Cowey, who said: “It’s a wonderful asset for the park and my thanks goes to all those who were involved in the project. It’s wonderful that children can use it to learn a great deal about ecology.”