Page last updated at 19:34 GMT, Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Wildlife centre opens to public

Wild Bird Discovery Centre at Saltholme
The centre at Saltholme hopes to attract 100,000 visitors a year

A 7m environmental visitor attraction has opened to the public.

It has taken 11 years to plan and build the Wild Bird Discovery Centre at Saltholme, near Middlesbrough.

The 1,000-acre (440-hectare) reserve aims to attract more than 100,000 visitors a year and has butterflies and orchids amongst its attractions.

The centre has been developed in partnership between the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Teesside Environmental Trust.

It is estimated the complex, which has created more than 20 jobs, will provide a 1m boost to the local economy.

'Shaping up'

The design features a futuristic structure that emerges out of the lakeside landscape through a feather-like roof structure, rising from the ground storey to a second-storey viewing tower.

Visitors reach the centre using a drawbridge over the water and are offered panoramic views across the Saltholme site.

Among the sights on display will be brightly-coloured butterflies, orchids, swans and common terns.

Manager Dave Braithwaite said: "It's taken years and years of hard work for us to get to today.

"Now we can finally open the doors and, while not everything is up and running, we are able to offer our first visitors the chance to see how we are already shaping up."

David Kitchen, of the Teesside Environmental Trust, said: "The opening is the end of an 11-year journey.

"We had a vision and now it has been achieved."

Saltholme will be officially opened in March.

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