A restored, wildlife friendly public garden leading to Dunston Staiths, has been launched today, as part of a celebration event for the cutting edge Staiths housing development, on the banks of the Tyne in Gateshead.
The garden is also being launched 26 years on from the opening of the Gateshead National Garden Festival on the same site.
The saltmarsh garden is designed to provide a peaceful haven for people, while also encouraging wildlife, in this rare and important habitat on the banks of the River Team, close to where it meets the Tyne.
It provides a direct link on to Dunston Staiths, reopened last year by Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust, thanks to support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The area covered by the saltmarsh garden and Dunston Staiths were part of the site used for the National Garden Festival in 1990. The festival came after the reclamation and decontamination of over 200 acres of former industrial land stretching from the Team Valley to Dunston.
A key aim of the festival was always to encourage new development on the land after the event closed. The vast majority of the land was sold for development in advance. But some areas were retained as parks or wildlife havens, including the land which now forms the saltmarsh garden.
The garden got its name because of the tiny area of saltmarsh that grows here and was used as the centre piece of a wildlife garden created especially for the festival. This habitat is normally found at the coast, and only exists in land-locked Gateshead, 12 miles from the sea, because of the power of the tides on the Tyne.
The garden has now been restored by housebuilder Taylor Wimpey, which is responsible for the well-known Staiths South Bank development nearby.
Gateshead Council and Durham Wildlife Trust are working on a community outreach project, funded by Taylor Wimpey, working with local people and schools to celebrate the area.
The saltmarsh garden project was officially launched this morning in the first event of a day of celebration in both the garden and at the Staiths South Bank, marking the end of the pioneering housing development.
Leader of Gateshead Council, Martin Gannon, said: “It’s hard now to imagine just how this place looked at the height of its industrial use. Where once waggons of coal thundered by, now birds feed and land that was once thick with contamination is now green and full of wildlife.
“The Staiths are a hugely important monument to our industrial heritage but this garden is a vital link with our natural history. It might be 26 years since the garden festival, but the same principle stands, this land has been reclaimed for the benefit of local people and in this case, wildlife too.”