Wildlife in the Park

Tees Heritage Park contains a mosaic of environments from reed beds to ancient woodland and supports a host of different species. Whether taking a short stroll in the park or visiting a particular wildlife site keep your eyes peeled for some.

View the Gallery for images of some of the wildlife.

The River Tees

The River Tees was once one of the most polluted in Britain. In 1970, over 500 tonnes of waste were being discharged into it every day. This caused the water temperature to rise, with a corresponding decrease in the dissolved oxygen it contained. Not surprisingly, such conditions were detrimental for wildlife survival in the river. In 1972, plans were drawn up to tackle the problem.

A gradual decline in heavy industries and a tightening of discharge permits began the decline in water pollution and Teessides image as a dirty area has changed. Much of the land once used by heavy industry has been reclaimed and developed for new business, public recreation and leisure. Between 1990 and 2001, water quality of the Tees Estuary improved dramatically and migratory fish have returned gradually to the River Tees due to recent improvements to intercept and treat domestic sewage and industrial discharges.

The Tees now has a population of Salmon, Sea Trout and coarse fish. These in turn support Kingfishers, Herons, Cormorants and Otters. Other birdlife include Mute Swans, Mallard Ducks, Canada Geese and Moorhens.

Bowesfield Wetland, Tees Valley Wildlife Trust

This wetland reserve is formed by three loops in the River Tees, each with its own character and special wildlife. The reserve is home to a growing number of birds such as Stonechat, Water Rail, Skylark and Curlew which roost and feed in the rich, wet grassland and lakes found on the site. The reserve also offers opportunities to spot Otters and Sand Martins along the river bank. Reed beds on the site are home to Reed Bunting and Harvest Mouse, whilst Roe Deer can often be seen moving through the reserve.

Quarry Woods, Preston Park

Woodland within Preston Park was declared a nature reserve in 2004. It is a former Victorian Quarry that has now been reclaimed by nature. Its location at the far southern edge of the park and its mix of trees such as Beech, Alder, Oak, Horse Chestnut and Larch make this a pleasant and quiet retreat from the bustle of other
areas of the park.

Part of the quarry is now flooded and provides a home for Frogs, Toads, Newts and birds such as Moorhen, as well as a host of invertebrates. The mature woodland  provides for a wealth of wildlife and woodland flowers. You may hear the drumming of a Great Spotted Woodpecker and at night the hoots
of a Tawny Owl. Rabbits abound, Foxes and even Roe Deer have been seen.

Bassleton Wood and the Holmes

Bassleton Woods is a six-hectare pocket of ancient deciduous woodland sandwiched between the Bassleton Court housing estate of Thornaby and the River Tees. It was declared a local Nature Reserve in October 1992. It’s interesting array of woodland flowers give a hint of its ancient past, although there are no huge trees here as the woods were felled at the end of World War Two. 

It is a haven to Wych Elm and some English Elm, trees that were decimated in other areas countrywide by Dutch elm disease. There are some rarely seen creatures here such as the ‘White Letter Hairstreak Butterfly’ and despite the proximity of housing there is the possibility of seeing a Roe Deer if you are out for an early morning walk. 

The Holmes area of the nature reserve comprises 6.8-hectares of low-lying ex-agricultural land in a meander known to Thornaby residents as horseshoe bend. It is a mix of developing woodland, wildflower meadow and wetlands. 

Black Bobbies’ Field

Although only a small site of some 6 hectares nestled up against housing in Thornaby, this reserve is host to a range of wildlife. It was declared a Local Nature Reserve in 1992. There are developing woodland, wet meadows, a large pond and a fish haven connected to the river. A footpath elevated for much of its length on an earthen mound goes around the site giving good views of the meadows, ponds and river. A metal bridge takes the walker across the neck of the fish haven.