Published 1 March 2023

A community campaign to restore a local nature reserve and beauty spot to its former glory has been speeded up thanks to “fantastic” financial support from the Darlington Building Society 5% Pledge.

The Society has donated £7,500 to Durham Wildlife Trust for its work with local volunteers to revitalise the Brinkburn Pond site, in Hartington Way, as an important community asset.

The grant comes from the Society’s pledge to donate 5% of its profits into good causes, with the support of County Durham Community Foundation.

The Brinkburn Pond nature reserve, which is popular with residents and dog-walkers, has suffered badly over the past year, partly due to climate change and the hot summer depleting water levels.

Conditions led to a blanket of vegetation on the pond and a lack of oxygen resulted in fish dying.

However, Durham Wildlife Trust is working on behalf of site owners, Darlington Borough Council, to carry out conservation management work with a team of local volunteers known as the Brinkburn Pond Champions.

Phil Catton, Conservation Manager for Durham Wildlife Trust, said: “The campaign to revitalise the site is very much driven by the local community, and this significant investment from Darlington Building Society is extremely welcome because it will help us to accelerate our aims of improving the area for wildlife and local people.”

Brinkburn Pond is home to amphibians such as toads and smooth newts, while great crested newts, which are a priority species, have been found on the wider wildlife site.  Water birds at the site include ducks, coots, moorhens and herons, while tench and perch are among the types of fish living in the pond.

Councillor Scott Durham, who represents Brinkburn and Faverdale on Darlington Borough Council, said: “The community is extremely grateful for this support from one of the town’s long-standing institutions.

“The grant from Darlington Building Society will really support Durham Wildlife Trust and the volunteers to enhance this important community asset. It’s a valued green space and it’s about making it loved again.”

The money will be used to produce new signage and stage community events to promote the pond’s natural heritage and make local people more aware of its value.

It will also enable Durham Wildlife Trust experts to spend more time working with the community on practical habitat management.

Lesley Ross, of The Friends of Brinkburn Pond, said: “The site was getting more and more polluted and overgrown with trees, but the clean-up campaign has gathered momentum, and the money from Darlington Building Society is a fantastic boost to the community.

“As well putting the signs up, we can now buy fit-for-purpose tools because, up to now, we’ve been using our own. One of our members is training to use a chainsaw and I’m sure we’ll see real progress being made.”

Andrew Craddock, chief executive of Darlington Building Society, said: “What we love about Brinkburn Pond Champions is that it’s an environmental initiative driven by the community, and one that’s making a real difference to the quality of life for local people.

“We’re delighted that funding through our 5% pledge is going to accelerate the work being carried out, so that this important green area is restored for the benefit of residents and wildlife.”

Additional resources and funding have also been sourced through the National Lottery Awards For All England scheme.

You can learn more about Darlington Building Society’s 5% Pledge, including how to nominate a charity or good cause, here.