Big Waters nature reserve access
This visit included a person who uses: Mobility Scooter
The nature reserve is situated just past Brusnwick village approximately 6 miles outside of Newcastle city. It is part of the Northumberland wildlife trust (NWT). There are two hides and a viewing area but these are kept locked and accessible only by joining the NWT, which costs £30 a year plus £10 for a key. There is a car park which is free, and entrance to the reserve is also free. You can reach the reserve from Newcastle city on the no 45 bus from the Haymarket bus station, getting off near Sandy lane which apparently brings you to within 450ft of Sandy lane - the reserve is down a road, one field long. So as the reserve is split in two - part free and part for NWT members I will keep those two areas in separate paragraphs - firstly the free area. There is a map in the car park showing routes. There are a couple of routes you can take to look around, one goes down to the lake and is fairly accessible in a wheelchair or mobility scooter, although it is a rough path and bumpy. The easiest path is down to the lake, which is fairly short ( a few hundred ft)., this path loops around to met the other path, but I found that the section after the first bridge is difficult terrain - too hard to navigate on my scooter so I turned back and tried the other path. The next path was partially through a small amount of woodlands, on a muddy, uneven path which led to a board walk - again requiring a step up, which I managed to get my scooter up, but Im sure this would be difficult for most in wheelchairs or on scooters. I managed to get to another bridge and needed assistance on the other side of the bridge where the path goes partially around the lake - I would not recommend this part for anyone in a wheelchair or on a mobility scooter, its just far too rough and uneven. Personally I would only recommend this to wheelchair and scooter users going down to the lake, which is only a very short trip, but its the only area I feel is safely navigated, however after heavy rain, mud could make this unsafe. I would definitely recommend taking someone who can assist in case of getting stuck. It is a nice lake, fairly picturesque, although we saw very little wildlife, the woodlands are nice too. If all you are wanting is to get out for half an hour to an hour and be surrounded by nature then it could be a good option. There are no toilet facilities or cafe. For the NWT access you need to backtrack up the road until you find the first field on the right, take this path to the end of the woods then to the end of the field, there is a right turn taking down the side of a field into woodlands. The path after the road and along the two fields is rough and bumpy, it drained the power in my scooter rapidly and was very uncomfortable despite being flat, but it was doable - just. Surprisingly this is apparently listed as wheelchair accessible! It was hard work on a scooter and I have no doubt that it would be hard work on a power or manual wheelchair, in muddy weather I would suggest avoiding it, and again I would only attempt it again if I have a strong, able bodied assistant. At the end of these two paths though there is a board walk which provides easy access along to the dipping pond and main bird hide. The hide is locked, but we purchased a key along with our membership to the NWT, it is accessible by a short ramp and is easy to get into for both wheelchairs and scooters. Inside there is plenty of room and they even have some spaces where a wheelchair user can pull their chair up to the viewing areas without having to get onto the benches. There are views into a large bird feeding area on one side and over the reeds and lake on the other side. There are comfortable cushions on the benches too. As usual in hides there are no toilet facilities. There is another hide apparently just off the boardwalk, also locked, which I did not manage to visit this time, but I was told it was along rough track but not far. I will check this out another time.
Transport & Parking
We did not notice any disabled parking spots on this visit, but will look next time and update here. The number 45 bus from Newcastle Haymarket bus station comes closest.
I really think that considering the NTW part of the reserve is labelled as having disabled access - then they should ensure that the areas leading to the disabled access area is also accessible. Attempting to get down the side of two fields to a purpose built board walk and hide specifically supplied with ramps for wheelchair access makes little sense. I would not attempt this alone on my mobility scooter. There was also a slight step up to the boardwalk, which my scooter did manage but some might not.
Anything else you wish to tell us?
If you can safely reach the main hide then its a great place to watch and photograph birds. Although photographers be warned that there are cages around the feeders making it harder to get nice photogenic natural images. There is a raised platform looking over the reedbeds and lake for anyone able to climb a handful of steps.
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