Natures World (NW) is a site with great potential as a community green space habitat comprising a number of formal garden features, water bodies and open woodland. NW is a fenced-in site, originally operating as a registered charity from 1992 until its closure in late 2012. NW was described as –‘The North of England’s pioneering Eco-experience” – with an average of over 29,000 visitors a year.
The 26 acre site contained over 100 different interactive features and exhibits focusing issues such energy generation, recycling and re-using waste, organic gardening, green transport, bio-diversity and habitat conservation. A key focal point of Natures World was the earth-sheltered Hydroponicum (indoor rainforest). It was heated using geo-thermal bore holes which act as a natural storage system for summer heat to keep the building warm during the winter, while insulation came from the earth-sheltering. Elsewhere on site generate its own electricity, Generated from wind and solar power and recycling of waste water and sewage took place using a natural reed-bed system that embraced the Eco ethos of the site.
Other attractions included Future World 2020 where visitors could take a “space age” journey to discover how it is believed people on Teesside would be living in two decades time. A demonstration ‘Earth Ship’ building was made from recycled car tyres. Visitors could take up the “Sustainability Challenge” and test how big their environmental footprint was.
There was a unique 400m long model of the River Tees, complete with bridges and named town features along its length from Cow Green Reservoir to the Tees Estuary. Elsewhere in the gardens there was a giant “interactive” compost heap showing how worms work to transform waste into compost. Promoting and explaining organic gardening techniques through a range of demonstration gardens such as the Dig for Victory garden, the Wildlife and Wildflower garden, Nature’s Lungs, a Wild Orchard, an organic vegetable allotment and a Rose Garden. Throughout the gardens had been created a series of themed trails to enable people of all ages to learn as they explore.
Since the closure of the site in 2013, most of the formal gardens, water bodies and woodland spaces have reverted back to nature. It is the intention of the Friends of Natures World, with the cooperation and assistance of Middlesbrough Council and Middlesbrough Environment City (who lease part of the site), to work sensitively with nature, restore the gardens, water features, create new habitats for wildlife and ensure the protection of endangered species, both animal and plant life on the site.
Natures World Timeline
1988: The concept of a Botanic Centre was developed by project manager Jeff Martin, project coordinator Michele Meyer and gardener Chris Evans who all came from a green adult education centre in Sussex to take on the ambitious idea. The Botanic Centre was launched by Prince Charles
1989: Officially incorporated as The Botanic Centre, Middlesbrough Ltd.
1992: Opened as Natures World in 1992 by famous botanist David Bellamy, it became a thriving visitor attraction, training centre and educational facility with over 29,000 visitors every year. Dr Bellamy created a problem for the ceremony when he refused to release 1,000 balloons as he considered them as litter.
1994: Prince Charles returned to launch the new Natures World logo.
1996: David Bellamy returned to open the River Tees model.
2002 Mayor Mallon opened the Hydroponicum (Project Suzy)
2004: Mayor Mallon returned to open the “Earthship” building.
2013: Natures World went into liquidation and closed its gates to the public.
2014: The Friends of Natures World volunteer group, in partnership with Middlesbrough Council, undertook the revival and maintenance of areas of the greenspaces in the site.
2015: Middlesbrough Environment City leased a number of buildings on the site.