Maze Park is a green oasis right at the centre of the Teesside. Visitors can climb one of its landscaped mounds to enjoy panoramic views of the conurbation. Much of the site has been planted with a variety of broad-leaved trees and is rapidly forming a surprising area of woodland for such a central urban location.
Glades and open grassland within the reserve have attracted more than 12 species of butterfly including the increasingly scarce grayling and dingy skipper. The steep river banks provide nesting habitat for a small colony of sand martins and give excellent views of common and grey seals which prey on salmon preparing to negotiate a passage through the Tees Barrage.
The Maze Park site was acquired by the Teesside Development Corporation in the late 1980’s and was used to deposit the reclaimed substrates and soils from their reclamation of the extensive Head Wrightson works in Thornaby for the construction of the Teesdale business park. The landscaping of these waste materials formed the mounds which dominate Maze Park today.
The central mound is flat-topped and its plateau consists of the characteristic steelworks slag materials, presumably originating from the Thornaby blast furnace; one of the first of such structures on Teesside. The steelworks waste is lime-rich, low in nutrients and free-draining and its nearest natural equivalent would be chalk grasslands or base-rich sand dunes systems. Typically they contain an abundance of herb species including yellow wort, black medick, common centaury and bird’s-foot trefoil. These grasslands form an open sward with patches of bare ground and are also noted for supporting two species of butterfly that have suffered significant declines across Britain – the grayling and dingy skipper. They also provide excellent habitat for bird species in national decline such as the grey partridge and skylark
The Trust was pleased to be able to protect such a classic example of Teesside slag grassland with its rich biodiversity and links with the area’s industrial heritage, when it took over the site in 1998. As well as planting 6 hectares of woodland, the Trust constructed a network of surfaced paths and boardwalks to allow visitors to enjoy every part of Maze Park.