This wetland reserve is contained in three loops of the River Tees, each with its own character and special wildlife.
The land here was all in agricultural use until the Trust began to restore it for wildlife in 2004. The Trust worked to re-establish the natural conditions of a floodplain, with extensive pools, ditches and reedbeds, which now form a rich corridor of wildlife habitat along the river.
At Bowesfield, three large, reed-fringed pools can be explore via a network of surfaced paths and bridges. A longer footpath follows the riverbank and gives glimpses of birdlife using a sizeable area of undisturbed wetland contained within ditches and hedgebanks. The reserve supports important numbers of ducks and wading birds including teal, curlew, gadwall, shoveler, ruff and golden plover. More than 100 different species of bird have been recorded.
The Preston Farm floodplain can be reached by following the Teesdale Way upstream and under the Queen Elizabeth Bridge. Preston Farm also contains new areas of open water and here the flood defence mounds along the Tees have been breached via a swale which allows the land to flood when the river is in spate.
The reserve also includes the steep slope on the edge of the floodplain and this has been planted with young trees which will eventually form an extensive area of broadleaved woodland.
Although Bowesfield and Preston Farm is important for birds, the reserve is also a good place to see mammals. Otters have been seen on the reserve which provides them with a valuable stopping point on the river. Roe deer are often seen, especially at Preston Farm and the tiny harvest mouse has been recorded in the rough grassland at Bowesfield.
Visitors can access the reserve through the Bowesfield development or, alternatively by following the Teesdale Way north (downstream) from Preston Park. A surfaced cyclepath leads directly to Preston Farm.