The reserve is a lasting memory of the mining heritage in this area, as the pond formed over collapsed mine workings from the 1920s along the Hartley Burn. Most of the reserve is open water, reedbed and a skirting rim of wet woodland. The lake level varies significantly after rainfall and as a result many of the paths are on raised boardwalks.
The nature conservation interest of the reserve is enhanced by a variety of closely associated habitats including: fen and carr; a meadow with relic areas of rigg and furrow; and a maturing wood planted in the 1960's. Since 1982 volunteer wardens have helped to manage the reserve, maintaining its high profile as a site for birdwatchers and other visitors.
The reserve has one of the largest colonies of tree sparrows; great tit, blue tit and chaffinch are also regular users. Many of the more common water birds are visible, including great crested grebe, mute swan, coot, moorhen, heron and tufted duck. Occasionally, unusual visitors such as water rail and bittern can be spotted. The site is also important as a roost for large flocks of swallows on autumn migration, and also supports wintering wildfowl.
To the east of the reserve, the pond is managed by Newcastle City Council as public recreation area. Great crested newt along with a range of damselflies and dragonflies occur here, including large red and azure damselfly and common hawker. The lake and the quiet reedbeds provide a home to otters.
There are two locked hides (available only to NWT members for ?10 ? please contact the Trust), a bird feeding station and screens allow close observation of wildlife. Raised viewing platform and pond dipping platform available.