A nature reserve near Driffield is set to be the site of a new £600, 000 wildlife viewing centre, a move which will definitely beef up its reputation, solidifying its status as one of the best bird watching spots Britain has to offer.
The 300 acre Tophill Low nature reserve, owned by Yorkshire Water, lies alongside the River Hull and is made up of a patchwork of woodland, marshland, grassland, and reservoirs, which during the course of the year are a sanctuary for over 160 types of birds.
The wildlife centre which is due to open next summer will boast elevated views overlooking a reservoir that supplies drinking water to Hull, in an area teeming with birdlife too. The viewing centre will also feature a viewing gallery, 10 metres in length, telescopes and real-time webcam footage to be broadcast on screens that show live scenes from the nature reserve.
Some famous birds which have made the wildlife spot home include barn owls, ospreys, peregrines kingfishers and cuckoos.
Richard Hampshire, Warden at the Tophill Low nature reserve for the last eight years, said: “We are very excited about this new wildlife viewing centre that will offer something for everyone – families and youngsters interested in wildlife as well as amateur wildlife photographers and serious naturalists.
“It really will be an impressive gantry to view thousands of nationally important birds plus migratory birds from Africa including common terns, little-ringed plovers and garganey.”
A boost in visitor numbers is predicted to result out of the construction of the viewing centre to around 15, 000 per year, adding value to the burgeoning nature tourism sector in East Yorkshire. The sector already generates around £15m per year, this according to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. The region is known as ‘Yorkshire Nature Triangle’ and in addition to Tophill Low, this region is home to a cluster of some of the finest wildlife Britain has to offer, including Bempton Cliffs, Flamborough Head and Spurn Point covering Holderness, the Headland Coast and the Yorkshire Wolds.
Tophill management is supported by a volunteer work force comprised out of 65 wildlife enthusiasts who offer their help in the upkeep of the area. Highlights include two large reservoirs both of which have earned SSSI status (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and act as home to thousands of nationally important tufted and shoveler ducks as well as roosting gulls.
Tom Marshall, Business Development Manager at the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, said: “The region already boasts some of finest facilities for enjoying wildlife anywhere in the country, and I’m thrilled that Tophill Low will soon be yet another venue where nature lovers can expect a first-class welcome.”
“It’s vital for the so-called ‘Springwatch’ audience to have facilities that feel available to everyone – regardless of your age, background or level of interest, and I know Richard and the team have worked incredibly hard to achieve this.”
The wildlife viewing centre was designed by Group Ginger, a Leeds-based architecture firm. Its construction will be handled by Hull builders Geo Houlton, with most of the subcontractors to be based out of East Yorkshire. It will incorporate reclaimed materials from old buildings around the site and a new wildlife pond will be excavated to make earthern disability ramps for wheel chair access. The building will feature a log-burning stove to keep it warm in winter burning sustainably harvested willow from the reserve, and an education centre to cater for group and school visits.
The architects involved from Group Ginger commented: ”Creating a space to enhance the experience of the environment, our concept was to deliver a better visitor experience by improving existing facilities and introducing new elements, to make the overall site more enjoyable for visitors and staff. The two-storey building includes a function room and has been designed to maximise the space available, with the hide of course on the top level where the picture windows will offer uninterrupted views across the reservoir.”
Tophill Low nature reserve opens daily at 9am through 6pm, with an admission charge of £3.30 for adults and £1.50 for under 16s, registered disabled people and people aged 65 years and older. Lots of family fun activities lie in wait on 500 metres of new woodland walks, to be made available when the bird hide opens, including bug hunting, otter tracking, a butterfly garden and pond dipping.