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Water works for wildlife with opening of new £600,000 viewing centre

The launch of a new £600,000 reception hide at our Tophill Low nature reserve near Driffield, East Yorkshire will take place over the weekend of June 17 and 18.

The 300-acre site will open its doors for free over the weekend, showcasing the best of Yorkshire’s wildlife to enthusiasts young and old, and will also feature a number of exhibitors and tours.

The site’s warden, Richard Hampshire, explains: “Tophill Low will be at the height of its splendour in mid-June so people can enjoy our new viewing centre as well as the wider reserve.

“The meadows and woodlands are a carpet of pink at this time of year with the spectacular bee orchids in bloom. Five young Kingfishers recently flew the nest and are learning to hunt, whilst the adults are now on a second brood. The wetlands are alive with breeding birds and both little and great white egrets feeding.

“We are running guided tours, pond-dipping and will be trying to tempt some of our more shy residents, the water voles, out of the mud banks and on to the feeding station with their favourite treat – apple.

“We’ll be joined by lots of partners, from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Natural England, to the East Yorkshire Bat Group who are bringing their live bat – due to health problems it cannot be released into the wild.

“This is a rare and fantastic opportunity for enthusiasts and amateurs alike to get up close and personal with a huge variety of our spectacular wildlife as well as enjoying our new viewing centre.”

The new wildlife viewing centre commands elevated views over the 170 million gallon reservoir supplying drinking water to Hull. It features a 10 metre-long viewing gallery with telescopes and real-time camera footage broadcast on TVs showing live scenes from across the nature reserve.
The building incorporates reclaimed materials from 1950’s buildings around the site, and a new wildlife pond has been excavated and the earth used to make disability ramps for wheelchair access. The building features a log-burning stove to keep it warm in winter, burning willow sustainably harvested from the reserve. The building is also home to an education centre to cater for group and school visits.

The wildlife viewing centre is predicted to boost visitor numbers to the nature reserve to around 15,000 a year and will add value to the burgeoning nature tourism sector in East Yorkshire that generates around £15m a year, according to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. 

Known as ‘Yorkshire Nature Triangle’, in addition to Tophill Low, the region is home to a cluster of Britain’s finest wildlife spectacles including Bempton Cliffs, Flamborough Head and Spurn Point covering Holderness, the Headland Coast and the Yorkshire Wolds.

Management of Tophill Low nature reserve is supported by a volunteer force of 65 wildlife enthusiasts who spend more than 5,000 hours a year improving habitats and helping with this project. The complex building needed to satisfy both the birds and people was designed by Leeds-based architects Group Ginger, project managed by Mason Clarke associates and built by Houlton’s both of Hull using nearly all East Yorkshire-based subcontractors. 

Admission to Tophill Low Nature Reserve is normally £3.50 for adults and £1.80 for concessions and is open 9am to 6pm. Sorry no dogs. The reserve is located 4 miles from Watton on the A164 Beverley to Driffield Road. For more information visit the Tophill Low Blog or follow on Twitter.

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