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New wildlife viewing centre at nature reserve set to be a soaring success

A new £600,000 wildlife viewing centre is being built at a nature reserve near Driffield to bolster its reputation as one of the best bird watching spots in Britain.

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 sanctuary for over 160 types of birds.

Due to open next summer, the new wildlife viewing centre will command elevated views over a reservoir supplying drinking water to Hull teeming with bird life. It will feature a 10 metre-long viewing gallery, telescopes and real time webcam footage broadcast on TVs that shows live scenes from the nature reserve.

Famous winged dwellers at the wildlife spot include ospreys, barn owls, kingfishers, peregrines 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.”

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 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 has been designed by Leeds-based architecture firm Group Ginger and will be built by Hull builders Geo Houlton with most subcontractors East Yorkshire based. Mason Clark Associates are the Project Manager, Structural Engineers and CDM Principal Designer.

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 is open daily from 9am – 6pm with an admission charge of £3.30 for adults and £1.50 for concessions (16 and under / 65 and over / registered disabled). A host of family fun activities on 500 metres of new woodland walks will be available when the bird hide opens including otter tracking, bug hunting, pond dipping and a butterfly garden.

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