Renovated and renewed Tophill Low nature reserve to reopen

Two kingfishers fighting over a fish. The birds have been spotted nesting at Tophill Low - just near the McBean hide. Photo of kingfisher by Tony Mclean
General news Land and recreation


Yorkshire Water’s Tophill Low nature reserve near Driffield will fully reopen to the public on 11 March after three years of disruption caused by flooding, the covid pandemic and construction works at the site has meant limited access.

During the temporary closure, Yorkshire Water’s nature reserve wardens, volunteers and other organisations, such as the Environment Agency, have been busy developing and renovating the site, with areas of poor-quality non-native woodland harvested as biofuels and the area replanted with over 3,200 native trees. 

Richard Hampshire, nature reserve warden at Tophill Low Nature Reserve, said: “Tophill Low is unique because it is both a nature reserve and a dynamic and active water treatment works.  This can bring opportunities for positive change despite the recent disruption.

“The wildlife has been indifferent to the plant and machinery operating in recent years and we have bittern attempting breeding for the first time ever and three pairs of marsh harriers fledged young, alongside cuckoos, oystercatchers, common terns, kingfishers and grey herons.  We’ve also seen extremely rare great reed warbler and transatlantic spotted sandpiper while the reserve was closed and we’re hopeful to see these return in future years.”

Work at the reserve concluded with the restoration of Flight Sergeant Angus McBean hide – named as such when an aircraft wreckage discovered at site turned out to be a second world war Bristol Blenheim bomber. After learning of the tragic loss of trainee airman, Flight Sergeant Angus McBean from Durham while on a training flight from nearby RAF Catfoss, the reserve named a new bird hide in his honour.

The hide has now undergone a major refurbishment after ten years of use and will reopen to the public.

Richard added: “Finding the aircraft on site was unbelievable and once we heard Angus’s tragic story and found out from a family friend, he was a birdwatcher himself, it seemed an apt tribute to name the hide after him.

“After ten years of use, the time had come to refurbish and renovate the hide and we’re pleased to be reopening it to the public in March.

“The renovation of the hide marks the end of three years of disruption at the reserve after three turbulent years of floods, the pandemic and construction schemes. We’re now in a position to hand control back to wildlife and its enthusiasts and we’re looking forward to fully reopening and welcoming people to the refurbished Flight Sergeant Angus McBean hide.”

Tophill Low is located four miles from the A164 at Watton, East Yorkshire and is open daily from 9am to 6pm with admission £3.50 for adults, £2.50 for concessions, £1.50 for children. No dogs are permitted.   

Photo credit to Tony Mclean