Comment: Coastal plan to tell nature's secrets

Eighteen months ago, former teacher Andrew Mason joined the staff at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust as heritage officer for Spurn National Nature Reserve near Hull. Here he highlights his journey so far.

The Lighthouse, Spurn National Nature Reserve

It is difficult to believe that I have been the heritage officer at Spurn for a year and a half now. Although I miss teaching, this job does have a big educational role and I’m looking forward to developing it more in the future. At the moment I am making sure the Spurn Lighthouse is ready to be open to the public with enough information and guidance for visitors. I co-ordinate our events and volunteers programme too.

Essentially we are trying to re-establish something like the Spurn Heritage Coast Project but in the post-2013 tidal surge era, we are using modern technology and a new perspective on wildlife and heritage conservation.

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Spurn is a Living Landscape joined to the newly designated Holderness Inshore Marine Conservation Zone. We want to make the area an even better place for wildlife. Taking the principles of the Heritage Coast that people can visit and enjoy the place, without destroying the very fabric of it, is central to this vision.

When a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund was successful things started to happen. The money from National Lottery players established the Communities Along the Sand Project, aimed at renovating and opening Spurn Lighthouse to visitors and creating an engagement programme, also supported by the Coastal Communities Fund. The benefits for the Trust would be longer stay times for visitors and a chance to engage with new audiences and get them to join in with conservation. This is also part of a bigger strategy to increase nature tourism across East Yorkshire and bring economic benefits to local communities through this Yorkshire Nature Triangle.

Although the loss of the road to Spurn Point (caused by the tidal surge) required a re-think, it is clear that many people are keen to visit Spurn and enjoy the wonderful walk to the lighthouse in a landscape mostly free from cars. Since access to the Point has become more restricted we have introduced alternative options with Spurn Safaris and in time, cycle hire.

EON have enabled the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to make the one thing that was missing at Spurn a possibility. A modern, purpose-built visitor centre which will act as a base, visitor experience, office, storage, classroom and cafe; all in one place. The building has been specially designed to cope with flooding and can be moved in the future as Spurn changes. This will move the concentration of visitors away from sensitive bird populations at the Warren and this area will be returned to more natural dune conditions.

Carefully managed access to Spurn ensures that visitors can fully appreciate the wonders of Spurn in a safe way which protects its wildlife value.

Spurn has been an inspiration to me for many years and there is a wealth of secrets and stories which I am sure will catch the imagination, wherever your interests. I’m excited about the future, the nature of Spurn is change and is something we must embrace to protect its rich heritage.

Join the team at Spurn National Nature Reserve for a beach clean on Saturday, March 12, 11am-2pm, or, on Sunday, March 13, 1-3pm guided trips to Spurn Point and back are being offered aboard the Trust’s multi-terrain vehicle. Booking is essential, call 01904 659570.