Twitchers’ delight as Yorkshire viewing gallery plans take flight

An artist's impression of the viewing gallery site
An artist's impression of the viewing gallery site
Have your say

A new £600,000 wildlife viewing centre is being built at a nature reserve near Driffield after plans were approved by council planning officials.

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 more than 160 types of birds.

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

Richard Hampshire, warden at the Tophill Low nature reserve for the past 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 centre will provide a facility for members of the public to see famous winged dwellers including ospreys, barn owls, kingfishers, peregrines and cuckoos.

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.

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.

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 wheelchair 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.

A host of family fun activities will be available when the bird hide opens, including otter tracking and bug hunting.