Nature reserve sets sail on a new adventure

Nature reserve sets sail on a new adventure

Nature Discovery Centre commercial manager Tanya Alexander and visitor centre manager Jo Thrussell in front of the lake island ahead of its margin enhancements in 2022. Picture: Pete Hughes

SHIPPING containers will be transformed into hiding places for nature lovers to watch wildlife at BBOWT's beloved Nature Discovery Centre (NDC).

The Trust is creating the two new bird hides at the NDC which it manages at Thatcham near Newbury.

The Trust is also enhancing the margins around the island in the NDC lake to attract more wildlife, putting up new display boards and installing new trail markers on the woodland walks around the site - and the local community will be asked to get involved at every stage.

The £125,000 funding for the works is all coming from waste company Grundon, through the Landfill Communities Fund, which allows firms to pay less landfill tax if they contribute to environmental projects.

A map showing the planned improvements to the lake margins at the Nature Discovery Centre. Picture: Cain Bio-engineering

A map showing the planned improvements to the lake margins at the Nature Discovery Centre. Picture: Cain Bio-engineering

Jo Thrussell, BBOWT’s NDC manager, said:

"This is such an exciting opportunity to transform the Nature Discovery Centre.

"We already have so many visitors and so much wildlife, but these lake margin improvements will help us attract an even more diverse range of species and the bird hides will allow our visitors to watch all the animals we have here and get to know them better than ever.

"These improvements will really allow people to discover nature in a new way."

The first bird hide will be built in woodland a short walk from the NDC building, and feeding stations will be created in front of it so that people can observe a wide variety of garden birds.

The woodland paddock at the Nature Discovery Centre where a new bird hide is set to be installed. Picture: Pete Hughes

The woodland paddock at the Nature Discovery Centre where a new bird hide is set to be installed. Picture: Pete Hughes

The second hide will be installed at the edge of the lake to offer a perfect view of the island - which is a protected area for black-headed gulls and also home to cormorants, kingfishers and great crested grebes – and also the recently-installed tern nesting raft.

The new hide will also give a perfect view of the 60 metres of new margins around the island which are being created out of coconut fibre coir pallets, with marginal water plants like reeds, purple loosestrife and yellow flag iris planted in them. These will attract more invertebrates such as dragonflies and damselflies, which will in turn attract more birds to the lake.

The island at the centre of the lake at the Nature Discovery Centre in Thatcham. Picture: Pete Hughes

The island at the centre of the lake at the Nature Discovery Centre in Thatcham. Picture: Pete Hughes

Tom Hayward, BBOWT’s Senior Land Manager for Berkshire, said:

"This project is a perfect example of how we can help the natural world in so many ways. Firstly, we can use environmentally-friendly coconut fibres to create a whole new area of wildlife habitat. It might seem small, but small areas of important habitat are exactly what we need to create a giant living jigsaw puzzle of land for wildlife which can start to help nature's recovery.

"Secondly, by taking money from the Landfill Communities Fund and recycling these shipping containers, we are able to create two bird hides in which people can see the natural world in a new way and learn a new appreciation for it. Hopefully, these visitors will be able to take that appreciation into the rest of their lives and join the fight to create more nature everywhere."

The Grundon funding will also help to pay for new interpretation panels to go in the bird hides and at the lakeside, and new trail markers to signpost the woodland walks around the NDC site.

The first works are starting this month (September) with volunteers helping to clear vegetation to make way for the hides.

It is hoped the shipping containers will be delivered in November ready to use this winter when large groups of wintering wildfowl congregate on the lake.

Water birds congregating on the lake at the Nature Discovery Centre. Picture: Pete Hughes

Water birds congregating on the lake at the Nature Discovery Centre. Picture: Pete Hughes

The local community will also be asked to get involved in naming the trails around the site.

When the work is complete, more volunteers will be needed to fill bird feeders and help keep the new hides clean and tidy, while knowledgeable birders will be invited to lead ‘guide in the hide’ sessions like the ones already running at BBOWT’s College Lake reserve.

To find out more about how to get involved with all of BBOWT’s work, go to bbowt.org.uk/get-involved/volunteer

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