Water firm’s wildlife centre to open its doors

Yorkshire Water’s new wildlife viewing centre at Tophill Low, near Driffield, will officially open this weekend.

The centre, which was featured in Environment Journal last year, has been designed to blend in with the natural landscape at the 170-million gallon reservoir, which supplies drinking water to Hull and the surrounding area.

It features a 10 metre-long viewing gallery with telescopes and real-time camera footage broadcast on television screens, showing live scenes from across the nature reserve.

The £600,000 centre also incorporates reclaimed materials from 1950s buildings around the site.

It was designed by Leeds-based architects Group Ginger, project managed by Mason Clarke associates and built by Houlton’s, using nearly all local subcontractors.

‘We were looking for an iconic design and Group Ginger certainly delivered that,’ said Yorkshire Water’s catchment and recreation manager, Geoff Lomas.

‘The building design sensitively uses natural materials which help it to complement its setting, rather than overpower it,’ he added.

‘In particular, the design has created a new vantage point for viewing birds and other wildlife over one of the reservoirs which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. This building ensures visitors receive an experience that matches any in the UK.  We expect this will be very popular with the bird and wildlife enthusiasts that Tophill Low Nature Reserve attracts from all over the country.’

The new centre is also predicted to boost visitor numbers to the nature reserve to around 15,000 a year, according to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

The founder of Group Ginger, Simon Baker, commented: ‘Tophill Low is one of the most important bird migration stop off points in the UK but has always been tricky to get to and a fairly inhospitable place for human visitors; it’s a large man made concrete lake, so it was important for us to create a more natural setting.

‘The atmosphere for visitors has changed fairly dramatically with this new viewing centre, as we have created different spaces to meet different needs.

‘Now two-storeys high, the building incorporates at ground level a meeting room and educational area, as well as outdoor seating with viewing points for active observation. On the floor above, as it is directly linked to the lake via the new dipping pond that stretches right up to meet the building, visitors could hardly get any closer to wildlife than this without a boat.

‘The client wanted an inclusive building accessible to all and able to cater to diverse user groups.  It was important to alter the perception of the engineering waterworks and design an attractive building that welcomed the public to a fantastic nature reserve.’

‘We have considered the setting of the building using the landscape to establish a new approach with new ponds and changes in level to draw visitors into the reserve and up to an elevated level where they can gain views over the dramatic reservoir,’ added Mr Baker.

Photo credit: Jim Stephenson

Jamie Hailstone

Jamie Hailstone

journalist

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