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Tophill Low Nature Reserve

East Riding of Yorkshire

Project Details

£250,000 to £499,999

New Build, Sited in SSSI area

Practice

Group Ginger

42a Park Place , Leeds , LS1 2RY

Yorkshire Water were keen to improve the visitor experience and broaden visitor diversity by providing a new reception Bird Hide as a centre piece to the reserve offering spectacular views over the main reservoir and opportunities for interpretation and education. The hide combines classroom facilities, overlooking the new dipping pond, a public viewing gallery with large picture windows to view the extensive reservoir and a twenty-four hour twitcher’s hide for the dedicated bird watchers wanting to catch migratory birds on their last stop in the country before departing to warmer climes. Working with the team on site to articulate the landscape has maximised the impact of the building for it £500k budget. The steel frame building is articulated as two interlocking volumes, the upper timber clad volume floats with a dramatic cantilever over the cementitious base which is embedded into the landscape. Warden Facility The welfare building is the first phase of a series of planned works to the park. The design creates a new modest building to welcome visitors to the Landscape Park and sanctuary. The design cleverly refurbishes an old garage building. The Cedar shingles which cover the old structure will weather over time to blend the external structure into its woodland setting. The weathered envelope will contrast with the warmth of the varnished cedar under the new canopy which protects the visitors coming and going from this polite little building. Bird Hide Tophill Low has a regional reputation over 50 years for its rare and abundant wildlife; recognised by English Nature in 1988 when the reservoirs were designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Subsequently Yorkshire Water Services invested and opened it as a nature reserve in 1993, and has continually improved it ever since, winning repeated awards from the British Trust for Ornithology. The combined economic value of this reserve and others in East Yorkshire has been recognised by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust as key in its Nature Tourism Triangle which aims to enhance the local economy through eco-tourism, a project also supported by East Riding of Yorkshire Council. The concept was to develop a clearer visitor journey. Through the re-organisation of existing facilities and the improvement of way finding, with buildings acting as strategic markers, the overall site becomes clearer to navigate and ultimately more enjoyable for both regular and new visitors as well as staff members. Working with the reserve manager and volunteers a new landscape setting has been created. Excavation established the new dipping ponds and controlled the potential flood risk. The removed earth was used to shield the car park area and create sloping access through the trees up to an elevated terrace and the reception hide which sits at the same level as the reservoir. Visitor numbers are projected to rise to 15,000 in 2020 averaging 50 to 60 visitors per weekend/bank holiday. When a rare bird is on site, peak visitor numbers can be in excess of 200+. The design responds to the variety of users who are drawn to the nature reserve, each with their own interests/requirements. The mix of twitchers, school groups, families and walkers coexist in this complex, multifaceted building, while adopting a modest footprint. The new 24hr hide provides unlimited access for members and great vistas across D reservoir for the paying public. The viewing gallery and educational facilities will only be open during office hours with the warden located at the new warden building at the entrance to the site. Hands on education and learning through discovery is at the heart of Tophill low’s Hide. School groups and children are encouraged to interact with the surrounding woodlands by the orientation of the classroom and the approach of the surrounding landscape. “[The Hide] has only been open to the public for a couple of months but already you can see the change in the atmosphere on the reserve. We’ve got lots and lots of positive feedback.” Richard Hampshire Reserve Warden/Yorkshire Water RIBA Yorkshire Client of the Year 2018