The reserve has seen many changes over the years, with the majority of them being made for the benefit of wildlife or to enhance the visitor experience. With change comes some level of disruption in the short term and that has been seen in recent weeks with the engineering works on the mains water pipe for the water treatment works around south lagoon and works being carried out at Hempholme by the Environment Agency. The engineering team have reported that the shaft at south lagoon edge has been excavated, despite hitting hard ground initially and a concrete plug has been poured. The access gate had to be widened in order to allow access for specific machinery.
Unfortunately, this has led to some restricted access and alternative routes for visitors but has had limited impact on the wildlife habitat. Areas will be reinstated in the fullness of time.
One of the reserve’s main aims is for visitors to want to return and report favourably to others, therefore we endeavour to provide as many visitors as possible with an enjoyable experience. Our wildlife is mostly viewed from hides overlooking the many habitats, so the state of those hides is an important aspect of visitor experience and one that was revealed in Yorkshire Water visitor survey carried out in 2017; visitors stating that many hides on the reserve needed upgrading.
The new reception hide is proof that visitors value the improvements that have been made over recent years, positive comments being made on a regular basis. Another outcome from our own visitor survey and ones that were commissioned by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and the Fieldfare trust in 2018 showed that accessibility for all users across the nature reserve is of high importance to visitors. We therefore need to reconsider on a regular basis the usefulness and safety of the ever ageing hides. Although still safe to use, the south marsh west and D reservoir east hides are two in point, as they are both inaccessible to all visitors and they are showing signs of deterioration. The photographs show the deterioration in the woodwork in south marsh west hide, a hide that was built before 2000.
The state of the woodwork of south marsh east hide
D reservoir east hide was also built over 20 years ago and although the supporting woodwork was considered sound in 2017 it still needs considering for replacement.
The state of the woodwork of D reservoir east hide
In order to consider the options for these two hides, like any construction on the reserve, there is a need to carry out a newt survey and relocation study prior to the commencement of any works that may be carried out in the near future. To this end our visitors will notice the erection of newt fencing, a requisite from Natural England due to the legal status of the great crested newt. This fencing and the accompanying survey and relocation work will be in place over the summer and into the autumn prior to the hibernation period of this species. The great crested newt population at the reserve remains healthy and they can be found at various places across the site so there are many locations for them to be relocated to, if this was necessary.
We ask for your patience with the restrictions and changes in the short term and as always we believe that the wildlife at Tophill Low and its visitors will benefit in the longer term.