Tuesday, 5 April 2022

Tophill tours - limited access to reserve

As promised is an update on the current opening status of Tophill Low;

Currently forestry work is all but completed, but there is much disruption to footpaths and hides, which is shortly to be compounded by major landscaping work, and as such we are currently unable to admit visitors unsupervised to site; And we must set the expectation this will be the case into the summer. 

Whilst it’s a great shame to restrict access to our much-loved reserve, the long-term benefits of new habitats, bird hides, accessible paths, reductions in disturbance to local communities by minimising haulage & carbon emissions, whilst delivering savings for bill payers yet providing facilities we could not fund through the reserve budget alone, mean this short term disruption for visitors is unavoidable. 


However, we are conscious that many regulars and visitors are desperate to see the site.  As such we’ll be running a series of guided reserve walks.  Risk assessing the hazards we can maintain this level of supervised access in the interim. 

Places will be strictly book in advance only and are limited in numbers.  Initially dates will be through April / May and we’ll add more subject to interest. 

The tours will meet at 10am in the car park – again strictly pre-book only.  Tours will be approximately 2 miles in length and last 2-2.5hrs in time, where visitors can visit those hides and routes accessible at that time with one of the Warden team showcasing the best wildlife and taking questions on the current projects and work undertaken. Please be aware that many of the paths are very uneven and therefore unfortunately, not accessible to all at this current time.

Please note all participants need to remain together as part of the supervised walk.  Our safety policies dictate all persons must be supervised on what is still an operational Water Treatment site, and on all walks we need to don high viz.  We will linger for photographic opportunities but we can't leave folks unaccompanied in hides either during or after walks.  

All dates and bookings are undertaken online via Eventbrite – Link HERE.

For members (with cards valid to 2020 or 2022) admission is free.   For non-members standard admission applies payable at the ticket machine on site. 

Note we will still be granting a membership extension to those whom have missed out due to the closures as planned, once we're fully up and running again.  

To demonstrate why we’ve been, and why we will be closed to unrestricted access, here’s some images of what we have been undertaking in recent weeks so you can see why having families and folks in camou gear wandering round is just too difficult to manage safely;

Conversion under way on the old wildlife centre;

With prep underway for the new volunteer quarters at the other end of the car park;
Poplar removal in the car park by Fountains Forestry / RG Blakey; 

All logs and chip are being dispatched for biofuels; unglamorous as it may be in the current world green energy is much in demand;

Add into the mix storm damage to be sorted also;

Elsewhere paths being upgraded by Galliford Try; 

Defoliating the spoil mound prior to landscaping to ensure no nesting birds are impacted; 
Revealing the scale of work to follow;
Much of this needs to be rehomed in coming weeks hence the need for continued restrictions - much of this will be transferred by 'Moxy' truck (wikipedia):
As before you can imagine our concern with members of the public present.  As dramatic and alien to Tophill Low as it seems we've been here before - here's South Marsh West being dug in 1991:
And before that here's the view from East Scrub in 1958 (O res wood and the now departed Tophill Farm in the background):
Without re-utilising the material on site we would have to remove all of it up the single track lanes to Tophill Low; The final exit (or not) of the tunneling scheme crane illustrating why we'd want to avoid this: 
As we've previously covered Tophill Low is a dynamic reserve and still a very active water treatment works supplying Hull, so although a disruptive phase, it is the whole origin of the reserve as we know it.   

That said it's not all landscape scale - this cleared ditch will allow us to better manage the south marsh for wading birds:
A seal of approval from one individual...

We've still been able to keep volunteers present under supervision;  A lot of clearing up has been undertaken and some spectacular brash walls created:

Swamp walk re-pollarded:

Existing hides being maintained:

Some sad news is the loss of Twitchers snack bar adjacent to the reserve.  Whilst announced just recently, unfortunately the service closed prior to the recent works back in January.  A much missed venue by visitors, volunteers and staff alike, Netty and Andy have moved to pastures new with the property changing hands.  Many thanks to them both for a great addition to the site, but alas the remote nature of the reserve coupled with flooding, covid and then major WTW upgrades has been challenging.  We hope to offer a limited hot drinks service as we had prior, but I'm afraid our culinary skills won't be comparable to Netty's and we wish them all the best for future endeavors as we welcome new neighbours.          

Nice to know we still have some rare residents still present on the marshes - work revealing harvest mouse on the marshes; 

Friday, 4 February 2022

Temporary closure - 7th of February onwards

Regretfully the time has come in our program of works where from this Monday the 7th February we will have to temporarily close the reserve to visitors and members.  

As per December's blog posting we knew this was coming, but works are ramping up with HGV movements and poplar felling around the car park environs making it too hazardous for public visits. 

Staff will still be present but the gates will be locked.  Please do not attempt to enter the reserve or 'park up and walk' as it is off limits.  

We know the question everyone is asking is 'when are you re-opening?'  The honest answer is we will be in a position to review that in early April.  Work currently is focusing upon ensuring all vegetation management is complete prior to nesting season in March, allowing landscaping to take place subsequently.  How long that takes is yet to be determined, and could be subject to delays, so we are reticent to give a 'completion date' as yet.  

Thank you for all your patience, and again whilst works are substantial in scale now, this is to save us drawing out repeat operations and disturbance over several seasons.  

For membership renewals there will be no March 31st expiry this year.  We are keeping a tally of months lost and will broadcast a revised membership date later in the year to cover lost months when nearer re-opening.  

Monday, 24 January 2022

Access updates with effect from Jan 25th

Work continues apace on the scheme we conveyed a couple of posts back. 

Regretfully the tunneling scheme under the river Hull is delayed.  As such that means the current access restrictions continue.  

Coupled to this the forestry work is moving on to the shelter belt around South Marshes.  As such none of the hides on the O reservoir end of the reserve will be accessible this week with effect from the close of play on Jan 24th;  

Our apologies.  Unfortunately this is unavoidable given the machinery working on site. We will be keeping a tally of lost weeks this winter and our intention is to prolong the current membership period accordingly; So cards which were due to expire on the 31st of March will instead be extended into April / May time accordingly as we get a full picture of closure durations.  

As such no need for renewals as yet - normally in late Feb we'd be starting to think of such, but this year I would suggest that'll be in early Summer.  

North Lagoon, Reception hide, East Hide, North marsh hide remain open around the D reservoir - still giving sporadic views of the Baikal teal gracing us in recent days; 

Early suggestions are it is a promising bird with clean legs and pristine primaries - certainly suggesting it is no recent escapee from a wildfowl collection - on the assumption it does nothing silly like over summer in East Park or Hornsea Mere duck feeding area, final decision will go to the rarities committee; With currently positive views as to its authenticity as a genuine vagrant from Siberia.  

If so, that'd be species 272 for Tophill Low since 1959 - so worth a look no doubt.   

I didn't get chance to update on the bird race of the 2nd of January; 

Team Tophill scored a very respectable 75 species placing us 5th out of 23 for a walking only team covering one of the lowest distances logged.  It was a hard slog with some species like grey heron only materialising at about 3:30pm and others like tree sparrow, barn owl, linnet and collared dove not at all.

The pintail let us down badly having been here every day before and subsequently, likewise the great white egret laid low.  Equally our first 'spring migrant' shelduck appeared the following day.  But the drake smew did his bit wowing onlookers; 

The most unexpected birds were a chiffchaff in the reserve car park (we've had them before on a bird race but they aren't easy) and an unseasonal for us dunlin on SME.  

Given we're two years out of practice and with all the upheavals on site it fairs well against our all time 81.  We raised £54 in donations (with the East Yorks RSPB team operating separately on Tophill scoring an independent 57 and additional £100) for the North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project.  

Hopefully with upgraded facilities and vantage points for next Jan we can improve on that.  With a bit of luck they'll accept robotic records too given our new MOTUS array arrived last week - now we just need to get it working!!