The aim of this project is to build a new and exciting tower hide to improve the wildlife watching experience for visitors to Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve, Somerset
At a time of increasingly limited budgets its essential that our core funding is focused protecting the wildlife and habitats that Shapwick Heath and the Avalon Marshes are important for.
However its also important that we are able to offer visitors the opportunity to learn about and enjoy the wealth of wildlife that make the reserve special. Its critical that we maintain and improve information and facilities available and its for this reason we are launching our crowdfunding campaign.
This new hide will enable fantastic elevated views over the lakes and reedbeds - improving access to and visibility of wildlife for all our visitors including birdwatchers, photographers, walkers, wildlife lovers, families and those unable to access hides further into the reserve. So we are launching this crowdfunding project as a way in which all Shapwick Heath's visitors and supporters could put in a little and get out a lot... all chipping in and pulling together to enable this fantastic new viewing hide to become a reality.
A gathering of Great White Egret on Meare Heath Wader Scrape; taken by photographer Mike Hannon in 2014.
Abundant in wildlife and steeped in history, Shapwick Heath National Natue Reserve is a major wetland reserve of Somerset and forms part an area now known as the Avalon Marshes. Visitors to the reserve can experience a wide variety of wildlife in a mixture of habitats including traditionally flower rich grazed wet meadows, primordial fern filled woodlands, damp secret fens and wide expanses of open water set amongst large rustling reedbeds. The reserve offers something for everyone throughout the year whether it be the 'booming bittern' of spring, winter 'murmurations' of starling or a brief glimpse of an otter as it makes it way through a reed fringed pool.
Many people enjoy visiting Shapwick Heath each year. Many are from local communites whilst others come from further afield. In 2014 over 85,000 people experienced the reserve.
Shapwick Heath is an important home for the elusive Otter. This cautious individual, who was soon joined by two others, was snapped by Lynne Newton during a cold spell when the lakes of the reserve were almost totally frozen.
Designed by Shattock Associates of Bridgwater the new hide is inspired by the materials of the surrounding landscape.
Offering elevated 360 degrees views of the landscape including the reed beds at Meare Heath and 70 Acres it will be located on the south side of the South Drain and old railway line that runs through the reserve. It will also offer enhanced views into the Meare Heath 'Wader Scrape' during the spring and autumn bird migration. We have been granted planning permission.
(An artists impression of the hide: 2015)
Blending into the landscape, the hide will clad in locally sourced willow. It will stand at a maximum of 6.4 metres in height at its roof apex and will be approximately 4.8 metres long. Visitors will stand at 3 metres above the current veiwing level from the South Drain.
The initial target of £12,500 will allow for build of all foundations and the main tower hide itself. However we also have a stretch target of £17,000 which would mean we could construct a seating/boardwalk area at the base of the hide. This area would be accessible for pushchair and wheelchair users, would give shelter for visitors and will offer enhanced views over the reed bed at 70 Acres; a hot spot for bearded reedling, bittern and marsh harrier.
We plan to build the hide during the winter of 2015 with an opening date planned for early April 2016.
"Imagine glimpsing rare birds and far reaching views across a golden reed fringed landscape. We hope the new hide will offer this to all visitors"
Photos by Lynne Newton and Julie Merrett.
A male Marsh Harrier quarters over 70 Acres. Taken by Andrew Kirby this is one of many iconic and special species that visitors will be able to glimpse from the new hide.