New Gateway to Yorkshire's "island" wildlife hot spot unveiled

(c) Maurice Gordon

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust welcomes supporters and funders to new Spurn Discovery Centre.

Award-winning broadcaster and wildlife photographer Simon King OBE was guest of honour at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's celebratory event on 20 March to mark the completion of its new visitor gateway to Spurn National Nature Reserve.

The new centre is located near the boundary of the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) at the northernmost point of Spurn National Nature Reserve, deemed to be a natural entry point for visitors. It offers fantastic views of the reserve and estuary with excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. The facility includes a café, a dedicated education space for school groups and displays offering an insight into Spurn’s rich heritage and the variety of wildlife and habitats to be found in the reserve.

Addressing the audience at the launch, Simon King said:  “I’m honoured to have been asked to take part in the official opening of the Spurn Discovery Centre. Having a resource like this in such a magnificent wildlife hotspot will serve to help engage a far broader cross section of visiting public than has been seen to date. Only by forging a connection between ourselves and the wild world can we hope to foster a respect for and recognition of the true value of the very resources upon which our own survival ultimately depends.”

Funding for the new build has been provided by energy supplier E.ON (through its Humber Gateway Offshore Wind Farm Community Fund) and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government through the Coastal Communities Fund.

The Spurn Discovery Centre has been purpose-designed to match the unpredictable demands of Spurn's natural environment and has a dual role in safeguarding both Spurn's wildlife and the significant number of people who venture to the peninsula each year.

A constantly changing feature of Yorkshire’s coastline, boasting wildlife habitats of international importance, Spurn’s iconic landscape has been a draw for nature enthusiasts for generations. Thousands of visitors travel to the reserve each year, enjoying its unique heritage and wildlife including the extraordinary spectacle of spring and autumn bird migration.

Spurn Lighthouse, the tallest in Northern England, which underwent an award-winning renovation by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust in 2016, is a further popular destination for the visiting public.

The curving spit of Spurn stretches for three and a half miles across the Humber Estuary and is only 50 metres wide in places. The notoriously fragile environment is open to the ravages of the North Sea, most recently evidenced by a devastating storm surge in 2013 that transformed Spurn into a ‘tidal island’ and ripped away road access to the point. High tides can now isolate the nature reserve from the mainland and vehicular access is heavily restricted. This, together with Spurn's extensive ‘human history’ which has left a legacy of fascinating but derelict buildings and hidden structures, creates a relentless management challenge for landowners Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

Rob Stoneman, Chief Executive of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, explained the charity's rationale behind the development:  "It's a genuine privilege to be custodians of this special place and we have a duty of care to both preserve the sensitive, diverse and wildlife-rich habitats whilst also keeping visitors safe. The Spurn Discovery Centre will help us inform and inspire visitors about the natural landscape they have come to enjoy and communicate the impact their visit can have on the wildlife and landscape. Such understanding significantly increases the likelihood that people will respect the environment. This is the best way we can protect Spurn and its wildlife for the future.

“From a safety perspective, maximising engagement with visitors before they enter the Nature Reserve will also help minimise any risks associated with their visit.”

Jon Beresford, E.ON UK Offshore Performance Manager, said: “The Spurn nature reserve attracts a huge number of visitors each year and provides great views over the Humber of the wind farm and North Sea. We are delighted to have been able to help fund Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Spurn Discovery Centre through the Humber Gateway Offshore Wind Farm Community Fund, which will provide a focal point and place to learn more about the area and renewable energy too. We look forward to working with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and hope the centre will provide inspiration to visitors for years to come.”

Coastal Communities Minister, Jake Berry, said: “I’m delighted to see that Government’s Coastal Communities funding has helped deliver this new Spurn Discovery Centre which will allow for local residents and visitors to fully enjoy this beautiful nature reserve and site of special scientific interest while connecting with the natural environment.”   

 The Discovery Centre opens to the public on 23 March.