RSPB Minsmere in Suffolk has been named winner of the Accessible and Inclusive Tourism award at the East of England Tourism Awards 2022-2023.
Located near Saxmundham on the Suffolk coast, RSPB Minsmere provides a haven for more than 6,300 species – including rare birds such as marsh harriers, bitterns, bearded tits and avocets.
The RSPB began managing Minsmere in 1947, and the site has expanded to a total of 2,500 acres of different habitats, from woodland to lagoons. Minsmere hosted BBC’s Springwatch programme from 2014-2016.
The judges said that what has been achieved at Minsmere in terms of accessibility and inclusivity, as well as the site’s future plans, “certainly made the visit very memorable”.
They added that “the attraction itself enables all visitors to feel very welcome and included”, with accessible bird-watching hides being a particular highlight.
Finally, the judges felt that the experiences offered at Minsmere, as well as the outreach work it does through education, the volunteers and the site’s collaborative ventures, “all contribute to Minsmere’s popularity and success”.
“We are immensely proud of this award, which recognises the completion of the major Access for All path project to improve accessibility on the reserve,” said Bryonny Tuijl, visitor operations manager, who thanked the Waveney Bird Club, the Coasts and Heaths AONB and the staff on site for their support.
One of the birds I most wanted to see in Britain was the Common Nighthawk, an enigmatic relative of the Nightjar that is a very rare vagrant from North America. The place in Britain where they have been found most often is the Isles of Scilly, but in 12 October birding holidays there I saw lots of other wonderful birds, but no Nighthawk. Then, in 1998, one was found on St. Agnes...
Picture the scene: I am with three friends and we have driven overnight to Penzance. We know the bird is still there. We have checked in for our flight and we are waiting in the departure lounge. The pager goes off and the message says that the bird has died!
Since then my mobility has become very limited and if I need to walk for any distance outside I have to use a mobility scooter. I also find it hard to stand and use my bins for long and so sitting down on my scooter or in a hide makes all the difference. My birding has been very restricted by these limitations and I thought my chance of ever seeing a Nighthawk in Britain had gone. Then, on 26th September 2022, one was found on a garden fence in the small Oxfordshire town of Wantage. A friend of mine was going and my partner, Louise, and he were able to get my mobility scooter into the boot of his car. When we got to Wantage, we parked as close as we could to where the bird was, set up the scooter and made our way along the pavement, crossed one road, turned left, crossed another road and then turned right into the quiet residential close where the Nighthawk was perched on a fence on the opposite side of the road, seemingly oblivious to the hundred or so birders less than 20 yards away!
The views of the Nighthawk were way beyond my wildest dreams. My metaphorical and literal journeys to that moment of connection had needed a lot of determination and I would not have been able to fulfil this long-held ambition without the help of others, my mobility scooter and scooter-friendly surfaces to ride it on (the Nighthawk's journey to that point, of course, was an unimaginable feat of survival).
So, what's this all got to do with Minsmere? Well, I first went to Minsmere in 1976 and fell in love with the place and its birds straightaway. I recall that day, and the nine species I saw for the first time in my life, as if it were yesterday. Minsmere formed the backdrop to many of my formative birding lessons and experiences over the years and I have missed that in recent times as my ability to simply go for the day, on a whim, and enjoy walking around has gone.
Now, the hard work of the Waveney Bird Club, the RSPB and others to get an accessible path built between the North Wall and the East Hide is coming to fruition, which will make a huge difference to me and many others whose mobility is restricted. I am really looking forward to being able to get to the East Hide (which has been extended) on my mobility scooter and enjoy the simple pleasure (that I took for granted for so many years) of sitting and watching the wildfowl, waders, gulls, terns and many other birds.
Thanks to Kathy Piotrowski, who first suggested the idea, and the tireless work of the Waveney Bird Club to initiate the project and raise funds, this is actually going to happen. It's great for there to be a good news story for a change and to all those Club members who have donated money and supported this project in other ways I say a heartfelt thank you!
I look forward to seeing you in the East Hide.
Common Nighthawk, Oxfordshire, September 2022 - at last!
Since the images taken on the 15th (see below), work has been progressing well as these new images (and video) from Steve and Kathy show.
The path project construction finally got underway this week and I thought you might like to see some pictures. We cut the path through the grasslands before Gilleards arrived on site, and now already we have a bridge and they are cracking on with installing the uprights which will hold the boardwalk. I’m very glad we did go for the boardwalk option in the end; even with this dry summer the last section close to the hide is really soggy and the team are adamant they only want to take the digger through once! So we are working from the bridge end and heading northwards. They estimate 7 weeks to completion but if nothing goes wrong and the weather stays dry I can see it being achieved in even less time.
Warden, North Suffolk Coast Reserves
Click images to enlarge
Kessingland Little Tern Colony News It’s tragic news from Kessingland Little tern colony. Just after extending the enclosure on Wednesday due to increasing nest area requirement (with well over 100 plus), unfortunately due to an outfall from Benacre, failure was brought about
For two years, the WBC Events Sub-committee has dutifully met to put together a series of interesting talks and walks, both Suffolk-based and further afield, only to see the pandemic blow it all up. But, we get to April
I thought you might like to see this. Whilst enjoying a leisurely coffee this morning there was a (mercifully dull) thud on the lounge window. On investigating I found a stunned Treecreeper on the patio.
Picture of the group at the chippie in Chapel St Leonards. Report to follow.