The weather doesn't always do what you want it to do at Bempton Cliffs. But recently it's been on its best behaviour which has allowed Kemp Developments, the building contractors working on the redevelopment programme, to really get stuck in. And as you can see, the new seabird heritage centre has really started to take shape.
From the slope down past the bird feeding garden you get the best view of the overall picture of the site. To the right you can see the area that will be the new interior space for educational activities and other events. We will have around double the space we currently have. And from here on in, the hundreds of school children who visit us each year will have an indoor classroom instead of an outdoor one.
This is the outer wall of the new extension. The interior walls are the start of the toilets. It's surprising how quickly the building is progressing and as the walls go up, the level of excitement rises too. The project is the culmination of a lot of hard work for a lot of people and to see it actually happening, bit by bit, little by little is incredible.
This is taken from inside what will be the new education space and it's definitely going to be a room with a view. There will be a huge picture window here so you are looking at the view that will be seen through it. The sweep of the land down to the cliffs and the sea beyond is breathtaking. I suspect we'll have to drag people away.
Despite the disruption, the tree sparrows are still around and, for the moment, enjoying the sunshine. We are taking special care to ensure that none of the wildlife around the centre is adversely affected by the building works. It's all about giving nature a better home.
Just in case you missed this story in the press, here's how one of our volunteers helped kick-start our building work.
A Flamborough-based volunteer helped the RSPB start the redevelopment of its Bempton Cliffs nature reserve, when she joined newly appointed contractors, Kemp Developments Ltd, to break the first piece of ground.
Angela Belk, who has been volunteering at Bempton Cliffs, near Bridlington, for 24 years asked if she could knock the first brick out of the old building to mark the start of the project. East Yorkshire company, Kemp, went one step further when they started on site last month, by putting Angela behind the controls of a gigantic earth excavator. Under the supervision of Managing Director, Garry Kemp, and Contract's Manager, Andrew Gillett, Angela got the proof she needed that the new visitor centre development was finally going ahead, having seen several previous attempts fall at the final hurdle.
Talking about when she first started volunteering at Bempton, Angela said: “The cliffs were a lot less popular then – with both the public and the seabirds. There were nowhere near the 23,000 gannets on the cliffs that are there now, and it’s a credit to the RSPB that these cliffs are now home to the largest mainland gannet colony in the UK.”
Over the years Angela has built up a bank of happy memories of her time on the cliff tops – including seeing the first ever gannet chicks on the reserve. From her favourite viewpoint at Bartlett Nab she’s been observing the same pair of gannets returning to the same nesting place for 19 years.
Keith Clarkson, Bempton Cliffs’ site manager, said: “Angela is a wonderful asset to Bempton Cliffs. We know how much the future of the reserve means to her having been so involved in its past and we were delighted to show her how the work is progressing. “Angela represents the thousands of volunteers who have worked at Bempton over the years, and it is with the help of their great efforts that this revamp of the visitor experience is able to go ahead.”
Kemp Developments Ltd who were selected through a tendering process, are a family firm, trading since 1969, based in the small East Yorkshire village of Sigglesthorne. Garry Kemp, Managing Director, said: "We are delighted to have been selected by the RSPB to construct the enlarged visitor centre at Bempton Cliffs, and we’re looking forward to working with the RSPB on such a unique project. The location is very special and deserves a building that does justice to the incredible setting. The design of the new building is very exciting and will be a fantastic facility for visitors. We are very pleased to have been chosen to construct it."
The redevelopment of Bempton Cliffs’ visitor experience, which started at the beginning of September, is taking place thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the Coastal Communities Fund (CCF). Bempton Cliffs was awarded £639,700 from HLF to revamp and improve its visitor offer. This, along with £452,784 from CCF, will provide people with the opportunity of experiencing the UK’s largest and most accessible, mainland seabird colony. The reserve and main car parks will be closed until spring 2015, but public footpaths will remain accessible.
Angela gets kitted out by Kemp Construction's Contract Manager, Andrew Gillet.
Angela and representatives from Kemp Construction ready for work.
Angela gets to grips with the monster machinery.
For those who missed this in the press, here's the media release that announced the arrival of our new Wildlife Experience Officer.
A brand new role has been created at RSPB Bempton Cliffs, to engage people with the natural and cultural heritage of the site, thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery fund.
Joanne Allen, from Hull, has been appointed as Wildlife Experience Officer at the nature reserve near Bridlington, and has already started developing an exciting programme of events, ready to kick off when the new seabird heritage centre opens its doors in spring 2015.
Jo has always had a keen interest in wildlife conservation and studied for a BSc (Hons) in Animal Behaviour before going on to gain a MSc in Conservation Biology earlier this year. She has been active in a variety of voluntary roles within the conservation sector over the past few years and is also secretary of the East Yorkshire Bat Group.
Jo said: "I’m really excited to be a part of this amazing project. The new centre, alongside a broader events programme, will enable people to gain a better understanding of how the RSPB gives nature a home at the UK’s largest mainland seabird colony. In future there’s going to be even more happening up on the cliffs, so watch this space.”
The full-time role, which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has been created to connect people with the natural and cultural heritage of Bempton Cliffs. Through a variety of engaging events, from exhibitions to wildlife-based activities, the plan is to inform and engage visitors and locals alike, ultimately inspiring them to take action to safeguard the coast and the cliffs around Bempton.
Jo will also lead the Learning Team. The reserve already has over 1300 student visits from schools across the country during the spring and summer terms. It is hoped more local schools will be encouraged to visit when the redevelopment work is complete.
Site manager, Keith Clarkson, is delighted with the new appointment. He said: “Expanding the team obviously gives us a great opportunity to encourage more visitors to the reserve. This is as good for the local economy as it is for our own plans to make people passionate about the wildlife on their doorstep.”
The redevelopment of the Bempton Cliffs visitor experience, which started at the beginning of September, is taking place thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Bempton Cliffs was awarded £639,700 to revamp and improve its visitor offer to provide people with the opportunity of experiencing the UK’s largest and most accessible, mainland seabird colony.
The reserve and main car parks will be closed until 1 March 2015, but public footpaths will remain accessible to keep updated on progress visit www.rspb.org.uk/bemptoncliffs, or follow RSPB North Yorks & East Riding on Facebook or @Bempton_cliffs on Twitter.
Jo worked with us this summer as a Membership Development Officer and was on hand for a puffling rescue and release.