Apart from the fresh new look, the exciting new facilities such as the new play area, new picnic area, new viewpoint...and everything else that Conwy Connections has to offer, Conwy Connections has created many other opportunities, including the chance to work with some of Conwy’s greatest talents.
Artist Richard Hackett, from Colwyn Bay, painted a fresh new mural for the Tal-y-Fan hide. He took time away from his busy, creative schedule to talk to us about his work and Conwy Connections:
How familiar were you with Conwy reserve before working on the mural?
Conwy reserve is a place that my family and I like very much; I have visited many times over the last 15 years since shortly after my daughter was born. When she was old enough she joined the Wildlife Explorers Club run by Charlie and Jane which taught her a great deal and has instilled a love and understanding of wildlife and ecology. Now that she is older, she has progressed to helping out whenever she can with the WEX Club. My wife and I both enjoy walking the reserve, observing the wildlife and absorbing the peaceful atmosphere.
What inspired your design?
The image is a representation of the reserve as seen through the window of the hide with the castle in the landscape to add a reference point. I also wanted to take account of nocturnal animals so I painted the mural to represent the changing light conditions from early morning near the door to sunset on the far wall.
As an artist, I enjoy the challenge of designing murals that are both useful and decorative, so I added animals such as an otter, a fox and a rabbit as well as various bird species on the walls and the silhouettes of birds and bats on the ceiling with clouds. Visiting school parties are taken to Tal-y-Fan hide and I have included in my design a series of animals and birds painted onto shaped boards that the children can place on the walls themselves.
I have very much enjoyed working with the staff at Conwy Reserve and am pleased with the mural as it has turned out.
What do you think of Conwy Connections as a concept? How will it benefit the reserve?
I was unaware of the Conwy Connections project before I tendered for the mural, but having seen the plans I am impressed and think the development is in keeping with the RSPB ethos whilst adding to the visitor experience. I look forward very much to seeing the finished results. I think that the new buildings and landscape features should add interest to the reserve for visitors of all ages and give more scope for activities and events, which will keep the place in the public eye.
As a local man, how do you think the redevelopments will benefit the local area?
I know from my own conversations with visitors whilst working on site that many were excited by the changes and will revisit later to see the project completed. Increased visitor numbers on the reserve will probably have an effect on the local economy, either directly or indirectly.
Photos of Richad working on the Tal-y-Fan hide mural, by Laura Kudelska.
If you’d like to see more of Richard’s interesting work, including stones balance arts, a visit to his website is highly recommended:
http://www.floatingstones.co.uk/ or read his blog: http://richardhackett.wordpress.com/
We'll be meeting more of Conwy Connections talents soon, so keep an eye out for the next interview blog with another artist...which involves a big, steel........well, we're not going to give too much away now are we?!
Nature Observatory - work beginsWork has started on the new building this week. We've scooped out the earth bank between the Coffee Shop and the boardwalk, and apart from the brick foundations, glass windows and steel door, the whole construction has been grown. The wood, of course, has been growing for many years, sucking in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as it did so, and as it is FSC-certified, we can be assured that it has come from a well-managed forest. The straw grew on The Crown Estate's Tabley farm in Cheshire last summer, and they have donated it to us for this project, as well as making a generous financial contribution to our fundraising for Conwy Connections, of which this Nature Observatory is a key element. A huge thank you to The Crown Estate, who from the outset have been as excited as us at the prospect of a green building for the reserve.
How to build a house of strawThis week, the contractors have started on the woodwork, and in a few weeks time, we'll be stuffing the floor and the roofspace with straw, and then building the walls with the bales from Cheshire. The outside will be rendered with lime, and the inside with clay (which arrived from a brickworks in Yorkshire yesterday). It is a significant milestone for the Conwy Connections project, as it means that all eight elements are now started (indeed, five have also been completed).
Time capsuleWhen we stuff the straw insulation into the floor, we're going to include a time capsule. We'll register it with the International Time Capsule Society so that at least someone will know its there long after we've gone. We're not setting a date for it to be opened; it will be there as long as the building is standing, so hopefully that will be many decades, if not centuries. That's where you come in.
We want to know what you would put in our time capsule. It will be buried in May 2013, so what from this era in North Wales would best indicate what we're about to future generations? We'd obviously like to make it pertinent to the reserve, part of our story, but we're open to your ideas for anything. Bear in mind that the time capsule is not the Tardis, we don't have limitless room, so it needs to be small enough to fit in a large sandwich box.
E-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), Tweet (@rspbconwy) or Facebook us (if you're a Friend) your ideas by the end of Monday 22 April, and we'll let you know in a couple of weeks what we're including.
The Spring that we thought would never come has finally arrived in a rush. Gales earlier this week made finding birds difficult, but the last two calm sunny days made it all seem worthwhile. In the space of a week, many of our expected summer migrants have arrived: yellow wagtail (Sunday 14th, and more today), whimbrel (Monday 15th), redstart (Wednesday 17th, with more on Thursday and Friday), whitethroat and sedge warbler (Thursday 18th), grasshopper warbler (Friday 19th) cuckoo, common tern, reed warbler and swift (today). There have also been huge numbers of chiffchaffs and willow warblers all week, good numbers of swallows and sand martins, with a few common sandpipers and house martins too. White wagtails have finally arrived in reasonable numbers, with up to 40 around the lagoons and on the saltmarsh - our thanks to Keith for posting this picture on our Flickr website. The first blackcaps that we think are migrants, rather than overwintering birds, have also arrived this week. It's fantastic, with every bush alive with birds, and even a short walk can take a longer than you expect.
We have at least four lapwings on nests, plus Canada geese and the oystercatchers getting territorial too. A pair of little ringed plovers seem to have taken to the island outside the Coffee Shop - will they breed again this year? We've been starting to see stoats again this week, so hope they'll be preparing for a family too. The cowslips are flowering outside the Coffee Shop, and we've seen comma and small tortoiseshell butterflies too.
Among the arriving migrants have been some other scarcer birds too: three Arctic terns today (and one yesterday), firecrest reported on Thursday (18th), bar-tailed godwit (Sunday 14th), pintail (Friday 12th), several black-tailed godwits and Sandwich terns. A handful of siskins and lesser redpolls have been seen, usually around the wildlife garden feeders, where a goldcrest was seen this morning. There's been no further sign of the bittern, seen here on Thursday 11th, but who knows what else will arrive in the coming weeks...
Meanwhile, the Conwy Connections project reached another milestone this week with the completion of Y Maes, the landscaped area between the Coffee Shop and Visitor Centre. It's mostly open for you to use, except for the areas that will be grass, which isn't growing very quickly yet! We'd love to hear your feedback on the new area.
We've also started work on the new building next to the Coffee Shop, which will be mostly made of wood and straw bales. The bales arrived from a farm in Cheshire this week, donated by The Crown Estate, who are also making a major financial contribution to the improvements we are undertaking this year. The carpentry work is being undertaken by Greenbuilt, who started work this week. We plan to bury a time capsule beneath the floor of the Observatory, and we're looking for your ideas of what we should put in it. Look out for a separate blog about this later today.
The speed of progress will depend on the weather, as we can only build with straw when it's not raining. While this work is underway, there's no access from the back door of the Coffee Shop to the trails - you can still use the paths through Y Maes, of course, and we have re-opened the walk through the Wildlife Garden now that the work here is complete.
I've been on holiday for a few weeks, and I had a fantastic time of course, but I was also looking forward to getting back to Conwy to see the progress made on Y Maes while I was away. We've been able to open some parts of it for the Easter weekend, and the rest will open in phases over the next few months. As you'll see from the pictures below, the wet ground conditions have made the job a bit more difficult, but this spell of dry, cold weather will hopefully mean that the main work will be completed in the next fortnight. The soft ground conditions have also proved challenging for the team laying the new trail at the southern end of the reserve, which will ultimately end in a new viewpoint overlooking the islands on the Deep Lagoon. We don't yet have a planned opening date for this.
If you've been into the Tal-y-fan Hide, you'll see that artist Richard Hackett is making good progress on the background scene of the mural, and he'll be adding the wildlife this week. The right-hand side of Tal-y-fan Hide will be closed on Monday (22nd) and Tuesday (23rd) while the new floor is laid. It's all going to look fantastic!
It was a bit of a shock to come back from Central America to the freezing weather, and not surprisingly, few of our summer migrants have yet made the northbound journey yet. However, the sun is back north of the Equator and as the days get longer, so birds will move. The first wheatears appeared on 23 March, only five days later than in 2012. Up to three have been here most days since. The first chiffchaff was heard on Thursday morning (28th) and there were several here today, while ospreys were spotted over the reserve on Thursday and Friday (28th/29th) - it's not hard, all the gulls go bonkers! There was also a Sandwich tern here on Friday, which must be one of the earliest ever dates for the species here.
The cold weather forced stonechats down from the hills, just as they were pairing up for breeding. By Wednesday, there were seven along the estuary path, but they now all seem to have moved on. The cold weather has slowed the start of the breeding season, but blue tits have been inspecting one of the nestboxes on the Visitor Centre, there's been a fair bit of 'bum-shuffling' by lapwings on the islands, and it was great to see that a second great crested grebe arrived overnight to join its mate; we hope that they'll nest here again. The water rails have been calling more regularly and, after a bumper winter survey season, we'll be monitoring them this week to see what our spring numbers are like.
On the estuary, waders are evidently on the move, with small numbers of ringed plovers, the first little ringed plovers (27th), almost 200 dunlins, up to five black-tailed godwits and nine knot. Other birds look like they'll be staying well into April, with lots of snipe still here, and goldeneyes and pochards still on the water. Kingfisher has been seen several times in the last week, probably another cold-weather refugee from farther up the valley. A short-eared owl last Sunday (24th) was the second of the year, but to end on a less wintry note, the first peacock butterfly was spotted yesterday. Spring is coming, honest!
It's like Cannes out there - except it's flippin' cold. The events area (in the foreground) will host our monthly Farmers' Market, the annual Gardeners' Market (first of 2013 on 14 April) and all sorts of things we haven't yet dreamed up. The picnic area has already proved popular, despite the chilly weather.
Muddy Puddle Club. The hill and tunnel aren't finished yet, and as you see from the foreground, the contractors have had real problems with the wet ground. We hope to open the paths later in April, but the grassy areas won't open until the seeds have grown
View from the top: we've opened some of Y Maes this weekend, but you'll have to wait a little longer before you can roly-poly down the bank!
"Can you see what it is yet?" - mural artist Richard Hackett painting Conwy Castle. Next week, he'll be adding some nature to the scene.
Helo! O’r diwedd, fe glywn ni chi’n dweud...dyma ein bwletin Cysylltiadau Conwy diweddaraf!
Os oedd eich ymweld diwethaf y llynedd, wel, mae sypreis yn eich disgwyl ar gyfer y tro nesaf. Fel y disgwylir, rydym wedi’n cyffroi’n fawr ac yn hapus iawn gyda'r ail-wampio hyd yma...ond mae dal peth ffordd i fynd.
Am y diweddariad, cliciwch isod i agor y bwletin.