With shops opening and plans for pubs and hairdressers to open soon, it feels like the world is slowly beginning to find its feet in this new normal, and in some ways it feels like the RSPB and Old Moor have been lagging behind. We know how desperate people are to visit our reserves and we know how important getting your ‘nature fix’ on our reserves is to so many people and we are desperate to share it with you, I’m hoping that here I will be able to explain some of the reasons behind our caution, and what our plans are.
Why aren’t all the paths open?
Currently, we have the discovery trail open, the reedbed trail as far as bittern bus stop excluding the bittern hide, and green lane as far as the new family hide. None of the hides are open and we are asking people to socially distance at the bittern bus stop and the tree sparrow farm.
With 10 weeks without any visitors and very little staff presence, the wildlife has been making the most of the space. This includes our bittern, a schedule 1 breeding species, who was regularly seen fishing in our pond dipping pools, and for the first time at Old Moor, a pair of marsh harrier. We kept large sections of the reedbed closed to allow these amazing birds the space and time to rear their young and gradually get used to people being back on the reserve.
Regular visitors will know that green lane is very narrow in parts, with a fence line on one side and a ditch on the other. We are not currently able to open this path and give a 2m clearance for passing, especially for users of wheelchairs, mobility scooters, pushchairs and prams.
Why isn’t the shop/café/visitor centre open?
As a charity, the RSPB has been looking at the government advice and making the best decisions to keep our staff, volunteers and visitors safe. We also want to make sure that we act in a financially responsible way so that we remain in the best possible position to give nature a home into the future. We appreciate that this is frustrating, but operating with a skeleton staff and keeping some of the team on furlough whilst our visitor numbers have been relatively low, means that we are able to do this.
What happens next?
From tomorrow, 26 June, we will be opening some of our public toilets, they will be regularly cleaned, and we will be asking people to continue to respect the 2m rule. We will also be opening the path to the bittern hide so that views across the reedbeds from either side of the hide can be enjoyed. We will also be extending our opening hours and will be open from 9:30am - 4:00pm
We will be reviewing the access to green lane in line with the easing of the 2m rule on 4th July, We, the Old Moor team and the wider RSPB want to make sure this is done without compromising your safety so this won't happen straight away, please be patient. This will give access to the screen looking over field pools, as well as enjoying the extra trail for walking.
We currently do not know when we will be re-opening the shop and café, but please do check back for updates!
We have, so far, not been asking for our usual entrance fee, we have not had the ability to process payments, although many visitors have been kindly giving donations to help to fund the vital conservation work that takes place in the Dearne Valley. When we re-open green lane, resuming 90% access to our trails, we will be asking for 50% of the usual entry fee for non-member visitors (members will, as always, get free entry). Hides will be remaining closed, as will our playground and the activities that are usually available such as our trails and pond dipping cannot yet be offered.
Extended closures of our reserve network has obviously had an impact on our ability to make money. By asking for a reduced entry fee, we hope that we can make a compromise between the reduced offer and the need for us as a charity to generate an income. Donations are of course, welcome!
Thank you so much for your understanding and patience as we navigate this new normal and find a new way of operating in these unusual times. We could not look after amazing places like Old Moor and our satellite sites across the Dearne Valley without your support.
This is good news. Of course I cant wait for the hides to open but there are good views from the bittern bus stop. One day I will get back to 'my seat' at the reedbed screen :-)
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