Like a lot of people across the UK and indeed the world, 2020 has not turned out quite as I had expected. 

Like many of us I have found myself in a very different world as restrictions on movement and contact between people are put in place. Understandably, the RSPB were forced to close many of our reserves.

As we are now beginning to see the easing of some of the restrictions on travel and spending time in green space, the team here in the Dearne Valley have been exploring ways in which we can re-open the site at Old Moor. Crucially we need to make sure that the site remains safe for our staff, volunteers and visitors, and the wildlife that calls Old Moor home.

First of all, we are asking people to stick to visiting reserves within their local area. We know the temptation is to rush out to your favourite reserve, but please try to keep local, it won't be long before we will all be out enjoying all of our amazing countryside. 

In order to allow us to keep visitor numbers at a manageable level, we will only be opening half of the car park. The buildings will be remaining closed for the time being, this means that we will not be able to provide toilet facilities. We will also be keeping the hides closed as it would be difficult to keep social distancing and impossible to sanitise. 

The biggest difference visitors will notice is the closure of some of the paths. The wildlife at Old Moor has had ten weeks free of visitors and that has lead to some of our most shy and enigmatic wildlife behaving slightly differently this year. We have taken the decision to keep some areas closed to the public to allow these species to feed and raise their young whilst slowly getting used to human presence being back on the reserve. We will be monitoring the situation and will re-open paths as soon as we are able. 

In the meantime, please be mindful of other people's personal space, be respectful and be kind. We want Old Moor to continue to be a place where people feel safe and welcome to enjoy nature in the Dearne Valley. We are also still working with an extremely limited number of staff, we are doing everything we can to make sure that the reserve is a great place for people and wildlife in extraordinary circumstances. 

Returning from fulough has been a strange experience, I am excited for the return to some kind of routine, and to see how the remainder of the breeding season will pan out. I am cautiously optimistic that we will be able to re-open, although how that will look, we have still to see.

I look forward to seeing some familiar faces over the coming weeks, and maybe a few new ones! Always, of course, from a safe distance.