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Tell us about where we are with opening plans?
Sussex Wildlife Trust plans for the Discovery Centre to open in May 2021, but precisely how we are able to open and what we can offer is down to what Government Covid policy is then. There is the issue of what the allowable occupancy rate will be and how we manage it safely with social distancing. That will be the deciding factor in terms of when, in May, we can open. But we are so looking forward to welcoming everyone, when we can do so safely.
Why do we need the Discovery Centre?
With around 360,000 annual visitors (pre-pandemic), the nature reserve needs a facility to engage with people, as well as decent office space and storage for staff and volunteers.
What difference will it make?
It will provide a warm and comfortable space, offering information, toilets, refreshments and a view, so people and educational groups can plan their visits in all weathers, all year round. This is especially important for visitors who have mobility challenges. It will enable people of all ages and abilities to discover more through increased numbers of educational visits, events, adult education, work experience, training, displays and interactive exhibits. It will improve the visitor experience and encourage year-round, repeat visits that will also benefit local tourism businesses.
Will there be refreshments?
Lime Kiln Cafe, run by manager Leah, will serve a menu of hot and cold drinks, cake, biscuits and simple hot food such as sandwiches and soup. The kitchen will enable the space to be used for events.
Are there disabled toilets?
Yes, two wheelchair accessible toilets. Wheelchair access to the building is via a ramp to the front entrance.
What educational facilities will be provided?
The Discovery Centre will offer flexible space for school parties and other educational groups. Reserve staff have been developing learning areas in four main habitats close to the Discovery Centre, where students will be able to have direct contact with wildlife. The Discovery Centre education space will accommodate meetings and lectures. Exhibitions will explain the importance of the reserve to all visitors.
Why at this location?
The site where Lime Kiln Cottage stood has none of the international wildlife designations of the surrounding land. It has good views over special wildlife habitats and is close to four activity areas for educational groups: grassland, saltmarsh, shoreline and a birdwatching hide. In 2017, 220,000 visitors entered the reserve by walking past this location.
Who will run the Discovery Centre?
Sussex Wildlife Trust is managing the building and its operation. The Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve will support the running of the building.
Will there be places to lock bicycles?
Yes, there will be bike stands.
Will it have public wifi?
Why are you using concrete and steel?
A building of this type and dimensions, built on a shingle substrate, needs robust foundations. The architect's advice is that this is best achieved with a concrete base supported by piles. We are seeking to make the building as environmentally sustainable as possible, with Sweet Chestnut cladding and use of natural light and ventilation.
What green features are incorporated?
The building has been made using locally-sourced, Sweet Chestnut cladding. The design includes photovoltaic panels covering half the roof. The building and surrounding landscaping will provide many places for wild plants and animals to live. The ventilation is passive and the heating utilises air sourced heat pumps.
Won't it get hot with all the glass?
The building has a clever automated system for maintaining an ambient and comfortable temperature. This means that if the temperature goes up beyond a pre-set temperature, vents and fans automatically remove the hot air, C02 is also monitored and again any rise will active the systems.
Air circulation is maintained throughout the building and we hope this will make it comfortable for all whilst visiting.
What provision is there for sewage disposal?
The building is connected to the main sewer.
Will the cafe conflict with local businesses?
The range of refreshments on offer will be limited to avoid any competition with the existing businesses of Rye Harbour, which offer full catering, breakfasts and hot meals more than 600 metres away. We believe that Discovery Centre will be a major additional benefit to what the nature reserve already contributes to the local economy, especially the local tourism businesses. We already promote the local businesses that provide fuller menus, and will carry on doing so once the Centre is open.
There is staining on the concrete that looks like rust, what is this?
This is known as 'tannin bleed' and is from the Sweet Chestnut used to clad the building. As the wood weathers, the tannins leach out.
Once the wood has aged/weathered this process will slow up and eventually stop. There will be a thorough clean of the concrete where this has occurred to improve its appearance.
What's the roof made of?
A wooden roof cassette forms the structure, then there's a 'vapour control' layer, 130mm of insulation, followed by a single-ply membrane, which gives the finish and weather proofing.
What happens when there are very high tides?
The Discovery Centre has been designed to cope with the high tides that periodically cover the ground where the building is located, and indeed sometimes flow over the road. The floor of the building is raised 1.2m up above the road level so that it will remain unaffected by the ebb and flow of the sea. What we saw happen at a particularly high tide, the Spring Tide, amply demonstrates the way the centre is integrated with the natural environment.
With so much glass, might birds not crash into the windows?
Welfare of wildlife is a key concern and has been taken into consideration from the earliest stages of design. The architects considered the location and height of the building in relation to the usual bird flight paths and incorporated tinted glass to minimise risk of collisions. Based on reported experience from buildings of a similar design, we don’t anticipate any issues, but will be monitoring the glass closely so that extra safety measures can be put in place if needed.
Why is there a high-ceilinged corridor in the centre of the interior?
It has windcatchers on top, which create natural ventilation for the building.
How will you keep the windows clean?
They will be cleaned in the usual way, with extendable poles, the sort that are used for houses and businesses by window cleaners. You can't use the "self cleaning" glass for this building. That needs rain to actually fall on the glass, which is less likely happen at the Discovery Centre because of the roof overhang. More about the glass for the Discovery Centre here.
Why have you used concrete and steel?
A building of this type and dimensions, built on a shingle substrate, needs robust foundations. The architect's advice is that this is best achieved with a concrete base supported by piles. We are seeking to make the building as environmentally sustainable as possible, with the chestnut cladding and use of natural light and ventilation. The Discovery Centre has been made using locally sourced, Sweet Chestnut cladding. The design includes photovoltaic panels covering half the roof. The building and surrounding landscaping will provide many places for wild plants and animals to live. The ventilation is passive and the heating utilises air sourced heat pumps.
Is there any overnight security?
The site is covered by CCTV cameras 24/7 and there are alarm systems as well.
How can I get a better idea of the size?
The Discovery Centre occupies all of the land where Lime Kiln Cottage stood.
Why didn't you carry on with Lime Kiln Cottage?
Lime Kiln Cottage was cramped, damp, cold and liable to flooding, last time in 2013. It was a poor place for volunteers, had no toilets and didn’t provide space for school groups, meaning education had to take place outdoors, in all weathers.