Frequently asked questions

Why do we need the Discovery Centre?

With around 360,000 annual visitors, the nature reserve needs a larger facility to engage with people, as well as decent office space and storage for staff and volunteers. 

What educational facilities will be provided?

An important improvement will be flexible space for school parties and other educational groups. This will include separate toilet facilities and storage. For some time, reserve staff have been developing learning areas in four main habitats close to the Discovery Centre, where students will have direct contact with wildlife. This space can also accommodate meetings and lectures. Exhibitions will explain the importance of the reserve to all visitors.

What are the timescales?

  • Construction commenced mid March 2019. 
  • The formal opening of the building is planned for April 2020, the 50th Anniversary of the Nature Reserve.

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.

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 will be made with 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 will be passive and the heating will utilise air sourced heat pumps.

Who will run the Discovery Centre?

Sussex Wildlife Trust will manage the building and its operation. The Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve will support the running of the building.

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.

How much will it cost?

The building cost will be around £2.5m with the total project cost around £4.4m.

Isn’t that a lot?

Visitor centres built by various other Wildlife Trusts around the country have cost up to £12 million. Sussex Wildlife Trust looked very carefully at keeping costs to a minimum, whilst still building a first class facility for visitors and members.

Where will the money come from and how much has been raised?

So far, the total public fundraising appeal now stands at just over £300,000. Funds raised from Trusts, Foundations and public funding stand at £1,386,000, taking the total to £1,686,000. The Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve has pledged £1,895,000, mostly a generous legacy from David and Joyce Layton. The current figure raised is £3,580,520, and the shortfall at the end of May 2019 is £826,000.

Why are you building it if you don’t have all the money yet?

It is quite normal for construction to start without all funding in place. Some funders prefer to contribute at a later stage. We have submitted a Stage 2 Heritage Lottery Fund application.

Will there be public toilets?

Yes, four, wheelchair accessible toilets. In addition, there will be three separate toilets for the use of educational groups. Wheelchair access to the building will be via ramps to the front and rear entrances.

What provision for sewage disposal?

The building will be connected to the main sewer.

Will there be refreshments?

A cafe 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.

Will the cafe conflict with local businesses?

The range of refreshment 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 new Centre is open.

How can I get a better idea of the size?

The Discovery Centre will occupy 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.

Aren’t you worried about vandalism?

This is a concern for such a remote building, but security surveillance has been installed.

For specific, regularly updated build FAQs, see here