What's happening now?
A service compound is under construction, which will house refuse and recycling, as well as electrics, and it will eventually be clad with the locally-sourced, sweet chestnut cladding.
The amazing interpretation we've all been working on is now being installed inside the Discovery Centre, explaining the mosaic of habitats, the history of the reserve - human, natural and military.
Tuff Turf path by David Sweeney of Baxall
A Tuff Turf path, which is a revolutionary grass concrete system, has been laid down outside the Discovery Centre to enable access to the garden for wheelchair users and mobility scooters. Included with this work is the shingle placed under the building which it is hoped will become the home for many of the special, sometimes rare, plant species. Inside, the final decorations are being completed, including the big pillars near the windows, and we are delighted with the elegant, grey colour.
Sussex Wildlife Trust hopes that the Discovery Centre will be opening in April 2021, but these timescales may be impacted by Covid-19 restrictions.
The pathway is open by the Discovery Centre at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, meaning there is access to the sea from Rye Harbour village and vice versa.
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. The contractors have added tape crosses to the glass panels while the build is in progress. Based on reported experience from buildings of a similar design, we don’t anticipate any issues once the build is complete, 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 can 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 is being 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 will be passive and the heating will utilise air sourced heat pumps.
What’s happening to waste material? Will building materials get blown about if it’s windy?
Baxall have been removing waste material from site regularly, and they are aware of the geographical challenges of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, so will be taking great care. Material from the site will be transported to a registered waste recycling centre.
Will the village drainage system be able to cope?
The building is going to be connected to the main sewer, with a strategy that has been agreed with Southern Water.
Is there any overnight security?
The site is covered by CCTV cameras 24/7.
There will be timelapse photography and other means of recording the build process. Any use of drones will have been approved by the Reserve Manager.
Why is the Discovery Centre being built?
In the past, we have not had adequate facilities for the large numbers of annual visitors we welcome on the reserve, including parties of schoolchildren. The same is true for staff and volunteers. The nature reserve is vast, and it needs somewhere accessible, that offers shelter in all weathers, and has facilities including toilets, all of which enable everyone to enjoy our reserve, all year round.
Once lockdown is over, and the Centre is open, won't this cause problems with traffic and parking?
Parking for the reserve will be directed to the existing car parks in Rye Harbour, Rye and Winchelsea Beach. The brown tourism signs direct people to Rye Harbour. The car park and toilets there are run by Icklesham Parish Council. There would be potential greater capacity in the car park if it was white lined. We appreciate that at peak times there are too many cars for the parking spaces available in all of Rother District and we are working with the Sussex Community Rail Partnership to promote visiting by rail on our website and in our literature.
How can we get more information?
The email address for Baxall for this project is firstname.lastname@example.org
The email address for the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve staff team is RHNRoffice@sussexwt.org.uk