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The Rye Bay Harbour Discovery Centre

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve in East Sussex is recognised internationally as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area for birds under the EU Wild Birds Directive, a Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive, and a Ramsar site (Wetlands of International Importance).

Discover Rye Harbour is an exciting project, currently in development, supporting everything that makes the nature reserve so special. At its heart is the Discovery Centre, a low-impact, accessible, purpose-built visitor centre that will support the 360,000 annual visitors, including parties of school children and other educational groups, who visit the reserve each year. It is a joint development between the Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.

The Discovery Centre will be an exciting hub for the Reserve, offering information about its unique wildlife plus exhibitions, events, educational activities and support for volunteers. It will also have a cafe, shop and bathroom facilities.

Designed by Simpson & Brown, the architects’ behind the multi award-winning Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick, the Discovery Centre has environmental sustainability at its heart. A lightweight timber frame with Sweet Chestnut cladding from sustainable sources, grown locally where possible, is complimented by photovoltaic roof panels and large, glazed windows that offer a perfect view of the Reserve on all sides of the building. The structure is raised from ground level, on piles, to prevent flooding, and promises to be energy efficient thanks to solar powered heating and cooling. It will also be able to collect and divert rainwater in to the reserve, replenishing its lagoons.

Outside the centre will be a new Community Wildlife Garden with plentiful seating, planters growing rare and at-risk Reserve flora species, bug hotels, information panels and a small amphitheatre. The garden will also have spectacular views of the Reserve and the River Rother. Key to the garden’s development is community input, so if you would like to share your ideas on how the garden might evolve, Sussex Wildlife Trust would love you to get in touch.

Since the launch of its fundraising campaign in May 2018, the project has raised £3.27m towards its £4m target thanks to support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the European Union and the Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. Whilst this is a fantastic achievement, there is still a little way to go! Donations, of any size, make the world of difference to community projects such as this one and here’s a snapshot of what they can go towards:

• £10 will pay for an Education Pack for schoolchildren to learn more about nature and wildlife
• £100 will protect an endangered plant species in the Community Wildlife Garden
• £150 will pay for a training course for conservation volunteers
• £300 will help record the rare bird species that visit the reserve on their migratory journeys
• £400 will pay for a solar panel, generating green energy for heat and power
• £500 will contribute towards a digital microscope for education and research
• £1000 will pay for a memorial bench in the Community Wildlife Garden

If you would like to make a donation to help the project reach its final target, and completion this year click here.

A current community-led fundraiser for the Discovery Centre is a raffle, which will be drawn on March 16th 2020. The star prize is an incredible, hand-crafted quilt of 30 squares depicting Rye Bay Harbour wildlife and local landmarks, which celebrates 50 years since the first warden started work there, in 1970. There are an impressive 49 other prizes up for grabs too, including a £200 Páramo voucher. For full details of the raffle click here.

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