The Children’s visitor centre that we built at Abberton Reservoir for Essex Wildlife Trust is a dual purpose, custom built, timber structure. It’s primary purpose is as a visitor centre for children, offering them a place to learn about nature, whilst its secondary purpose is as an octagonal bird hide. We built it as an open sided structure to allow easy access and it features double shuttered windows.
This structure is special because it is multifunctional. Primarily a children’s visitor centre, the design is open on three of the eight sides, providing an inviting environment that encourages people to enter. There is a table around the central support column and seating all the way around the structure, offering a place for education to occur. The second purpose of the structure is as a bird / nature hide. After children have been learning about nature they will (hopefully) be interested in looking for it. Each window has double shutters which can be closed, opened, or half opened. When fully open, they offer a great view of the reservoir and when closed, they offer a distraction free, classroom type environment. The seating can be used to face the central column if listening to someone speaking or for looking out of the windows.
As with all our creations, this bird hide was a custom built project and is just one of multiple structures that we built at Abberton Reservoir for Essex Wildlife Trusts. The structures include five bird hides that look out over Abberton Reservoir, and as one of our long standing clients, we look forward to building more at this site in the future.
The naturalist and broadcaster – and an icon of recent decades – Sir David Attenborough, paid a visit to Abberton Reservoir to mark the completion of the £150 million Abberton Scheme by unveiling a special engraved stone.
Our hides were a part of this huge scheme which enlarged Abberton Reservoir by 58% whilst creating a vastly improved habitat for wildlife.
Sir David commented, “I can remember a time when nature conservation and development were seen to be in opposition – you either developed or conserved – and that led to confrontation. Here at Abberton Reservoir this is fundamentally, extraordinarily, and wonderfully different.”
This idea of development and environmental conservation goes hand in hand with our core beliefs at The Wild Deck Company and we are very proud to be part of such a forward thinking, environmentally friendly development project. As Sir David Attenborough said, conservation and development no longer have to be at loggerheads, and we hope to see many more projects that align with this ethos in the future.
By using natural timbers, all of our creations ‘weather down’, blending subtly into the natural environment. Whilst we love the look of a brand new, fresh bird hide (or any other timber structure for that matter), we really love the softer hues that the timbers take on over time, after being exposed to the elements.
The photos that you can see here were taken several years after the initial installation. As you can see, the structure is as good as the day it was put up, a testament to our construction and engineering skills. The only real change is in the hues of the wood as the structure now blends in more naturally with the surroundings. Both the oak boards and the cedar shingles have softened to a similar colour.
Of course, if you wanted a structure to remain looking in a certain way, you could use wood treatments to maintain a certain look, but with this structure we wanted it to be as natural and maintenance free as possible.
The Children’s Visitor Centre is just one structure along with five bird hides, an outdoor play area, and a sand martin bank that we built at Abberton Reservoir. You can take a look at the full list of what we have made at Abberton Reservoir for Essex Wildlife Trust, whilst some of the bigger creations are outlined below:
A large, sedum roof bird hide with entrance ramp and screen fencing.
A sedum roofed bird hide with an access ramp and screens.
A dual purpose structure that functions as both a bird hide and a children’s information centre.
A large, cedar shingle roofed bird hide with a screened entrance ramp.
A small, raised bird hide with an open back. We built two like this.
Aside from the odd, special day, such as the official opening by Sir David Attenborough, we don’t often get to visit our sites regularly and hear what people think of them. However, the following reviews have been left on Tripadvisor since we completed the project.
“Bird hide out 10/10”
by Brandon R
“Excellent bird-watching centre”
by Anthony R
“Lovely hides to watch the birds and wildlife”
“Extremely disabled-friendly. [..] I Could easily access the entire site including the hides.”
by Sheila D
At the Wild Deck Company, we only choose ethically sourced FSC timber in all of our projects or wood from a similarly proven sustainable source. Using either hardwood or softwood, our timber structures are made to exact specifications and, if using softwood, can be treated and painted in a range of colours. Roofs can pitched or flat, and can be thatched using local straw, reed, cedar shingles, or sedum.
All of our timber structures feature access steps and / or ramps, braced wall sections in a wide choice of finishes, and rainwater control. As each project is bespoke, you can choose to customise your structure so that it is exactly what you need it to be to work for your environment. Some of the features we have incorporated into our designs in the past include shutters (useful on nature hides), windows (fitted with safety glass or polycarbonate where necessary), lean-on shelves, seating, rails, notice boards, lighting and emergency lighting (including solar-powered), and WCs that discharge to bio treatment plants. And if you have anything else in mind, we can probably incorporate that into the design too.
Please take a moment to look at some of our other custom built, timber structures, as well as some of our bird hide constructions, and see the great scope of creativity of our past creations – it might also give you some ideas for your own needs.
Please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us via email or phone to discuss your own project – we are only too happy to help, and can work from strict plans or design a structure completely from scratch to fit your needs. We can also incorporate the design with other features to compliment your natural setting such as boardwalks, dipping platforms, and observation decks / viewing platforms.
We look forward to hearing from you.