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RSPB Bempton Cliffs - a year to remember

Last modified: 18 April 2016

Looking north from Bempton Cliffs

Image: Katie Fuller

A year since its launch last April, the £1.3 million seabird centre at RSPB Bempton Cliffs has exceeded all expectations, and staff and volunteers are celebrating its hugely successful first year.

The centre on the Yorkshire Coast, which forms the gateway to the largest and most accessible mainland seabird colony in the country, saw 85,000 visitors pass through its doors last year – 25,000 more than in the previous years. It was also host to 2000 school children, who visited as part of the reserve’s education programme.

Keith Clarkson, RSPB Bempton Cliffs Site manager, said: “The visitor numbers surprised even us. We expected the new facility to attract more people, but the increase was exceptional. This success wouldn’t have been possible without the initial backing of our parish and local councils and, of course, our funding partners – The Heritage Lottery Fund, Coastal Communities, Biffa, and LEADER. We are incredibly grateful for their faith in our vision.”

Many people were prompted to visit RSPB Bempton Cliffs after seeing the reserve on two BBC TV favourites: Springwatch at Easter, which the reserve hosted, had 2.2 million viewers, and a whopping 5.9 million viewers watched Countryfile when it featured the reserve.  

It’s a credit to the Bempton team that, despite unprecedented demands made of them – like brewing some 25,500 cups of tea – the reserve’s standards of customer care never faltered.

The level of success achieved has paid dividends within the community too. The reserve now employs the equivalent of 15 full time staff, assisted by an amazing team of 118 volunteers. And those visiting have had a significant impact on the tourism economy, with 50 per cent of visitors to the reserve staying locally.

The other beneficiaries of all this hard work are the 250,000 seabirds, which flock to the cliffs each year during the breeding season. The colony is regularly monitored, and the data provided helps the RSPB focus its vital conservation work in areas where it will be most effective.

Not surprisingly, the reserve has been successful in a number of awards: last month it was joint winner, alongside Hull Truck Theatre, in the Visitor Attraction category in the Remarkable East Yorkshire Tourism Awards (REYTAs). The reserve was also nominated in the Birdwatch Birders’ Choice Awards and came third in the Best Nature Reserve in the UK category in the Landlove magazine awards. 

There has been further investment and improvement over the winter, with more refurbishment in the centre and the installation of publicly accessible Wi-Fi. New high definition CCTV cameras have also been placed on the cliffs to provide better quality images of the nesting seabirds, which can be viewed on the centre’s big screens. 

Outside, major work has been undertaken on Bartlett Nab viewpoint, which now has wheelchair bays and access ramps. It’s the third of the six cliff-top viewpoints to become fully accessible and is part of a circular route on hard surfaced paths. The reserve also received a donation of an all-terrain Tramper mobility scooter, which has opened up the wilder parts of the reserve to less mobile visitors.

Keith added: “We’re currently welcoming back the thousands of seabirds who make their home on the cliffs each year, and look forward to giving lots of visitors the opportunity to see these wonderful birds.”

The Seabird Centre is open daily from 9.30 am–5 pm in summer, and from 9.30 am–4 pm in winter. For further information, visit www.rspb.org.uk/bemptoncliffs, call the reserve on 01262 422212 or like ‘RSPB North Yorks & East Riding’ on Facebook.

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