Work to get underway on new Rye Harbour Discovery Centre

A vision of what the new Rye Harbour Discovery Centre will look like
A vision of what the new Rye Harbour Discovery Centre will look like

Work will start on the new Rye Harbour Discovery Centre next month.

Sussex Wildlife Trust, which is jointly running the project with the Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, made the announcement this week, and said it has now purchased the timber that will be used as cladding, both inside and outside the new visitor centre.

Baxall Construction, who is in charge of the build, has sub-contracted East Sussex firm Inwood Developments, who will be manufacturing and installing the timber building. The cladding will be English sweet chestnut, which comes from managed woodlands in Maplehurst Wood, near Hastings, only 12 miles from Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.

Both Natural England and the Forestry Commission have been involved with ensuring good management of these woodlands in recent years, a spokesman for the Sussex Wildlife Trust said.

The sweet chestnut is 40 year old coppice-grown. Coppicing is an ancient form of woodland management which involves repetitive cutting down of wood from the stump or stool, promoting vigorous re-growth and therefore a sustainable future supply of timber. Maplehurst Wood is the only site in East Sussex where herb-paris, or ‘true-lover’s knot’ grows. This is a flowering plant which has been in decline. Coppicing will help its recovery, because of the increase in light.

Nigel Braden, director of Inwood Developments, said: “The sawn sweet chestnut timber for the new Discovery Centre is currently at Helmdon Sawmill, air drying. It will then be processed in our workshops at Whitesmith in East Sussex.”

The public appeal is now seeking to raise a further £500,000 for the Discovery Centre, which will be completed in December of this year and ready to open in 2020 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.

The appeal recently received a major boost with a £25,000 pledge from the Bernard Sunley Foundation.

The Foundation gives £3 million each year to charitable causes that promote community, education, health and social welfare.

The Discovery Centre will meet many of the Foundation’s objectives by offering an education programme to inform visitors of all ages about the reserve’s wildlife. The Discovery Centre will also provide accessible facilities for disabled and older people, including a wildlife garden and café with fabulous views.

Welcoming the news, Sussex Wildlife Trust CEO Tor Lawrence said: “We’re delighted the Bernard Sunley Foundation is backing the Discovery Centre, and are extremely grateful for their support. The centre will transform the way visitors learn about wildlife at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.”

For more information or to donate to the appeal, visit ryeharbourdiscoverycentre.org.uk.

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