DISCOVER EAST YORKSHIRE'S INCREDIBLE WILDLIFE AT TOPHILL LOWMon 14th May 2018
Beverley is well-paced for exploring Yorkshire’s Nature Triangle. Four local organisations are involved in maintaining this unrivalled range of wildlife experiences - Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, The RSPB, Yorkshire Water and East Riding of Yorkshire Council. This month, we explore Tophill Low.
Tophill Low Nature Reserve is perhaps an unlikely setting for the most diverse array of wildlife in East Yorkshire. The name is a reference to a glacial hillock in the middle of a vast wetland wilderness until it was drained for agriculture in the 1700’s. In
the 1950’s Hull required a new water supply and the farmstead being at the edge of the tidal range of the river Hull was developed as an abstraction, storage and treatment facility for Yorkshire Water drinking water.
Two huge concrete reservoirs contain 320 million gallons of water and at first glance look barren and industrial. However, the clear shallow water allows light to reach lush aquatic vegetation holding billions of insect larvae which attract thousands of wigeon, tufted duck and goldeneye ducks to name but a few in winter, for which the reservoirs were protected as Sites of Special Scientific Interest in 1988. In summer emerging insects act as food for thousands of swallows, martins, swifts and wagtails migrating between Africa and Europe, whilst the settlement pools are perfect feeding grounds for diverse wading
birds like greenshank, black tailed godwits and sandpipers.
The other areas of the site were left as wetlands or planted with an eclectic mix of trees and the site quickly gained the attentions of local wildlife enthusiasts whom have recorded 270 species of bird, 700 species of butterfly and moth, and
hundreds of plants including spectacular bee orchids in June. Because it is a water supply site it has never seen blanket application of fertiliser or pesticides, allowing many important species to remain and thrive such as great crested newts,
grass snakes, water voles, roe deer and otters with enthusiasts and universities constantly monitoring and researching wildlife.
In 1993 Yorkshire Water invested and opened the site to the public with 12 hides installed for viewing the wildlife, and works have continued culminating in the 2017 reception hide giving views over the reservoir with telescopes, bird feeders and displays on the wildlife before it can be enjoyed from over 3km of accessibility paths which take circuits of both reservoirs. It takes a couple of hours to walk each with a stop in the hides to enjoy the wildlife and take in the peaceful surroundings; The nearest main road is 3 miles away in any direction so in May and June bird song abounds, not to mention the raucous marsh
frogs croaking from the lagoons.
The reserve is open every day of the year from adults or £1.80 for concessions (there is a no dog policy to protect the wildlife). Access is signposted from Watton village on the A164 Beverley to Driffield road.
Events take place throughout the year advertised on the web, the most notable being on June 17th 2018 when the free admission open day takes place; with many local wildlife organisations exhibiting their work and lots of activities to inspire
a new generation of naturalists.