Sculthorpe Moor Hawk & Owl Trust
Reserve Name Sculthorpe Moor Community Nature Reserve
Turf Moor Road
Sculthorpe, Fakenham, Norfolk NR21 9GN
Phone Number 01328 856788
Website Visit Website
See Brian Anderson’s inspection of their new facilities: http://hawkandowl.org/sculthorpe/about-sculthorpe/
Is this the most accessible nature reserve in the country? Being a fulltime wheelchair user with masses of experience of visiting other nature reserve, especially in East Anglia, I consider Sculthorpe Moor the best nature reserve I have ever visited for wheelchairs. It is also pretty good for visitors who have difficulty walking any distance, as seating is ample and, generally, helpfully spaced out.
The website is also very informative and the staff are very eager to help. Since my visit in May I have requested some minor improvement which I hope will be implemented and I would ask any “Birding For All” members to contact me if they have any more suggestions to improve access even more. These further improvements are detailed at the end of this report.
Before I begin my access assessment I can confirm that there two manual wheelchairs available for visitors. One is for adults and the other for a child or visitor of reduced stature. Also there are accessible toilets both inside the centre building and outside.
Access report on Sculthorpe Moor Hawk and Owl Trust reserve – 16th May 2014
The car park is largely heavy gravel with an adequate and level concrete area in front of the reserve centre that allows plenty of space for parking and for accessing the car for unloading etc. for use of disabled drivers/passengers needing this facility – as depicted.
The path into the reserve building is wide and is made non-slip with a cover of netting. Double-entry doors allow for easy entry for the widest of wheelchair/mobility scooters.
From the reserve centre there is a wide,firm gravel path to the beginning of a boardwalk which completely encircles the woodland. The distance to the start of the
boardwalk from the centre is about 100metres and there is a gate – at the start to restrict motor vehicle access.
For those visitors finding this restriction a problem owing to a mobility issue can ask the staff to unlock the gate. I would advise visitors, like myself, to be prepared to contact staff by mobile phone from the car and ask to have the gate opened. This is because – in my case – I would have to get the wheelchair out of the car, open the gate, get back in the car, Get the wheelchair back into the car and drive past the open gate, get the wheelchair out of the car, and shut the gate, drive to the start of the boardwalk, and then, finally get out of the car and go.
The first point of call from the beginning of the boardwalk is a viewing fence that allows observation of some bird feeders.
The viewing apertures are too high for someone in a wheelchair. In my case it was possible to see the feeders from the side, which defeats the object of disturbing the feeding birds unduly.
I have suggested that some additional apertures are inserted at a height, from ground level, of 106cm for the lowest part of the aperture.
From the boardwalk there are excellent views and restful vistas to observe the wildlife although the distances between some benches is beyond – in some instances -the generally accepted limit of150m for less able walkers.
The data provided by Hawk and Owl trust on seating distances is as follows:
From the entrance to the reserve, going left at the first junction to go round the woodland loop.
From the gate to the woodland (Frank Jarvis) hide it is 310m
From the hide to the bench at Old Git’s Corner 72m
From Old gits corner to the first bench on the stretch out to the Whitley hide it is 322m
To the next bench another 160m
And the next bench another 15m
From that bench to the Whitley hide it is 68m
From the Whitley hide to the next bench 62m
And from there to the river platform bench 132.5m
Going along the rough path along the river bank it is 272m from the river platform bench to the bench near the two hides (Paul Johnson & Victor’s), then another 12m from the bench to the hides.
Going the other way from the reserve gate taking the right fork heading out to the fen it is 107m from the gate to the first bench
Then another 256m from that bench out to the first bench on the stretch out to the Whitley hide.
The picture shows the boardwalk slope to Whitley Hide and for the lone wheelchair user it will not be too much of a climb to
the hide entrance. The standard is no more
than 12% and, without an accurate
measurement, I assess it is within that norm.
Viewing from the hide is excellent for a wheelchair user as the viewing shelf is 84cm plus 10cm to the bottom of the viewing window aperture.
For me, personally, it is a little high I prefer the measurements in the Frank Jarvis hide which were 70cm plus 10cm. This enabled me to see directly below and very close into the hide which was not the case for the Whitley hide.
Further along the boardwalk we come to the Frank Jarvis hide(pictured) which is equally accessible and has a lower window
aperture of 70cm plus 10cm as already described above.
The incline is well within the norm of 12% and a slightly easier climb than the Whitley hide
There are two other hides – the Paul Johnson & Victor’s Hide – which are currently not available to wheelchair users at the moment but development is now underway to make the hides accessible with a raised boardwalk.
I quote further information below taken from Sculthorpe’s August 2014 newsletter:
“Reed Bed Development work to start
Thanks to fantastic support from many individuals and a grant from the Biffa Biodiversity Fund we have raised enough money to start work on the reed bed development project.
The diggers will move in this month to carry out preliminary work to lower the water levels so work can begin toward the end of September. Visitors to the reserve may well be taken aback by the way the reed bed looks when the work is first done but in the spring the reed will quickly grow up again and the reed bed will be in much better condition. It will provide better habitat for many specialist reed bed species, maybe even that illusive member of the heron family, the bittern.
Members of our volunteer team are champing at the bit to get started on the new tower hide and raised boardwalk, preliminary work and planning has already been done and work is also due to start on these very soon.
Please bear with us whilst the work is underway, there will be some disruption but it will be well worth it.
We are still fundraising to replace the very uneven path along the river bank with boardwalk to make the Paul Johnson and Victor’s hides accessible for everyone, including wheelchair users.”
Access to the picnic area, and a smooth pathway to the disabled parking by the entrance to the Reserve Centre.
Here is a photo of the entrance to the disabled parking and it highlights part of the general gravel parking available to other users. The thickness of the gravel is very hard for a wheelchair user and I have suggested that the problem could be solved by having an extra bit of concrete pathway – no more than 30 inches wide – from the entrance gate to the concrete frontage of the Reserve centre. It could be a strip from where the sign board is shown on my photo. This problem was highlighted when I returned to my car after the Reserve building was closed so we could not access my car by going through the reception area.
Shown, above, are two photos of the picnic area. The gravel pathway shown is very difficult to use for the lone wheelchair person. I know one could ask for help but in this day and age of equality, and personal dignity, a better solution is needed.
My second photo of the picnic area highlights a possible easy solution. If one or two of the shrubs shown are removed and a boardwalk slope extension is put in its place then it would be easy for a wheelchair .(Note since this suggestion was sent to Sculthorpe staff there has been some access improvement which has still to checked by the author).
Finally, the viewing slots mentioned above require lower viewing apertures for wheelchair users.
B. Anderson for Birding for All – 22nd October 2014