Poole Harbour gets new visitor centre


Local environmental education charity Birds of Poole Harbour opened the doors on its new engagement headquarters on Poole Quay at midday today (1 March 2018). 

The goal of the new visitor centre is to educate the public about the harbour’s rich and varied bird life. It involves a variety of interactive experiences that showcase the harbour’s ecological importance. The new quay-front HQ will have touchscreen maps allowing visitors to plan routes around the site, several listening stations to familiarise yourself with the sounds of local birds, several screens streaming exclusive video and local mini-documentaries, and an indoor bird hide.

Set up in 2012, the Birds of Poole Harbour is a registered charity. It's aim is to provide a better understanding the harbour’s birds by setting up a range of ‘people-engagement initiatives’ that benefit both the environment and the people enjoying it. In 2017, it began its flagship project, an Osprey translocation programme which has seen the organisation attempting to restore Osprey as a breeding bird in Poole Harbour after a 200-year absence due to persecution. The charity engages with around 1,400 local schoolchildren with their popular bird-boat project, while also investing in habitat improvement and creation to provide new areas for people to connect with wildlife.

Paul Morton, the charity’s co-founder, explained: “This really is a milestone for us. We’ve spent a lot of time figuring out who our audience is, and making sure everything we do supports and engages with those people and extends their understanding of Poole Harbour, its beauty and its importance for birds.

“We’ve seen a huge spike in interest in our work in relation to people wanting to learn more about their local environment as well as birds and, with our new HQ opening on 1 March, this will hopefully act as a ‘go-to’ focal point in which visitors can get a full overview of just how rich and important Poole Harbour is, not only for birds but for wider biodiversity, too.”

With its prime location on Poole Quay, the new visitor centre hopes to engage with a whole new audience in the area, as well as meeting and speaking with locals who also have a keen interest in local environment- and bird-related topics.

Morton added: “We’ve met many wonderful people during our first six years as a charity and we can’t thank everyone enough for their support up to now. Our new engagement HQ is going to provide a focal point for our work, allowing us to speak with and enthuse people who perhaps hadn’t heard of us before, or who simply just want a bit of advice on where they can see an Avocet.

“The harbour is recognised as a nationally and internationally important area for several species of bird, and is also afforded SPA (Special Protection Area) designation [as well as being] a specially protected RAMSAR site, and has numerous SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest).”