Soft peat, tower views!

Tower hide view soft peat

Shapwick Tower Hide awaiting its superstructure

Hides, especially tower hides, provide a great location to see wildlife with minimal disturbance, shelter from the elements and fantastic vistas over the magical Avalon Marshes landscape. However, two key challenges face the teams from the Hawk & Owl Trust, Natural England, RSPB and Somerset Wildlife Trust – how to fund and build them.

On the funding side we are fortunate that Heritage Lottery has funded four new hides around the reserves through the Avalon Marshes Landscape Partnership scheme. In addition, on Shapwick Heath Natural England has funded the “Shapwick Tower Hide” through a highly successful “crowd funding” appeal and on Westhay Moor Somerset Wildlife Trust are building a new North Hide with funding from Viridor Credits through the Landfill Communities Fund.

The next challenge is their detailed design and construction. The soft peat of the Avalon Marshes, which helps give it its distinctive character, is underlain by many metres of soft clay. Neither is the best foundation material!

Natural England’s Shapwick Tower Hide, currently under construction, illustrates how these challenging conditions can be overcome in a cost-effective way. Take 8 telegraph poles donated by Western Power; bring in a local excavator to “push” the piles into soft ground (and when we say push we really do mean push!); employ a local contractor to build a simple welded steel framework to sit on the piles; then top this off with a timber, architect-designed, room with a view. And wow what a view it is going to be!

Views from the hide:

South view tower view bittern
South view from lower deck – Booming Bittern as this shot was taken
North view lower deck great white egrets
North view from lower deck – Two Great White Egrets and a lot else!


Unloading – they are long!                                   The driven piles – a lot in the ground

Tower Hide construction Tower Hide construction

Piles cut to length and steelwork in place        The lower deck

Piles and steelwork tower hide lower deck tower hide

Progress photos with thanks to Alan Ashman
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