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The Dyfi Wildlife Centre: A Community Project

Posted: Saturday 16th June 2018 by Emyr MWT


We are beyond delighted to let you know that we have been successful in our application to the Heritage Lottery Fund to build our new visitor centre. We're going to call it the Dyfi Wildlife Centre.


For years now we have been listening. Listening to visitors, listening to volunteers and listening to local people. Over 1,500 of you filled in our Survey Monkey questionnaire in January specifically about a potential new centre at DOP; your answers and comments to these questions have steered us in the development of this project.

One of the 20 questions in January's visitor survey


We've also listened to over 1,000 reviews across our social media platforms and TripAdvisor. We've incorporated the elements you told us that were important to you into the new building.

Here's everything you need to know about the new Dyfi Wildlife Centre:


We now start a development phase where we appoint an architect to develop the design up to planning stage along with a plethora of reports.

This will take a good six to nine months before we then, pending successful planning consent, hand the Heritage Lottery Fund team our round two application. All being well, we will start work on the new centre the day after we close DOP 2019 and aim to open for the following spring in readiness for the 2020 season.

Dyfi Wildlife Centre - The Building

In a nutshell, the centre will comprise:

Ground Floor: Reception area, interpretation area (screens and panels etc), four toilets (two disabled), two staircases, a wheelchair lift, a kitchen and cafe area for around 40 people, a shop.

First Floor: A 100-seater venue and exhibition centre called "The Gallery" comprising 50% of the upper level, volunteer and staff office and a large classroom. We'll build a balcony overlooking the reserve and osprey nest if we have enough budget.

There will be a decking area on both the car park side and reserve side and both floors will have volunteers to help you during your visit. The car park capacity will double to around 50 vehicles without taking out any new habitat.

A floor plan mock-up


Dyfi Wildlife Centre - Key Elements

Community - from volunteering, people engagement, decision making, design, construction and day-to-day operation, this will be a people and community-led project. The Dyfi Wildlife Centre will be situated right in the heart of the UNESCO designated Dyfi Biosphere - we'll be working right alongside everybody involved with the Biosphere.

Environment - The Dyfi Wildlife Centre will be a timber-frame building using locally grown Douglas Fir, Larch and Cedar from the Dyfi Valley or very close by. Building with timber is the most environmentally friendly construction method there is.

We will employ local architects, engineers and contractors; the vast majority of everything we need to build a stunning new centre will be sourced locally.

Participation - We will be completely inclusive to all, this centre will be for everybody to use and enjoy. Special events will be held in the Gallery and Classroom on the first level, everything from classical and folk concerts, wildlife, history and special interest talks, workshops, training events, exhibition area for local artists, osprey events and talks, astronomy. You name it, you can even get married at the centre (yes, people ask all the time to marry in the 360 Observatory!).

Environmental Sustainability - The Dyfi Wildlife Centre will be a 'minimum-plastics build', incorporating many fixtures, finishes and fittings made from reclaimed, up-cycled and recycled materials. Floor, wall and roof insulation will be organic cellulose (recycled newspapers) or sheep's wool rather than polymer-based insulation. We'll make walls out of reclaimed pallets and floors from reclaimed timber and old coins.

A 50-kilowatt solar panel system on an especially designed south-facing roof will generate approximately 9x more electricity than the building consumes annually, making the Dyfi Wildlife Centre one of, if not the, first carbon-positive buildings of its type in the UK. Electricity not used in the centre will either be harvested to be used again when the sun isn't shining or fed back to the grid; we estimate enough electricity to power five-to-seven average homes for a year will be 'surplus to requirements' and fed back directly to the national grid.

An asymmetrical roof, longest-side facing directly south for maximum solar gain

Electric vehicle and bike charging points will be installed in the car park.

The foundations will be steel piling rather than concrete-based, the centre being approximately 1 metre off ground level to facilitate wildlife corridors underneath. The area taken up by the new building will not be much bigger than the areas vacated by the existing toilets, cafe, disused boardwalk, ramp and two porta-cabins.

Accessibility and Opening Times - DOP is currently open for exactly five months of the year. The new Dyfi Wildlife Centre will open an additional 60% longer, eight months vs five months. For the remaining four months, November - February, we will hold special events throughout the winter. Cors Dyfi reserve will be open 365 days of the year, as it is now.

The centre will be fully disabled and wheelchair accessible with an electric lift installed (like the one in the 360 Observatory); a volunteer will help you get from one floor to the next. There will be wheelchair hire, free of charge.

All information panels and screens will be bilingual.

Dyfi Wildlife Centre - Learning

Osprey and wildlife live screens - By 2020 the five TV screens in the current portacabin will be eight years old, two have already broken down and have had to be fixed. These will be replaced by low-energy, leading-edge tech OLED screens - in Ultra High Definition 4K resolutions. We'll design the ambient light around them to be subtle so that when you look at the ospreys, it will be the next best thing from actually being in the nest with them. The nest audio will also receive a boost in performance with a dedicated AV system.

Other OLED screens in the centre will broadcast slide-shows of various osprey statistics, biographies, DOP histories as well as showcasing some of the other amazing wildlife we see on Cors Dyfi. It will be like Springwatch, only you'll be there.

Beavers - We have been working with the Welsh Beaver Project for the last few years with a view of bringing this amazing mammal back to Cors Dyfi after many centuries of extinction from Wales. The Dyfi Wildlife Project will fund this work and enable it to go ahead.

Classroom - A place to bring people and children together for workshops, lessons, talks, seminars etc. A great place too to engage with audiences that we rarely see currently - people with illness, problems, learning difficulties, loneliness, long-term unemployed, people that are recovering in any way from a bad episode in their lives. Everyone has an equal right to come to the new building and DOP and experience what it has to offer.

Nerys will soon be able to volunteer in the visitor centre too - there's no room there currently for her chair

Gallery - An amazing space to bring up to 100 people together. We will run rotating exhibitions and activities based on topics which are relevant to the Dyfi Valley, such as...

Local history - The DNA strand that runs through everything we do will be the Dyfi River. How the river has played a huge part in forming the landscape and people we see on the Dyfi today. There was a Roman fort beside Cors Dyfi 2,000 years ago; before that there was an ancient forest here with bears and red deer roaming around with ospreys and white-tailed eagles soaring above. Owain Glyndŵr penned his famous letter to the French king just a mile away (he never got a reply!) 600 years ago and soon after trade and industry started in earnest on the river, transporting all sorts of goods - locally mined copper, lead, tin, plus oak and other woods.. around the UK and then the world.

Submerged forest down the road at Borth

Then came the trains and the Glandyfi bridge we sometimes see on the Live Streaming. How our ancestors lived has had a direct effect on how and where we, and all the wildlife around us, live today - we will bring their stories back to life in the Gallery, we'll even use some of the raw materials they mined and produced in the fabric of the building itself.

The Mary Evans - the largest ship ever built on the Dyfi in 1868, right on the banks of the reserve

Accessibility and Opening Times

DOP is currently open for exactly five months of the year. The new Dyfi Wildlife Centre will open an additional 60% longer, eight months vs five months. For the remaining four months, November - February, we will hold special events throughout the winter. Cors Dyfi reserve will be open 365 days of the year, as it is now. The live streaming will operate for longer - at least for a month earlier and a month later than now. Same for the Live Chat. The online shop will be open 12-months of the year too.

The centre will be fully disabled and wheelchair accessible with an electric lift installed (like the one in the 360 Observatory) to take people between floors; a volunteer will help you get from one floor to the next. All the information panels and screens will be bilingual.

Wheelchair lift in the 360 Observatory

What will happen now?

In the next few days we'll receive official "permission to start" paperwork from Heritage Lottery Fund. You won't see much difference at all for the first few weeks, but as we get deeper into the project you'll begin to see some changes.

Here are a few of them:

Social Media: Soon we'll re-title our Cors Dyfi and 360 Observatory Facebook page to include the Dyfi Wildlife Centre. This is the page to be on to hear about how the project develops over the next two years. The DOP Facebook page and our other social media platforms will remain relatively unchanged.

YouTube: We will set up a new 'Dyfi Wildlife Centre' channel on YouTube which will be hosted alongside, but separate from, the DOP channel which will remain just for ospreys. You will have hopefully seen a step-change improvement in the production quality of our osprey videos over the last 10 years, from the camera quality, editing, post-production, colouring, graphics, audio and presentation. You'll see a further improvement in the videos we produce on the Dyfi Wildlife Centre channel, only this time they will be about the project and the centre itself. We'll also be hosting live 'vlogging' as well as other special live events such as Q&As and presentations.

Funding: This is a £1.1 million project, HLF will fund approximately half of it and we hope to raise the other £550,000 from other funders and appeals. In July we'll set up a specific Dyfi Wildlife Centre page on our website with details of how you can get involved from voicing your opinions, unusual stuff like collecting pre-decimal coins and old tins to arranging funding events yourself. Look out for our "Grand Champion" scheme, details in July; we'll set up a specific "Grand Champion" Facebook page for this.


Game Changer

For the first five years we had operated DOP from a little wooden hide, half a mile away from the nest.

The 360 Observatory was game changing when we opened it at Easter, 2014. We're only a small Wildlife Trust and it's fair to say that more than a few eyebrows were raised when we announced we were going to build a three-storey timber-frame building on stilts in the middle of a peat-bog swamp, 200 metres from an osprey nest with aerial panoramic views across the Dyfi Valley. But we did.

The Dyfi Wildlife Centre will also be game changing.

With 40,000 visitors per year, we've been restricted in what we can do out of two 25-year old porta-cabins. We've wanted to do so much more but couldn't because of the many barriers we faced. The Dyfi Wildlife Centre will change all of that.

One of the biggest challenges we face with this new project is not something obvious; in fact, it is slightly concealed and hard to quantify or measure. We've always tried to serve everything we do with a side-order of a little bit of charm, some community feel, a large bowl of friendliness and a squirt of sense-of-humour. We don't want to lose that.

Of course things will look different, even some of the people you'll see may be different, but we'll do everything we possibly can not to lose that close-knit friendly feel. Changes can be good - if you do them right.

Did you go "WOW" the first time you saw and entered the 360 Observatory? We want the Dyfi Wildlife Centre to have the same effect on you. It won't look like any other centre you've been to. It will be unusual, eccentric, sustainable, curious, welcoming and memorable. We want you to have the best experience possible when you visit and starting today, our 20-month journey starts in converting this dream into reality.

And the best bit of this journey? You are all invited along with us.

More to follow; lots lots more...

Read Emyr MWT's latest blog entries.