Exciting new plans for Summer Leys

A mock-up of the proposed mobile visitor centre at Summer Leys

We are exploring new ways to improve the experience for visitors and ensure a positive outcome for wildlife at one of our most popular nature reserves.

Summer Leys is one of our most popular sites for visitors. Our reserves take a lot of time, money and effort to manage and we need the support of all those that visit to help us take care of this wonderful place. Plans are underway to increase our presence on site and to improve the facilities there for all visitors, whilst ensuring that the nature reserve is looked after for wildlife.

To do this, we will be introducing car parking charges for non-members. We are busy working out details and a final timetable for introduction, but despite plans having been delayed slightly due to the pandemic we are still on target to implement the changes this year. Parking charges will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There will be a pay and display machine and a camera that recognises which vehicles have paid for parking in operation. However, parking will always be free for our members, and we will keep all our members updated on the progress prior to implementation so that details of how to take advantage of this benefit will be clear.

Further exciting plans to help us look after this reserve are also underway, with the introduction of a new mobile Visitor Centre. We are currently exploring the feasibility of this project, and have applied for planning permission for a building to provide visitors with information about the reserve and refreshments, and ensure a regular presence from the Wildlife Trust on site. The project will also include composting toilets, path improvements and a new dipping platform to replace the current submerged one.

We appreciate that regular visitors will understandably have some concerns over increased use. We would like to reassure visitors that we have taken considerations such as litter, plastic packaging, increased footfall and disturbance to wildlife into account. We will sell refreshments in compostable cups and packaging and provide bins for collection, as well as increasing litter picking.

By removing the grassy bunds between car park bays we will be able to maintain the number of parking spaces on the site, and we will work with the Council to monitor parking elsewhere.

Summer Leys is highly valued for its bird life and our priority is to make sure this continues; wildlife surveys will let us know if activity on the site is impacting bird numbers.

Having a regular presence on site will allow us to provide a far better visitor experience and educational engagement, and extra cameras / CCTV will make the reserve more secure.

Ultimately, income generated through the visitor centre and the proposed car parking charges will contribute to the upkeep of this beautiful reserve, including the popular bird feeding station. We are committed to ensuring this site remains a spectacular nature reserve for wildlife as well as improving the experience for visitors.

We welcome your comments and you can contact us on northamptonshire@wildlifebcn.org

A mockup of the proposed visitor centre at Summer Leys

A mock-up of the proposed mobile visitor centre at Summer Leys