Castle Espie will open to the public again on Tuesday July 7. Members of the public and WWT members will have to pre-book online for the day they want to visit as part of measures to keep everyone safe.

WWT’s priority is to ensure the public can access its beautiful waterscapes to help boost wellbeing and people’s connection with nature in the area.

In order to help protect visitors, staff and volunteers, daily numbers will be restricted and both WWT members and non-members are requested to book online beforehand so that the charity can monitor numbers. Social distancing and additional hygiene measures will be in place.

Centre Manager Paul Stewart said:

“We are looking forward to opening our doors again but to help keep our visitors, the local community, and our staff and volunteers safe, we’re limiting the number of people who can visit on any one day and we’ve introduced a booking system to manage that.

“Bookings open today at 9am on Wednesday July 1 and we have introduced extra safety measures on site which will be detailed on the bookings page when it goes live.”

Managed by WWT, a conservation charity that protects and restores important and threatened wetland habitat across the globe, Castle Espie is the only centre managed by the charity in Northern Ireland.

Castle Espie lies on the north-west shore of the stunning Strangford Lough, 15km south of Belfast. Strangford Lough is the largest sea inlet in the UK or Ireland covering 58 square miles and is an area of international wildlife importance.

Paul continues:

“The centre has been closed since the beginning of the lockdown and has had an impact in more ways than one.

“As a conservation charity, we depend on donations and income from visitors to sustain our import work here looking after this ecosystem for people and planet. The absence of visitors has had a financial impact on our ability to finance this work.

“Wetlands lock up more carbon than the world’s forests combined and in the current climate emergency protecting this habitat is more important than ever”

The habitats at Castle Espie include open water lakes, saltmarsh, saline lagoons, shallow seasonally flooded wetland, strandline flora, woodlands and limestone grassland of important ecological value. This abundance of biodiversity is now managed as a nature reserve along with 400 hectares of intertidal habitat where around 75% of the world’s Brent Geese return from the high artic to overwinter at the reserve in one of the planet’s most magical wildlife spectacles.

Paul adds:

“This year we celebrate our 30th year on Strangford. Our work is dependent on our visitors and supporters and with lock down beginning to ease, I hope people will visit and support us so that we can continue this important conservation work In Northern Ireland.”

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Nadia Duncan

Author: Nadia Duncan


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