Stumping up the cash: a barrier to birding at Pitsford?

It was never the intention that Northantsbirds should become a platform for protest but this is the first of two pieces I intend to write in this vein. I am not a seasoned campaigner, nor have I really jumped on the ornithopolitical bandwagon from which a number of birders appear to have launched their own personal crusades. But when changes are made which have an impact on the way we bird locally then I feel I can’t just sit back without comment.

I have been birding at Pitsford Reservoir – or to call it by its more recent, public-popular name, Pitsford Water – since I was a young lad in the late 1960s. Hardly a week goes by when I don’t visit. I do sometimes walk round and I’ve also used the cycle track on several occasions, although the majority of my visits take the form of a quick drop in at the dam end or a stopover on the causeway on my way to, or from, a work-related destination. I have been doing this for many years and it’s a great way to quickly see what migrants are around when I’m too short of time to take a longer walk round and engage in some more leisurely birding.

The causeway is (was) also a great place to park up and sit in wet and windy weather, providing views across the water during howling gales and lashing rain, conditions which have delivered many a seabird along with the other, more common species which pass through.

Great surprise and considerable annoyance ensued, therefore, when I was forwarded at the end of last week an email from a somewhat dismayed birder who, while travelling across the causeway, had witnessed a workman closing off the roadside car park opposite the entrance to the Anglian Water car park by installing yet more wooden stumps. Along with this email I have received further snippets of related information from others who share in this dismay – although I will not name them here without permission.Stump1 This is clearly being done in order to prevent vehicle owners and drivers from parking legitimately without charge, as I suspect AW are losing a considerable amount of potential revenue from runners, cyclists, dog-walkers and, of course, birders who use the parking bays at either end of the causeway. As I write, the pull-in at the Holcot end is in the process of being ‘stumped’ and will no doubt become fully closed off when work resumes immediately after today’s bank holiday.Stump2 If we ask why this is being done, then I’ve no doubt the authority will play the H&S card on the back of the over-the-top health and safety epidemic which has been sweeping this country over recent years. But there has been no issue over the last 60-plus years. Granted the bays are a little worn and uneven and may need resurfacing at some point but come on …

If AW are so keen to increase their revenue, then why not install pay and display parking meters in the pull-ins (although the meter in the main car park could cover the one at the Brixworth end) and operate the meters on a timed tariff so that if people want to stop for just fifteen minutes then they pay accordingly and not the full whack that AW are currently charging.

Unless this ridiculous decision to stump off the bays is reversed then it will truly be the end of an era for birding at Pitsford – so, come on AW, let’s have a sensible approach to this. And, while you’re at it, why not show your green credentials and grant free parking for Wildlife Trust members – or is that asking too much … ?

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22 Responses to Stumping up the cash: a barrier to birding at Pitsford?

  1. aliqat says:

    A good point. I usually pay full whack when walking round the reservoir, but I agree that short term charging would be a solution, or do as Rutland Water do and allow 15 mins free, then graduated fees.

  2. John Bell says:

    Totally agree. These parking bays have served well for as long as I can remember with no problems or accidents. I have often stopped on the way over to see what wildlife is about and look at the water level and quality as I also fish the reservoir.
    Are AW so hard up for a few quid to have to force everyone into their expensive car parks????

  3. keith tinworth says:

    Yes i agree fully with your comments Mike have half hour parking .Like you said on a wet windswept day it was nice to sit in your car and look.

  4. Bob says:

    There is a sign in the car park (or there was anyway) which states that all parking charges are used for conservation work. What I would like to know is whether this money is in addition to, or part of the money they MUST BY LAW spend on conservation????
    Bob

  5. B Nunn says:

    I’m also dismayed, but surprised too that AW owns the causeway/parking bays. I’d have thought it was the responsibility of Northants CC. Mean time, anybody got a chainsaw?

  6. Stephen Austin. says:

    I totally agree with your comments. I too am a Wildlife Trust member and if a brief stopover is all we want, then it should be catered for. Frankly, money seems all they’re interested in as nothing is done to improve birding there. Why not Osprey platforms as at Rutland? I have suggested this in the past with no response

  7. leslie fox says:

    we all pay water rates so it should be free parking

  8. John Showers says:

    Is this being done by Anglian Water? This is a public highway. I would have thought it was the County Council or Highways Agency’s responsibility.

    • Mike Alibone says:

      No, John, this is under AW control. At least they have agreed to a meeting to discuss it.

      • B Nunn says:

        A meeting with whom? Hard to understand the H&S aspect as we’ll all now have to cross the road to get to the reserve side of the causeway. The 40mph limit is clearly not observed by many drivers. As there are no double yellow lines on the causeway, can we park on the roadside – that would slow the traffic down very effectively.

  9. Hilary Pinkham says:

    I, too, was really sad to see the stumps. I often (DID) stop for 5 mins or so as I pass through across the causeway.

  10. Jason Brice says:

    I am not a birder but have driving over the causeway several times a day for many many years, I love seeing people with various interests using the causeway, runners, dog walkers, cyclists, walkers and obviously birders… I emailed AW and this is the response I received, I did point out that one vehicle that regularly parked on the causeway was the safety camera van which cannot now monitor speed on the causeway as it cannot park legally or safely anywhere else. I think its a real shame after so long these restrictions are affecting the use and support of the local area…

    “Thank you for your email and comments regarding the Pitsford causeway car parking arrangements.

    Unfortunately parking is no longer available at the lay-bys along the Pitsford Causeway. The condition of the lay-bys surface coupled with near misses involving vehicles and pedestrians resulted in the decision to close the lay-bys and redirect park users to alternative car parking at the Causeway car park, Pitsford Fishing Lodge or at Brixworth Country Park. These car parks provide a safe environment away from the main road.

    We work in partnership with the Wildlife Trust to manage the Nature Reserve for the benefit of wildlife and Brixworth Country Park to bring recreational events and activities to the park. Car parking fees are used to maintain and improve the conservation and recreational facilities at Pitsford Water Park.

    We offer favourable alternatives to the daily parking rate and ensure these are promoted extensively to our customers. For example, the annual parking permit includes parking at our main water parks across the region in addition to Brixworth County Park.

    The Causeway car park is opened as soon as the Rangers start work and closed when they leave the park in line with the advertised opening times. We do not recommend visitors use the park outside these hours as there are no staff on hand should an emergency occur.

    Brixworth Road, Holcot (either side of the causeway) is a clearway. The local police are aware of the occasional issue of vehicles parked on the verges along the road and are monitoring this with assistance from Park Rangers. This weekend the local police were on the causeway checking vehicles speed and educating visitors about not parking on the verges of the clearway.

    We understand this development may cause disappointment to some but hope park users will understand the reasons and continue to enjoy regular visits to Pitsford Water Park.

    Yours sincerely

    AW”

  11. Kevin says:

    I actually park in the lay-by still as the bollards are mis-designed to totally exclude cars. I was accosted this morning by a self identified AW employee who was left huffing and puffing when I challenge his assertion that I couldn’t park there.
    No signage. Custom and practice. A public highway with a public lay-by. I doubt AW has any right to close this off which is why the gaps are so wide: they can claim they haven’t illegally closed them off, until custom and practice has been shown to have changed …
    We should fight this.
    Who’s up for a bit of civil push back? 🙂

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