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. 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. 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 … ?