Dear All

This year, we’re sure you’ll agree, has been incredibly difficult for us all.  The threat from COVID-19 has changed many aspects of our personal and working lives, and continues to do so.  For us the ongoing management of the Trust’s sites, to ensure visitors’ health and safety to make them “COVID-safe”, in particular Higher and Lower Moors SSSIs, has proven a minefield and incredibly difficult. 

You may know that the hides have been closed for the duration and currently remain closed.  In order to make the hides at both these sites “COVID-safe”, facemasks would be mandatory, along with the provision of hand sanitiser; screens would need to be erected within the hides to separate individuals and a track and trace system put in place in case of an infection.  These measures would additionally require a staff member to be present, at all times, to ensure these government guidelines are met. 

Putting all of these measures in place would come at a huge cost to the Trust, not just in facilitating the opening of the hides but also in terms of conservation work which would not be carried out as a result of staff members being redeployed.  All this in a year where, as a charity, we are currently predicting a 40% loss in our income and where large sacrifices have already been made.  The Trust must also consider its charitable objectives and decide whether using staff to police these sites is the best use of resources and time.

Therefore, after careful consideration, it is with regret that we must continue to keep the hides closed until such time that government guidelines change sufficiently to permit the hides use without the mandatory requirements outlined above. 

The Trust is making this statement well in advance of the October birding season in Scilly, so that users of our wetland nature sites are fully aware of this situation before arrival.  We will of course continue to monitor changes in government guidelines and will endeavour to open the hides when/if these changes allow.

We have been asked if we could cut a path and a viewing area at the southern end of Higher Moors to permit viewing of the south-west corner of the site.  After careful consideration, we have taken the tough decision to decline this for the following reasons;

  • the site is already heavily used with the south-east corner having full-time ringing lanes during the summer and autumn;
  • the pool edge is disturbed 4 times per year to maintain open muddy areas for passage and resident birds;
  • we have seen, particularly since the easing of lockdown measures, a minority of people use the rotational coppiced areas, creating their own paths, to gain access to the edge of the pool. We ask everyone to stick to the maintained paths & boardwalks.
  • All paths across the tenancy create an insurance liability for the Trust. Any increase in the number of paths beyond the current level would make this burden unsustainable.

The Trust feels that the site does not need any further disturbance around the pool edge, or into its reedbed and that a temporary path cut into the reeds this winter would only encourage use of this area in the future and possible encroachment on a wider area; which for us is not acceptable.

The Trust, like many others this year, have seen the breeding successes of some species across the archipelago which in previous years have been disrupted or failed due to disturbance. 

Therefore, the Trust would like to see a continuation of these reduced levels of disturbance and for everyone to consider the needs of nature before their own enjoyment.

We understand that for many the information outlined above will be disappointing but trust that you will recognise a lot of thought and work has gone into making these tough decisions, for the benefit of site users, our wildlife and nature sites.

Many thanks for taking the time to read this; if there are any questions please do not hesitate to contact us.  I hope that you have an amazing October birding season, enjoying all the sites on offer across the Trust’s tenancy. 

Kind regards

Darren Mason

Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust | Head Ranger