RSPB Arne Middlebere ‘Lookout’

The installation of an innovative bird hide providing access to a previously closed area of the reserve.

Sheltered Seating Area Sunrise at Middlebere hide (c) Bev Langden

Project overview

The project was awarded Wytch Farm Landscape and Access Enhancement Fund support of ‘match funding’ in 2019. The project was within the ‘High Priority’ target area and met the ‘Access’ criteria of the funding.
The funding was for a particular aspect of a larger scale project namely the installation of an innovative bird hide which has provided access to a previously closed area of the reserve.

Grant awarded: £6,055
Other sources of funding: RSPB, Birds of Poole Harbour, Rural Development Programme for England
% of total project costs: 7%

The Middlebere 'Lookout' installed (C) Peter Robertson

Enhancing biodiversity

The ‘Lookout’ location is ideally situated at RSPB Arne overlooking the tidal mudflats of Middlebere lake as well as Wytch channel and lake and accessed via a new tree and hedgerow lined access path.

Restoration of heathland

The project has enabled the removal of a former ‘bird hide’ to extend the restoration of heathland on that area of the reserve. The entire project will reduce visitor pressure and disturbance on the designated heathland as the new area is on non-designated land.

Deconstructed path to former hide (c) Caroline Kelly

Project Objectives:

• Architect designed shelter and viewing structure
• Removal of existing hide/viewing area from Combe Heath which is designated heathland to extend the habitat restoration of that area
• New visitor access to previously closed location of the reserve
• Access gate, natural screening of water edge and shrub/tree lined pathway to the new hide constructed

This project was delivered by the RSPB with support from the Birds of Poole Harbour.

The entire project consisted of the removal and site works of an existing hide at Coombe Heath. This hide was situated in designated heathland and its removal will enable habitat restoration to take place.

Access to a previously closed area of the reserve has been improved with a new gate installed. Additional habitat creation was undertaken through the planting of native tree and shrub species along the path to the new hide. This will also act as a natural screen.

Access improvements through the creation of a new path.

Interpretation and signage were installed at the new bird hide.

The overall project included the design and installation of an innovative bird hide within a non-designated area of the reserve.

  • 424 volunteer hours (57 days) spent
  • Demolition & removal of Coombe Hide & revetment sleepers on path leading to hide.
  • Removing large, felled pines from in front of Lookout prior to screen building.
  • New screens on path to & either side of Lookout
  • New signage for the Middlebere Lookout
  • Hedge creation- Planting of hedge whips in front of screens 200m
  • Footpath/access improvement- Minor path work including through new pedestrian gate 300m

Completing and opening the Middlebere ‘Lookout’ through successive national lockdowns was a challenge. However, we are delighted that we have still been able to complete the project and open the hide. We encountered a few issues, which were resolved quickly. We will look to learn from these in the future:

The cheapest provider for the public access gate proved difficult to contact and as a result, we ended up going to one of our usual contractors who was able to carry out the work for us.

We feel that we perhaps did not have enough communication or signage in place to indicate that a new hide would be built after the removal of Coombe Heath hide.

Luckily, the design of the interior of the ‘Lookout’ is highly Covid-19 secure, with lots of space for seating, big open front with plenty of airflow.

Avocet ©Andy Hay (

It is such a pleasure to know this funding has enabled enhancement to all aspects of the funds objectives: Improvement to the Landscape Character, Enhancement of the local biodiversity and Improvement of access. The funds contribution to the large-scale project is like the icing on the top of a rather fabulous multi-layered cake

Caroline Kelly Wild Purbeck Project Co-ordinator

Panoramic view from Arne Middlebere 'Lookout' (c) Bev Langden

“Although it is designed as a structure to get close to nature and the birds of Poole harbour, it also serves as a window onto the wider Purbeck landscape, you can see across to Brownsea island all the way around to Corfe Castle, it provides a view across the scale of the landscape.”

Peter Robertson RSPB Senior Reserves Manager

“Love it! It is amazing how close we can get to the birds on the harbours edge!”

- Visitor feedback