New look for Nature Discovery Centre

Karen Neville

Nature Discovery Centre reopens after £125,000 revamp just in time for Christmas

Berkshire’s beloved Nature Discovery Centre has reopened after a £125,000 refurbishment. The revamp has created an open-plan layout for the popular cafe and shop, new educational table displays and a wildlife-themed children’s play corner.

The icing on the cake is a brand new ‘hide in the sky’ on the first floor of the centre in Thatcham. A viewing station overlooking the wildlife lake where visitors can use a telescope and binoculars to spy on all the wild goings-on below.

The café is also serving a new warming winter menu and new products in the shop. Including locally produced honey, Fairtrade chocolate, local art and jewellery and a host of Christmas cards, decorations and gifts. The renovations were commissioned by Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT). Which manages the site and funded by a grant of £125,000 from site owner West Berkshire Council.

Steve Johnson, NDC’s manager, said: “We’re so excited to show everyone all our new features. This is the biggest refurbishment we’ve had in years. It makes the whole centre a more welcoming, easy-to-use space for all our visitors.

“The NDC is now the perfect place to go for a family day out this winter. Take a bracing walk around our wildlife lake, come and have a hot pastry or panini, take a hot chocolate up to the hide in the sky, then pick up a few Christmas gifts while you’re here! Huge thanks to West Berkshire Council for the funding.”

Councillor Steve Ardagh-Walter, Executive Member for Environment and Transformation at West Berkshire Council, said: “We’re delighted to help BBOWT deliver this important improvement to the Discovery Centre with a grant.

“Ensuring our residents can be closer to nature is an objective of the council’s Environment Strategy, which this investment achieves. The Nature Discovery Centre is a key educational and wellbeing asset. I would encourage all our residents to visit and enjoy.”

As well as improvements indoors, the centre team have also put up several new interpretation boards in the grounds, telling visitors about things to do around the site and upcoming events.

A host of new welcome signs also include an innovative three-dimensional wooden ‘Nature’ sign on an exterior wall which is filled with bits of wood and other natural materials, which solitary bees and other insects can nest in.

Inside, a new wall-mounted screen is showing specially commissioned drone footage and other videos of animals and plants around the site. So visitors can admire the diverse wildlife even on the rainiest days. The Wildlife Trust is confident that all the new features will encourage more people to visit the NDC and help teach all visitors young and old, about wonderful local wildlife.