Castle Espie Wetland Centre has opened its newly built visitor centre to the general public.
The £4.3 million development in Comber is the result of many months of careful planning and ‘slow’ architecture.
The building, the initial and main element of the phased development, incorporates design features which include passive solar gain, renewable technologies, low embodied energy materials, treatment wetlands, compost toilets, rainwater recycling and a partial green roof.
The most significant habitat improvement of its kind in Ireland, the restoration extends to saline lagoons, limestone grassland, salt marshes, reed beds and grassland for herbivorous wildfowl.
While species improvements include kingfisher banks, tern islands, otter dens, bat boxes, dragonfly and damselfly pools, wader scrapes and wader roosts.
The new centre also includes the 120 cover Loughshore café, which serves freshly made meals and snacks, a new retail outlet stocking books, giftware and outdoor clothing, and the Drumlin Theatre will host educational events, talks and cinema evenings.
The contemporary style embodied in the centre’s structures such as the limekiln and visitor building, juxtaposed with primitive organic structures such as the soon to be completed crannog, combines existing structures while highlighting and preserving archaeological features.
Examples of ‘slow’ architecture in the development have been incorporated in training courses during the crannog construction and the design and creation of Stoat Town, a unique children’s adventure area made out of untreated forest materials.
Meanwhile, access to shop and restaurant is free but normal admission applies to the wetlands. Castle Espie is open every day from 10.30am all year except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
For information on the centre, telephone 9187 4146.