At the WWT, our members, volunteers, visitors and staff make us what we are. They’ll have a huge part to play in shaping our new work at Slimbridge, through their passion, knowledge and ideas. We also want to encourage more people to discover Slimbridge for the first time. Ged Cassell, our Engagement Officer, tells us more…

A big thank you to everyone who came to our focus groups in the summer.

We held meetings for our own staff, our volunteers, and people who regularly visit Slimbridge. We also met folk who haven’t visited before or are from groups which are under-represented among our current visitors. Fuelled by plenty of coffee and cakes, we looked at ideas for three of our new exhibits.

Scott House

We looked at the wide range of artworks, family mementoes and other objects from Peter Scott’s time at Slimbridge and asked which should have pride of place in our Scott House tour and exhibition. Lively discussion followed. The original artwork for the World Wide Fund for Nature’s panda logo or Peter Scott’s binoculars? His finely observed sketches of Bewick’s Swan bill patterns or the visitors’ book signed by the Queen? And should we talk about Scott’s sporting victories and his record as a war hero – or should we just stick to his conservation achievements?

Living Wetland Theatre

We’ll be creating one of the largest free-flight aviaries in the UK – but what should go in it? We discussed lots of options and eventually settled on ‘the perfect English wetland’. We could create reed beds, lagoons, tidal marshes – and all the birds that go with them, from Bearded Tits to the wild Pelicans that would have flocked to an English wetland a few thousand years ago.

The new tower hide

Our challenge is to remodel one of our main viewing Towers to make a fully accessible hide, giving spectacular views of our ‘avian Serengeti’ of thousands of wintering birds. A ramp for wheelchairs would dominate the structure – so how about an electric lift? Could the lift be solar- or water-powered? Possibly, but it would be expensive. Combining ideas from all the focus groups, we now have an innovative design with dedicated spaces for photographers, birdwatching beginners and expert birders.