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Britain’s nature parks and wetland centres flaunt extensive collections of rare birds | Short & City breaks | Travel

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New Zealand: Shore plover birds released to the wild in 2019

Diverse, unique and family-friendly, they also provide a safe haven to fill your lungs with fresh air, stretch your legs and meet with loved ones.

Slimbridge Wetland Centre, Gloucestershire

Slimbridge Wetland Centre

Slimbridge Wetland Centre is home to the world’s largest collection of swans, geese and ducks (Image: Getty )

Slimbridge is one of nine wetland centres across the UK founded by Sir Peter Scott, son of Scott of the Antarctic. Set up in 1946, the 120-acre area in Dursley is world-renowned for waterbirds.

Home to the world’s largest collection of swans, geese and ducks, it is also the only place where you can see all six species of flamingo. Visitors can download the new Wetlands Heroes’ family-friendly app, created by Aardman Studios.

The app encourages guests to explore the full extent of Slimbridge Wetland Centre, particularly the lesser-known areas through fact-finding missions and fun challenges for the whole family. In time for May half term the centre will be opening its new Mission Impossible attraction where you can hand-feed the nene, the world’s rarest goose, go behind the scenes at the duckeries and discover how WWT saves endangered species around the world using all sorts of innovative techniques.

July will see the opening of its new open-air Living Wetland Theatre and Waterscapes aviary. The 380-seat theatre will host free-flying bird demonstrations, a summer science programme, films and talks.

In the aviary, visitors can immerse themselves in the sights and sounds of a UK wetland.

  • Tickets: Adults from £14.50, children from £8.40, wwt.org.uk   

The Welsh Wildlife Centre, Cilgerran, Pembrokeshire

Welsh Wildlife

Soak up panoramic views of the Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve from the Glasshouse Cafe (Image: Welsh Wildlife )

You may be lucky enough to spy a colourful kingfisher from one of the many bird observation hides or witness otters playing in the Teifi River while enjoying a family picnic at this scenic wildlife centre.

Families also love exploring the nature trails on foot or two wheels, playing in the adventure playground, discovering the willow maze, meeting the resident water buffalo and friendly giant willow badger.

The Explorer Backpacks provide a variety of fun-filled activities. There’s also a geocaching trail.

Relax in the Glasshouse Cafe while soaking up the panoramic views of the Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve, and enjoy the sweet surroundings after-hours with a stay at the cosy on-site Oak Tree Cottage, also known as the Cwtch.

River Lee Country Park, Greater London/Hertfordshire/Essex

 

River Lee Country Park

Much of the site used to be a derelict home to redundant industry, sewage works and gravel pits (Image: River Lee Country Park )

Just over 50 years ago, much of this 10,000-acre site north of the M25 was a derelict home to redundant industry, sewage works, gravel pits, dumps and railway sidings.

The Lee Valley Regional Park Authority transformed it into a tranquil green space with world-class sporting facilities.

Its impressive new Wildlife Discovery Centre overlooks the Seventy Acres lake. Get a bird’s eye view from the two-tier gallery, or the CCTV in the Discovery Room allows you to zoom right into the buzz of nature. Book free tickets in advance.

There’s also outdoor activities including white-water rafting, mountain biking, tennis, horse riding and golf. Visitors can also use the state-of-the-art gym at the Lee Valley Athletics Centre, meet furry friends at the children’s Animal Adventure Park and enjoy the walking, running and cycling routes.

  • Lee Valley Caravan Park, Dobbs Weir, opened its luxury lodges last month. Lee Valley Regional Park’s campsites – Lee Valley Campsite in Sewardstone, Lee Valley Almost Wild Campsite in Broxbourne and Lee Valley Camping and Caravan Park, Edmonton – are open from May 17. visit leevalleypark. org.uk

Rye Harbour Discovery Centre, Sussex

Stuart Conway

Rye Harbour is one of the most biodiverse places in Britain (Image: Stuart Conway / Sussex Wildlife Trust )

A mosaic of saltmarshes, saline lagoons, freshwater gravel pits and reedbeds, the 1,110-acre Rye Harbour reserve is one of the most biodiverse places in Britain. It has 4,200 plant and animal species recorded, including more than 200 rare or endangered birds and mammals as well as a range of historic buildings including Henry VIII’s Camber Castle and the Mary Stanford Lifeboat House.

The new centre will offer an exciting programme of activities, conservation projects and weekend festivals. The centre will also house exhibitions, viewing platforms, a shop and cafe.

Outside will be the new Community Wildlife Garden containing rare and endangered species found on the reserve, amphitheatre-style seating and views over the River Rother.

Scottish Seabird Centre, North Berwick

Scottish Seabird Centre Scottish Seabird Centre

Learn about playful marine mammals and giant seabird cities at the Scottish Seabird Centre (Image: James Glossop)

Delve into the diverse marine life of Scotland’s seas and you’ll learn about everything from deep sea corals and kelp forests to playful marine mammals and giant seabird cities.

At the centre’s Discovery Experience, there are all-new exhibits, games as well as the upgraded interactive live cameras on the world’s largest northern gannet colony, the Bass Rock.

You can also soak up the coastal views from the Seabird Cafe, browse the gift shop and get up close to the local wildlife on a range of seasonal boat trips.

  • Tickets: Adults, £11.95, children, £7.95, under threes free. Boat trips extra, seabird.org

 

Martin Mere Wetland Centre, Burscough, Lancashire

Martin Mere Wetland Centre

Martin Mere Wetland Centre offers bird watching, guided walks, workshops and a canoe safari (Image: Andrew Teebay)

Home to thousands of rare birds, a cheeky family of otters and an all-star cast of pink flamingos and white storks, there are 800 acres of adventures to be had at this family-friendly site.

Go all-out with a day of splashing, dipping, playing, feeding and paddling.

There’s a full programme of activities including bird watching, guided walks, workshops and a canoe safari.Enjoy a snack before heading to the stepping stones or outdoor play area with a zip wire and treehouse.

  • Tickets: Adults from £13.40, children from £7.18, wwt.org.uk

Pensthorpe Natural Park, Fakenham, Norfolk

Steve Adams

Pensthorpe Natural Park offers an immersive day out for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts (Image: Steve Adams)

The former home of BBC’s Springwatch offers a fully immersive day out for families, birdwatchers, wildlife enthusiasts and garden lovers.

Located along the river Wensum, visitors can explore its 700 acres dotted with woodland walks, nature trails and wetlands and discover its conservation projects of breeding endangered species and habitat restoration.

There are five stunning gardens, including the Millennium Garden by Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf. You can also meet Pensthorpe’s popular flamingo flock and ducks that will feed from the palm of your hand. Jump aboard the Pensthorpe Explorer truck to discover the secret side of the Wensum Valley. Kids will love the play areas of WildRootz and Hootz House. Plus there are plenty of hands-on activities such as den-building and wildlife spotting to inspire visitors to get closer to nature.

  • Tickets: Adults, £12.95, seniors, £11.95, children, £11.95, pensthorpe.com

RSPB Minsmere, Saxmundham, Suffolk

RSPB Minsmere

RSPB Minsmere provides a safe haven for birds (Image: Ben Andrew / RSPB)

Get your binoculars at the ready for some of the UK’s rarest wildlife at this scenic coastal nature reserve.

The “Disneyland” of bird reserves, due to its diverse habitats, the reedbeds, lowlands and shingle vegetation provide a safe haven for our feathered friends. Drop into the Wildlife Lookout, choose one of the peaceful walks or head to the coastal lagoons.

  • Tickets: Adults, £9, children, £5, or free entrance for first child or children under five. rspb.org.uk

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