We’ve rounded up some of the UK’s best nature reserves that will make for great family days out this spring.
With time together as a family even more of a priority than ever, especially time in the great outdoors, we’ve looked to British nature reserves as great options for days out . Whatever the weather, all offer space and fresh air, the chance to find out about the animal life that lives on our doorsteps and to learn about UK conservation efforts, and often also the thrill of family activities in natural spaces, from canoeing to ‘wildlife bingo’.
RSPB Minsmere, Suffolk
Celebrating its 75th anniversary, this coastal spot is home to some of the UK’s rarest wildlife. Borrow some binoculars from reception to spot lagoon birds, otters around the reedbed pools and even adders, while Highland cattle, Konik ponies and also deer graze the reserve. Family events include guided hunts for animal tracks and signs, and there’s a Wild Zone with a play tree and child-sized nests and a Wild Wood Adventure area.
Ebbor Gorge, Somerset
A ‘mini Cheddar’ managed by Natural England, this National Nature Reserve in the ancient-limestone Mendip Hills is a great day for a free-range day out with kids, with woodland, rocks, caves and small streams to clamber through, over and into and sculptures of Ice Age animals to spot in the woods. There are three trails you can follow, one suitable for buggies and wheelchairs.
This wetland and woodland reserve with is rare bird species and floating visitor village is another fabulous place to roam — it covers 250 acres and has riverside and lake walking trails, a cycleway, bird hides galore and a brilliant natural adventure play area including a climbing forest and a zip-line.
The London Wetland Centre
Managed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Richmond upon Thames, this wetlands reserve on the site of four disused Victorian reservoirs in a loop in the Thames can always be counted on for imaginative hands-on activities, some free and run on a turn-up basis, others bookable in advance. This February, they include Mud Kitchen outdoor free-play, Adventure Workshops (den-building, fire-lighting, survival-knot tying and campfire marshmallow toasting), Tracks&Trails sessions exploring the nocturnal habits of the wetlands’ mammal life, and self-led Map Challenges around the centre. This London venue is one of 10 wetland centres in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including Lancashire’s WWT Martin Mere with its canoe safaris.
Conwy RSPB Reserve, North Wales
Boardwalks through reedbeds, viewing hides and wildlife-rich trails dot this site on the east side of the Conwy estuary; don’t miss the circular route along its edge, overlooking mudflats and saltmarsh with the Carneddau mountains as a backdrop. ‘Bingo cards’ from the visitor centre encourage families to investigate animal and plant life, and in school holidays there’s a self-guided activity trail and RSPB Wild Challenge events.
National Trust Formby, Merseyside
February is a great time to discover one of Europe’s best sand dune habitats and its surrounding pine woods, where rare species include red squirrels and natterjack toads; there are even pre-historic dinosaur footprints to be found. The best way to explore is by bike, which can be hired from the Eco Visitor Centre.