Great places for experiencing urban wildlife

Urban fox cpt Jamie Hall

For those of us living in towns and cities, you would be forgiven for thinking your life is a world away from wildlife but nature is closer than you think. The Wildlife Trusts care for 2,300 nature reserves many of which are in or near towns and cities, so there’s bound to be one not too far from you…

There are a huge variety of species that have learned to live alongside us in the hidden corners of our urban habitats

There are a huge variety of species that have learned to live alongside us in the hidden corners of our urban habitats.  A city park reveals crows, magpies and grey squirrels going about their business by day, and hedgehogs are never far away after dark.  Foxes may appear from their dens in the early hours and can be seen scavenging by night.  Even deer can be spotted making a fleeting visit through a leafy park or suburban garden.

If you leave bird feeders in your garden or outdoor space  - even an apartment balcony - they are likely to attract blue and great tits, chaffinches, goldfinches, and nuthatches, bringing a splash of colour to your urban view.  

If you're looking for a particular location to see urban wildlife, click on the links below to go right there:

Avon Beds, Cambs and Northants Berks, Bucks and Oxon ; Birmingham and The Black Country ; Brecknock ; Cheshire ; Devon ; Dorset Durham ; Herefordshire ; Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust Hampshire and Isle of Wight ; London ; Norfolk ;   Northumberland ; Nottinghamshire ; Scottish Sheffield and Rotherham Suffolk ; Staffordshire ; Tees Valley ;   Ulster ; Warwickshire ; Wiltshire Worcestershire .

Avon Wildlife Trust

Brandon Hill Nature Reserve

Brandon Hill nature reserve is in the heart of Bristol city. It is full of cowslips in spring but during the summer ox-eye daisies, yellow rattle and knapweed add a fine splash of colour. There is a thriving pond on the reserve where you may find frogs, toads and smooth newts breeding.  Birds such as blackcap and jay may be seen along the woodland walk.  

If you venture to the top of Brandon Hill you will be treated to a brilliant view over the city towards the River Avon.

Avon Wildlife Trust was a pioneer of urban conservation and Brandon Hill in Bristol became the country's first city centre nature reserve in 1980 - bringing hay meadows, wildlife ponds and butterfly gardens to a formal city park.

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Bennett’s Patch and White’s Paddock 

The Avon Gorge is an essential wildlife corridor for foraging species including several species of bat.  It is also is home to badgers, hedgehogs, slow worms and some truly unique plant species.

As part of celebrations marking Bristol’s year as European Green Capital in 2015, Avon Wildlife Trust is creating a new nature reserve – the Bennett’s Patch and White's Paddock Reserve – in the Avon Gorge.  The 12-acre neglected sports facility is being transformed into a wildlife haven of wildflower meadows, native woodland and ponds.  An incredible 4,000 trees will be planted by a team of 500 volunteers from groups including Tree Pips, Horizons, Lifecycle UK, Sea Mills Primary School, local Scouts and Cubs, plus an array of corporate volunteers. 

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My Wild City 

Avon Wildlife Trust's vision is for Bristol to be a nature-rich city, helping wildlife to thrive in a developing urban environment.  Working with communities across Bristol, we can transform our gardens and open spaces to attract wildlife right to our doorsteps.  

The 'My Wild City' maps picture the city as it's never been seen before, with the needs of wildlife at its core.  They show the best places to connect habitats by linking gardens, passageways and other green spaces.  Avon Wildlife Trust is calling on everyone across the vity to download the map of your neighbourhood and talk to your neighbours and community about what acion you can take for wildlife as part of Bristol 2015.  For example, planting wildflowers and bee-friendly plants.

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Feed Bristol 

Feed Bristol is a unique community growing hub, connecting people to nature through wildlife-friendly growing.  Based in Stapleton since 2012, the project brings benefits to people’s health and wellbeing by delivering a mix of education, events and volunteer opportunities. Since the opening in 2012, Feed Bristol has supported 5,500 disadvantaged people, 4,000 school children from 38 schools. In total we have been supported by 453 volunteers giving nearly 22,000 hours of their time!   Click here for more .

Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust

CS Lewis Nature Reserve

Thought to be the inspiration behind the Narnia Classics, this tranquil woodland and large pond used to belong to celebrated Oxford author CS Lewis.  With the A40 nearby and surrounded by houses, it is a surprise that the reserve has kept its sense of stillness.

The pond, a flooded Victorian clay pit, is full of aquatic plants.  Toads migrate here to spawn in spring and there are fascinating displays of dragonflies and damselflies in summer.  Waterfowl such as moorhens and coots regularly nest here alongside the large numbers of songbirds filling the site with melodies!

The steeply rising woodland has a canopy of beech, oak, birch, alder, ash and hawthorn.  In spring, the reserve is full of birdsong.  Look out for large boulders known as 'sandstone doggers' on slopes in the trees.  Where springs arise, giant horsetail grows in the wet ground.  

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Lye Valley 

In Headington, surrounded by roads, hospitals and housing, is a truly remarkable piece of Oxford’s natural history – the Lye Valley!

The reserve has one of the best examples of a calcareous valley fen, and is noted for more than 300 plant species, including 20 that are on the Rare Plants of Oxfordshire register.  

A short walk down from the busy streets off The Slade, you will discover a land that time forgot. This place was studied by Tudor botanists. Some of their plant samples can still be found at the Oxford University Herbarium today.

Take a walk around the reserve this summer and you will see orchids, the delicately striped flowers of Grass-of-Parnassus, lizards, slow-worms and a huge variety of birds.  

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Chilswell Valley

Take a short walk from South Hinksey, or a slightly longer walk from Abingdon Road, and you will stumble upon this wonderful gem of a reserve, known locally as Happy Valley!

A boardwalk takes you through a reed bed and fen and into a steep sided wet woodland with ancient gnarly oak and ash.  From here you can follow the stream and walk back along the limestone grassland. 

In the summer you will see a wonderful array of orchids, intriguing wild liquorice and other beautiful wildflowers.  You have every chance of catching sight of a sparrowhawk, or buzzard hunting around the reserve.  

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Rivermead Nature Park

You might not expect to find this place in the middle of Rose Hill housing estate, blocked on two sides by the Southern Bypass, and with the River Thames on its other boundary.  But sure enough this wonderful little piece of wilderness exists in the middle of an urban setting.

The pond here is notable for its vast array of fresh water invertebrates.  It’s also famous for the toads which make their way back here each year to spawn.

A tiny spring opens into a flush, which has formed a small fenland. The fen then disappears into the dense woodland while the water makes it way down to the Thames.  

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Iffley Meadows

In spring, the blooms of cuckooflower mark the start of a colourful sequence of wild flowers in the meadows.

Several species of dragonfly and damselfly patrol the vegetated ditches during the summer. Warblers can be heard chattering in the reeds - Cetti's warbler can be distinguished by its loud, 'explosive' song.

These are wet meadows crossed by old river channels with willow-lined ditches and have a rich diversity of wildlife typical of old, unspoilt meadow land. They were once a widespread feature of our river systems, but many have been lost to drainage and farming. 

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Thatcham Reedbeds

Just around the corner from the popular Nature Discovery Centre is Thatcham Reedbeds, one of the largest inland reedbed habitats in southern England.

These reedbeds are important for a number of breeding birds including the Cetti's warbler. You can also look out for water rail, sedge and reed warbler and reed bunting.

Over 14 species of dragonfly and damselfly have been seen in the reedbeds and at least six are thought to breed here.  Look for migrant hawkers, emperor and four-spotted chaser dragonflies, as well as common blue, azure and red-eyed damselflies.

There are future plans for this reserve including making the site more suitable for bittern to breed rather than just visit, so keep your eyes out for this impressive species on your next visit.

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Greenham and Crookham Commons

Greenham and Crookham Commons are at the heart of the West Berkshire Living Landscape, which covers more than 27km2 of lowland heathland, ancient woodland, reedbeds, rivers and streams.  In summer, the heath comes alive with over 30 species of butterflies including the small blue and the expertly camouflaged grayling. They are joined by dazzling displays from damselflies and dragonflies, all set to the unmistakable music of grasshoppers and crickets.

Look for the nightjar and the Dartford warbler, both heathland specialists and expert at avoiding attention. You may also be lucky enough to hear the rich and varied song of a nightingale, or the warbling call of a skylark high in the sky.  

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Paices Wood

Paices Wood is a wonderful place to enjoy a quiet walk around lakes and through woodland, and is home to a rich variety of wildlife.

This woodland is beautiful all year round: in spring bluebells carpet the woodland floor and in summer you can see butterflies such as the common blue fluttering across woodland clearings.

Later in the year keep an eye out for fungi such as chicken of the woods, springing up on logs and stumps of wood.  

There is also an area of connected ponds on one side of the lake, which provides a perfect habitat for breeding amphibians.

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Hosehill Lake

Hosehill Lake hosts a wide variety of water fowl in the winter and nightingales join the butterflies and dragonflies in the spring.

Whilst out walking, look out for wetland birds including lapwings, little ring plovers, great crested grebes and a number of more unusual visitors like the bittern.  A large sand martin bank can be viewed from the opposite side of the lake and house martins, swifts and swallows can be seen from March/April.

The meadow to the east of the lake is a visual treat throughout the spring and summer.  This area is cut and then grazed by wild Exmoor ponies in the spring and autumn.  

The best places to see a range of butterflies, day-flying moths and many insects are the meadow and the Butterfly Bank to the south of the lake.  

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Haymill Valley 

Haymill Valley is a peaceful wildlife haven in the heart of Slough.  A lot of recent efforts by the Friends of Haymill Valley volunteers have created a beautiful reserve which is worth a visit.

Yellow iris and marsh-marigold provide a splash of colour in the reeds, where reed warblers nest.  Brightly coloured kingfishers may be seen flying along the stream. 

In spring, the mixed woodland is carpeted with bluebells.  Great spotted woodpeckers nest in the trees.  Chiffchaffs and willow warblers are among the summer visitors.

A variety of butterflies including orange-tip, brimstone and speckled wood can be seen flying along the woodland edge, while small mammals such as the wood mouse make use of the dense cover.

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Loddon Nature Reserve

This large, flooded gravel pit has several islands and a ragged, scrubby fringe that skirts around the shallows creating ideal conditions for wintering birds such as gadwall, smew, tufted duck, pochard, cormorant and snipe.  The shallows of the lake are perfect feeding areas for wetland birds, while its islands provide quiet spots where common terns and oystercatchers can breed safely away from predators such as foxes.

In early spring, you might be lucky enough to spot the elaborate courtship 'mirror dance' of the great crested grebe, in which the male and female swim beak to beak and rise out of the water whilst shaking their heads.

The plant life around the lake attracts a range of butterflies, dragonflies and other aquatic insects. On summer evenings, bats will take advantage of the rich pickings as they hunt over the lake.

The scrubby perimeter of the lake is home to blackcaps, whitethroats and other songbirds.  Look out for nesting wetland birds such as great crested grebe, moorhen and coot.  These birds nest among the reeds and other aquatic plants where overhanging branches of willow trail into the shallows.  Herons may also be seen here, standing like statues waiting to spear a fish.  During the winter months, the handsome male smew attracts many birdwatchers.

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Gomm Valley - High Wycombe

This steep slope is all that remains of the chalk grassland in this dry valley on the edge of built-up High Wycombe.  

Much of the reserve has become over grown with scrub species including dogwood, hawthorn, buckthorn, spindle, guelder-rose and wayfaring-tree.In spring, these produce a spectacular display of blossom.

Orchids, including bee, pyramidal and common spotted, grow in the grassy areas, while common twayblades flourish in the scrub margins.  On the chalk grassland, knapweeds, agrimony and lady's bedstraw can be found.

Bluebells grow at the southern end of the reserve where there is some mixed broadleaved woodland and patched of wood anenome can also be found here. The scarce coralfoot, which produces dainty pink clusters of flowers in late spring, can also be found in some years.  

Flocks of birds, particularly from the thrush family, gorge on the berries that follow in autumn and winter.

Gomm Valley is good for butterflies such as the marbled white and more than 180 species of moth have been recorded here.

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The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and The Black Country

Hill Hook Nature Reserve 

A mosaic of habitats preserved between housing developments, Hill Hook contains many realms to explore: wet woodlands to the south, bluebell woods to the north and wildflower meadows onwards.

This 7.5 hectares of Local Nature Reserve serves as a lasting legacy left by the millers of Hill Hook.  The corn mill that stood on the site was unfortunately demolished in the 1960s, but the mill pool that remains provides the focal point for the reserve. This also comprises an extensive area of woodland and rough grassland providing habitat for a wide variety of trees, plants and animals. It helps to join Sutton Coldfield to the countryside to the north and provides a corridor for wildlife to move in and out of the urban area.

If you love watching birds, the site has good access along the dam wall running alongside the mill pool, from where you can view a good range of water birds, from heron to kingfisher, and swans to grey wagtail, as well as all the usual waterfowl.  

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Portway Hill

Portway Hill, which is part of the Rowley Hills, was saved from developers by the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country and turned into a nature reserve.  Looking out over Sandwell, Birmingham and parts of Dudley, the site is home to an astounding wealth of grassland wildflowers and butterflies.

Scarce plants are an exciting find here such as the exotic bee orchid and the unusual hare's foot clover, giving support to many important butterfly species, including one of the few colonies of marbled white butterflies in Birmingham and the Black Country which you can enjoy here during July.

The site is also excellent for birds of prey including the peregrine and kestrel; while other birds like the warbler can be seen in the reserve’s open grassland and scrub at the edges of the site.

The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country run regular guided walks here, as well as volunteer days to manage the reserve for the benefit of wildlife.  

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Moseley Bog and Joy's Wood

Moseley Bog and Joy’s Wood is a special place rich in wildlife and history that has long played an important role in the lives of local people.  Managed by The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country it is a beautiful site with a unique atmosphere and plants ranging from bog mosses to abundant flowering plants in the woodlands and meadows.

Moseley Bog is said to be the inspiration of the ‘Old Forest’ in the writings of JRR Tolkien who lived nearby as a child and it remains an important local cultural space with events and activities happening all year round.

Bring your friends and family to discover the woodlands, meadows and ponds. You can spot butterflies, go bird watching, take a woodland walk and enjoy the wildflowers. If you’re an early riser, you could join the Dawn Chorus Walk there on 3 May, an annual event.  

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Brecknock Wildlife Trust 

Ystradfawr Nature Reserve

Ystradfawr Nature Reserve is in the heart of Ystradgynlais, a former mining town at the head of the Swansea Valley, South Wales.  Once an industrial landscape with three separate collieries, it has been left to nature for the past 60 years.

Wet woodland and marshy grassland have developed and it's now thriving with wildlife - it is one of the best areas in Wales for the rare marsh fritillary butterfly. 

In addition to looking out for marsh fritillary adults flying in June; the spring and summer wildflower displays here are stunning. The rhos pasture has purple flowering devil's bit scabious, as well as the species- rich wildflower meadows having magnificent displays of ragged robin and angelica. Grass-snakes, slow-worms and common lizards can be seen basking in the sunshine. The wet woodland is inhabited by many woodland birds and a good site to hear the well-known call of the visiting cuckoo.  

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Cheshire Wildlife Trust

Eastwood - Stalybridge

Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s Eastwood is a hidden gem of a woodland, nestling in a stunning clough valley, just a stone's throw from the centre of Stalybridge.

The woods are carpeted with bluebells every spring and woodland birds are here in good numbers too, with treecreepers, nuthatches and woodpeckers a year round sight. Warblers also arrive in spring, and then butterflies and dragonflies during the summer.

The winter is great time to see dippers feeding in the brook or a flash of blue and orange as the resident kingfisher flies over the pond.

Early in the morning, if you’re really lucky, you might even spot a deer or two that come in from the moors for a sheltered spot to feed.  With a host of trails to explore it really is a great place to get away from it all!  

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Marbury Reedbed - Northwich

This hidden gem near Northwich is home to a delightful spring and summer reedbed and woodland trail and is also one of the best winter sites to spot a rare bittern in the region.

After strolling through the dappled woodland canopy, head amongst the reeds rising above your head along our boardwalk – bringing you face to face with warblers, reed buntings and dragonflies.

Woodpeckers, including the secretive lesser spotted woodpecker are here too clambering amongst the knarled trunks. If you take a stroll here on a summer evening you might see Daubenton's bats hunting over the water.

A winter visit brings the chance to see a kingfisher or maybe the elusive bittern from the shore line hide.  The starling roost of 20,000 or more birds during November and December is another sight not to be missed!  

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Red Rocks Marsh

Cheshire Wildlife Trust's only coastal reserve, Red Rocks has a backdrop of mature sand dunes hugging the fringes of the Royal Liverpool Golf Club with a striking vista out into the Dee Estuary and Hilbre Island.  These rare and constantly changing habitats are home to more than 50 types of plants, whilst spring and autumn migration sees visitors like ring ouzels, redstarts and wheatears stopover as they make a landfall.

A spring visit may reward you with the unforgettably loud calls of the natterjack toad, from deep within newly created habitats.

In the summer you can look forward to the arrival of warblers in the reedbed, and skylarks in full song head for the clouds above.

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Devon Wildlife Trust

Cricklepit Mill - Exeter

Devon Wildlife Trust’s Cricklepit Mill is a wildlife oasis in the heart of Exeter. The volunteer-led project has seen a disused overgrown area bloom into a wonderful wildlife garden.

Only a 10 minute walk from the city centre and a short stroll from the Quay, Cricklepit Mill is a great place to relax and gain inspiration for your own wildlife garden.  

A stream or ‘leat’ runs through the garden providing a corridor for wildlife including grey wagtails, dippers and if you’re lucky, kingfishers! The leat also provides power for the historic mill which still runs today.

More than 150 species of plants flourish in its grounds, including its sedum roof. The wildlife garden comes alive in the spring and summer months with bee and butterfly borders, mini tub ponds and a wildflower meadow patch.

Otters are also regular visitors and are caught on motion capture cameras in the early hours of the morning. Visitors can watch this amazing footage in the small visitor centre as well as find out more about the Trust’s work and other reserves.

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Dorset Wildlife Trust

Holes Bay Nature Park - Poole

Holes Bay Nature Park is located in the heart of Poole and makes a huge contribution to the high quality nature environment enjoyed by residents, visitors and local businesses. The area also provides important space for wildlife and for people to enjoy nature and outdoor activities. From this spot you have the chance to get as close to rare and beautiful nature as it gets! 

Poole harbour is the largest natural harbour in Britain and an internationally important area for wildlife. Part of the shore is a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI), providing grassland, scrub and swampy areas for all sorts of wildlife including orchids, wild carrot, grasshoppers, bees and the rar round-headed club rush. Up to 20,000 wildfowl and wading birds can be found in the harbour in winter - One of the reasons for this is the mud, which is very rich in invertebrates, the perfect food for wading birds.

Find out more here.

Durham Wildlife Trust

Shibdon Pond and Meadow Nature Reserve

Shibdon Pond is one of the few large open water bodies left in the southern part of Tyne and Wear and is one of the best wetlands in the region for wintering wildfowl.

The meadow is the last substantial, traditionally managed herb-rich permanent pasture in this part of the Tyne Valley. It contains a wonderful assemblage of plants including a colony of southern marsh orchids and is a great place for butterfly watching.

Although winter may be the best time for bird watching on the pond, there is something to see all year round, from breeding frogs and tadpoles, to the dash of a kingfisher and if you are really lucky a glimpse of an otter or great crested newt.   

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Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust

Winnall Moors Nature Reserve - Winchester

In Winchester, Winnall Moors Nature Reserve is hidden among the hustle and bustle of urban life.  A collection of former water meadows and reed beds surrounding the River Itchen, the reserve sits in the heart of this ancient city.

It’s the perfect place to take the family for a fun day out trying to spot and name birds, trees or animals that live there.  From rare orchids to kingfishers, dragonflies and water voles, the wildlife in Winnall is diverse, and very special. 

The Water Vole Story Trail runs from the City, where you can learn about the history of the area and the wildlife that calls it home.  Children’s Discovery Packs can be picked up at the tourist information centre for a refundable deposit of £10, and contains binoculars, a magnifying lens, spotter sheets and take home activity guides for children.  

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Herefordshire Wildlife Trust

Lugg Meadow

The Lugg Meadow lies on the eastern outskirts of Hereford but is only a few minutes’ walk from the bustling city centre. The meadow lies on the floodplain of the River Lugg. Covering 330 acres, it is the largest surviving Lammas Meadow in the country – though it was once much larger.

The land is grazed by Commoner’s livestock until Candlemas on 1st February. The land then reverts to private ownership and between Candlemas and Lammas Day on 1st of August, the owners can take a cut of hay from their various strips and parcels of land, marked by dole stones. This method of inter-commoning is thought to date back to the Bronze Age.

This form of traditional, medieval management remains unbroken today with the Commoners still grazing their livestock from Lammas Day to Candlemas and owners taking a hay cut in the summer. 90 dole stones still stand in the meadow. These were used to mark the strips which were allocated out to the Commoners. Each stone is marked with a name, or initials, and a date.

The Lugg Meadow shows a beautiful array of wildflowers in spring and summer and is especially well known for its snake’s head fritillaries (Fritillaria meleagris). Usually a beautiful chequered purple flower, many of the fritillaries on Lugg Meadow are white which are rarer and flower in April and May. Lady’s smock also flowers prolifically here in early summer before the meadow becomes a field of gold buttercups. Orange tip butterflies are seen in the meadow from April while banded demoiselle damselflies fly near to the river banks. Curlew arrive at the meadow in early spring though sadly only a few pairs now breed here. Listen out for their distinctive, bubbling call. While you may not be lucky enough to see and otter, you may well see paw prints or spraints by the river banks as they are seen in the Lugg.

Find out more and plan your visit .

Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust

King's Mead - Hertfordshire

One of the largest untouched water meadows in Hertfordshire; 265 different species of wildflower have been recorded, and 119 bird species.

In winter, flooded areas attract ducks, gulls and waders and this is also a key site for wintering stonechats. In summer, seven species of warbler breed here, in addition to good populations of reed bunting, meadow pipit and skylark. 

Find out how to visit .

Cassiobury Park LNR

Discover, in a corner of Cassiobury Park, a wildlife haven close to the heart of a bustling town.

The wet habitats found on the reserve were once shallow watercress beds, fed with water from the river through a series of ditches. These have developed into marshland and open pools, surrounded by wet woodland of alder and willow. This provides valuable cover and nesting sites for birds. There are also areas of grassland where birds such as goldfinches and greenfinches feed on the seed heads of thistles and teasels. Water rail, lesser spotted woodpeckers and siskins are typical birds here. 

There's information on visiting here

Long Deans

A picturesque valley of pasture and old parkland near Hemel Hempstead with magnificent oak, beech, ash and wild cherry trees.

Long Deans Nature Reserve is noted for its grassland floral communities, butterflies, birds and other invertebrates. The site is home to UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priority species - common linnet, common bullfinch and song thrush. Long Deans is also noted for veteran trees, which provide habitat for fungi, invertebrates, hole-nesting birds and bats.

Take a look

London Wildlife Trust

Camley Street Natural Park - King's Cross - London

The nature reserve sits in the middle of King’s Cross, alongside the sparkling new Eurostar station at St Pancras and includes two unique acres of wild green space in he heart of London.

This innovative and internationally acclaimed reserve is on the banks of the Regent's Canal provides a natural habitat for birds, butterflies, amphibians and a rich variety of plant life.

Visit in spring or summer to experience a natural tranquillity that can be hard to find in the capital. 

This reserve has also adopted a section of the Regens Canal through the Wildlife on your Waterways project, here you can find a mix of naural and urban habitats, and there is also a Floating Forest Garden displaying wildlife friendly food growing techniques.

For more information and to see a short film about ourdoor learning at Camley Street Natural Park click here

Gunnersbury Triangle - Chiswick, London

An oasis of wildlife right next to Chiswick Park tube station, Gunnersbury Triangle features sheltered birch and willow woodlands with an attractive pond and also marsh and meadow habitats. The reserve celebrates its 30th birthday in 2015, having been saved from development by a vigorous campaign run by local people.

While on site,  you can explore the nature trail, listen out for birds or the rustle of a hedgehog, look out for the tunnels of field voles, or keep an eye out for interesting insects and amphibians.  Some species which you may spot include the speckled wood and orange tip butterfly, green and greater spotted woodpecker, common newt, toad and frog, wood mouse and sparrow hawk.

If you do spot any of these or other species, please submit your wildlife sightings to Greenspace Information for Greater London (GiGL) to help build a picture of London's nature!

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Woodberry Wetlands / Hackney

A brand new urban wetland reserve for London.

Woodberry Wetlands is based on the site of the East Reservoir, originally constructed in 1833 and closed to public access ever since.  The site has since developed into a hidden wildlife haven, home to birds such as reed bunting, song thrush, kingfisher and the occasional bittern, and provides valuable foraging and roosting habitat for bats.

Woodberry Wetlands will offer an opportunity for people to enjoy nature in the heart of east London, with carefully designed boardwalks and a visitor centre providing public access whilst minimising disturbance to wildlife.

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Sydenham Hill Wood - London

A great place to see woodpeckers, rare insects, bats, and fungi. Sydenham Hill Wood is one of the few remaining traces of the Great North Wood which once stretched across Sout East London from Deptford to Selhurst.

The site has a unique mixture of ancient woodland and Victorian ornamental garden plants (try and spot the monkey puzzle tree!), along with recent woodland too.

The wood is home to over 200 species of trees and flowering plants including wild garlic, early dog violet and bugle.  A multitude of fungi, rare insects, birds and elusive woodland mammals are also present.

Visit in spring and autumn to see the woods at their very best.  

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Crane Park Island  - west London

This wildlife haven has an explosive past, having grown up on the deserted site of the old Hounslow Gunpowder Mills.  There are various habitat types here to explore such as woodland, scrub and reedbed.

Crane Park Island is now a beautiful nature reserve where you could be lucky enough to spot a majestic kingfisher or the threatened water vole.  

The clear waters of the River Crane gurgle through reed beds and dragonflies and damselflies bedazzle the eyes.  Visit in spring or summer to see the site at its best.  

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Norfolk Wildlife Trust

Thorpe Marshes - Norwich

Bordering the River Yare, Thorpe Marshes is Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s first truly urban site, located on the eastern fringe of Norwich.  It’s a wonderful mixture of habitats: flower-rich marshes criss-crossed with dykes that are home to many dragonfly and damselfly species, including the rare Norfolk hawker, and the even larger emperor dragonfly.  Several species of common butterfly can also be encountered on a good day.

NWT Thorpe Marshes contains a large area of open water – a former gravel working known as St Andrew’s Broad. This hosts a variety of waterbirds, particularly in winter, including great crested grebe, pochard, cormorant, grey heron, gadwall and tufted duck. Rarer visitors, such as little egret can also be seen. The surrounding scrub is home to reed buntings and a few Cetti’s warblers, whose noisy, explosive song is often their only giveaway.

More surprisingly, given its proximity to Norwich city centre, a number of mammals have been recorded on the reserve including the odd-looking Chinese water deer, and its smaller relative the muntjac.  Foxes have been seen, as well as brown hare, hedgehog, stoat and weasel.

Excitingly, the rare water vole occurs in small numbers.  These attractive small mammals are always a delight to see, though they can be very difficult to spot. They often sit among cover on the banks of dykes while chewing on a stem, plopping into the water with a splash when disturbed.  Look for their burrows along dyke-sides.  

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Northumberland Wildlife Trust

St Nicholas Park  - Newcastle

St Nicholas Park is a mosaic of different habitats; maturing woodland, a small pond, grassland and a wildlife friendly garden. The park is surrounded by housing estates, and as a result acts as a refuge for many species of animal.

There is a play area and a stone circle with examples of many of the rocks found around Northumberland.  The pond has a good number of plant and animal species living in it, including: frogs, palmate newt, common darter dragonfly, blue tailed damselfly, emerald damselfly, azure damselfly, common blue damselfly, yellow flag iris, and marsh marigold.  Butterflies recorded on the site during summer months include holly blue, small skipper, comma and orange tip.

The woodland provides an excellent habitat for birds all year round. There is a good mixture of plants around the site including meadow sweet and ragged robin. The grassland contains species such as yellow rattle, cowslip and tufted vetch, given time this habitat will become more diverse.

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Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust

Sellers Wood - Nottingham

This beautiful ancient woodland on the edge of Bulwell, Nottingham, is a haven for both wildlife and people.  Covering 35 hectares the wood is unique locally because of its two contrasting habitats, resulting from a geological fault where two rock types lie side by side each producing differing soil conditions and therefore distinct groups of wildflowers.

On the limestone’s nutrient-rich soils, you will find many colourful ancient woodland flowers such as giant bellflower, early-purple orchid, wood anemone, and yellow archangel.  Of particular importance is the nationally scarce yellow Star-of-Bethlehem, known to only three other sites in Nottinghamshire.  By contrast bluebells, wood anemone and greater stitchwort characterise the acidic soil produced by the shale.

Wetland habitats in Seller's Wood support a wide range of plants and animals including some nationally rare species, such as the great crested newt and several species of hoverfly.  Birds you may see include thrushes, blue tits, yellowhammers and redpolls. During the winter look out for redwings and fieldfares feeding on rowan berries.  

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Scottish Wildlife Trust

Johnston Terrace Garden - Edinburgh

Scottish Wildlife Trust's smallest reserve demonstrates how a small, neglected urban area can be converted into an invaluable wildlife refuge. The hope is that visitors will feel inspired to improve their own gardens for wildlife.

This garden is particularly splendid in the summer months when the wildflowers are blooming. 

Access is through a locked gate by prior arrangement with the Trust's head office. 

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Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust

Sunnybank - Sheffield

Sunnybank is a tiny nature reserve right in the heart of Sheffield.  Despite its small size and inner city location - behind a petrol station at the end of Ecclesall Road - Sunnybank is Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust's most visited nature reserve.  It is a hugely valuable green space where people can find peace and tranquillity away from the noise of the ring road.

The site used to consist of Victorian houses with mature gardens, Victorian villas and terraced houses until they were demolished in 1985 and turned into a nature reserve in the same year.

It's surrounded by a number of large mature trees which are over 150 years old creating a lovely open area, comprising various habitats including woodland, herb-rich grassland and a wildlife pond.

Sunnybank is particularly important for wildlife as it is the end of a green corridor which stretches through the leafy streets of Broomhill, to the Botanical Gardens and out through Endcliffe Park and Whitely Woods to the Peak District.  

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Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Gunton Meadow - Lowestoft

Gunton Meadow is part of a small network of wildlife rich habitats in north Lowestoft.

A mix of species-rich grassland, with five species of orchid and a host of other wildflowers flourishing under a reinstated regime of annual hay cutting, it is an excellent example of just how rich these boulder clay meadows can be.

Excellent ponds support a large population of great crested newts, which are a brilliant find if you venture on the reserve.

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Hutchinsons Meadow

Hutchison's Meadow is an interesting flower-rich grassland that is a mix of spring-fed wet grassland and drier grassland associated with sand and gravels.

The meadow was kindly donated to Suffolk Wildlife Trust by Sir Peter and lady Hutchinson.

The wet grassland includes species such as ragged-robin, common fleabane, square-stalked St John's-wort and then there is also a superb colony of southern marsh orchid.

The drier parts of the meadow support typical meadow species such as sweet-vernal grass, red clover, yellow rattle, meadow and bulbous buttercups.  

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With its surrounding wet meadows and ancient castle backdrop, the stunningly beautiful Mere at Framlingham is considered by many to be the best view in inland Suffolk.

The reserve is best known for its sedge beds – a rare habitat in Suffolk – and stream of migrating birds. There is a wonderful show of massed marsh marigolds, delicate ragged-robin and lady’s smock in spring and if water levels aren’t too high, birds like green and common sandpiper and snipe can sometimes be seen here.  

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Staffordshire Wildlife Trust

Doxey Marshes - Stafford

A vast expanse of nationally important wildlife-rich wetland on the doorstep of Stafford town centre.  Doxey Marshes is a bird spotter's dream with over 200 species, and 80 recorded breeding species of bird.  Seasonal highlights to look out for include snipe,  (Doxey ranks as one of the top five wintering sites in the entire UK) teal, water rail and even the rare bittern, which was seen on the reserve every winter during the early 2000s.

Spring/ summer highlights include sedge and willow warblers, blackcap, swallow, shellduck, skylark and lapwing.  

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Hem Heath Woods - Stoke-on-Trent 

The largest woodland in the Stoke-on-Trent area is not only an urban oasis for both people and wildlife, but one of our most accessible nature reserves with a series of flat, easy-access footpaths.

Visit the reserve in spring and not only will you be rewarded with bluebells and other spring flowers, but you'll also be able to hear the huge variety of woodland birds.

As you walk around the site you’ll come across woodland areas which are dominated by tall trees, predominantly sycamore. In other areas, where the Trust has been managing the woodland for many years, you should be able to see that management has encouraged an understorey of woody shrubs to develop, such as hazel, rowan and hawthorn.  

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Tees Valley Wildlife Trust

Portrack Marsh

This is one of the area’s most important wildlife sites given its location at the very heart of Teesside.

The wetland attracts hundreds of birds each year and it provides a home to an exciting variety of mammals, amphibians, insects and wildflowers.

A network of surfaced footpaths allow visitors to explore reed beds from which views open out onto a series of shallow and deeper water pools.

In spring the reserve is visited by wheatear and whinchat. This is a reliable spot for the grasshopper warbler and other common warblers including whitethroat, willow warbler, blackcap and sedge warbler.

Sand martins are often the first of the summer migrants to arrive, while common terns arrive in the second week of May and remain throughout the summer.  

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The Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs & Northants

Bradlaugh Fields - Northampton

Bradlaugh Fields is a flower-rich limestone grassland reserve in the middle of Northampton. 

In summertime typical grassland plants are found here including yellow-rattle, knapweeds, lady's bedstraw, red bartsia and bird's-foot trefoil.

At dawn or dusk, foxes and badgers are commonly spotted around the larger Bradlaugh Fields complex. A fragment of ancient hedgerow borders the Scrub Field and dates back to the Middle Ages (13th to 15th centuries) and quite possibly Anglo-Saxon times.  

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Roswell Pits - Ely

Roswell Pits is most important to the birds and for its unique place in the landscape.  Great at any time or the year it offers stunning reflections of Ely cathedral on a clear day.

Explore along the footpath and find the reedbeds, with an excellent chance of seeing the azure blur of a kingfisher darting under Cuckoo Bridge.

There are scattered flowers such as bee orchid, and there is interest for the fossil enthusiast - searches have yielded skeletal remains of turtles, crocodiles and dinosaurs.  

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Woodston Ponds - Peterborough

Woodston Ponds is  a wetland on the banks of the River Nene, Peterborough.

On the west side is a reedbed home to birds such as reed warbler, reed bunting, as well as great crested newts and water beetles.

There’s a circular boardwalk (pushchair/wheelchair friendly) and raised viewing platform where kingfisher, whitethroats and willow warblers are often seen.  On the east side is a small lake where herons can be regularly seen patrolling the edges, while the open water is used by many species of duck.  It is great in summer for dragonflies and damselflies, especially banded demoiselles.  

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Ulster Wildlife

Bog Meadows Nature Reserve - Belfast

An oasis for wildlife and people, Bog Meadows Nature Reserve is situated in the heart of Belfast city, composed of a mosaic of reedbeds, meadows, ponds, woodland, streams and hedgerows. There are over 3km of ‘access for all’ paths with interpretive signage. 

During the summer months, look out for sedge, willow and grasshopper-warblers, also sand martins and swallows.

During the autumn, a variety of waders such as black tailed godwit are attracted to the ponds when water levels are low.

Winter is the best time to see the variety of ducks, geese and swans that overwinter here.  In 2004, it was awarded the UNESCO award for Urban Wildlife Excellence.

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Warwickshire Wildlife Trust

Ashlawn Cutting - Rugby

A former railway cutting just outside the centre of Rugby, Ashlawn Cutting is the only extensive natural space for wildlife in the area.

Benefiting from the lias clay soils, flowering plants flourish here during spring and summer, attracting a wide variety of insects. Ashlawn Cutting is the only known location for the forester moth in Warwickshire.

Keep an eye out for the dragonflies that prosper here in summer, as well as the grass snakes that nestle in the undergrowth.  

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Kenilworth Common 

Fantastic for family woodland walks, Kenilworth Common is a delightfully diverse Local Nature Reserve. Finham Brook at the southern boundary is home to feeding kingfishers and a natural population of brown trout. Further areas of the reserve retain some resident heathland, a habitat that is now rare in Warwickshire.

Slow-worms and common lizards have been spotted at Kenilworth Common, as well as stunning glow-worms in summer and a delightful variety of fungi in autumn.  

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Newbold Quarry 

A deep lake dominates the site at Newbold Quarry, where natural springs have flooded a former blue lias quarry site.

The lake is home to thousands of breeding toads and a native population of white-clawed crayfish.

Spring welcomes many beautiful wild plants to the lime-rich clay soil, including wild strawberry, followed in summer by a delightful selection of wildflowers including common spotted orchid and bee orchid.  Perfect for a relaxing escape from urban life.

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Glasshouse Spinney 

The presence of flowers such as sweet woodruff, yellow archangel, lily-of-the-valley, wood melick, wood anemone and dog’s mercury show that this site has been wooded since ancient times.

Visit in springtime for the wonderful wildflowers, or in autumn to see a stunning array of fungi, including turkeytail, false deathcap, and the vivid purple of amethyst deceiver.  

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Stoke Floods

Visit Stoke Floods on the floodplain of the River Sowe to see just how wildlife can flourish in an urban environment. The large pool that is the main feature of the site attracts over 90 species of bird, many of which breed there.

Visit in winter to see overwintering bird species such as tufted duck, shoveler and snipe, contrasted in summer by the bright colours of wildflowers. Several nationally notable species of invertebrates have also been sighted at Stoke Floods, and surveys have identified 242 species of beetle alone.  

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Wiltshire Wildlife Trust

Hagbourne Copse - Swindon

This pocket of woodland provides a breathing space for wildlife in west Swindon and a peaceful place where workers can take a lunchtime stroll. In April and May you can enjoy a stunning display of native bluebells.

In summer look for red campion, herb bennet, devil's-bit scabious and greater knapweed along the southern path, as well as butterflies such as the purple hairstreak, peacock, brimstone, red admiral and comma. Autumn is the best time to see fungi - 22 species sprout from trunks, branches and the ground, among them common puffball. In winter you may be lucky enough to see redwings hunting for berries and worms. 

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Conigre Mead - Melksham 

Conigre Mead was a field of rough grass until bought by local people who set about digging ponds, clearing scrub and planting trees and wildflowers. It was given to us as a nature reserve in 1989 and is now a lovely mix of ponds, wildflower-rich grassland and shrubs. Easily accessible with good, level paths, you can walk around the meadow, and sit overlooking the Bristol Avon.

On sunny days watch the courtship displays of emperor dragonfly, red-eyed and common blue damselfly and the rare white legged damselfly. In spring and summer the meadow is a pink-and-white patchwork of ragged robin and ox-eye daisy, red campion and meadowsweet. Keep an eye out for butterflies such as the orange tip and brimstone - one of the earliest to come out in spring.

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Rushey Platt - Swindon

Rushey Platt is a welcome wild space in busy Swindon where you can enjoy a quiet walk. It is a remnant of the lush wetland marsh that used to cover much of south Swindon before land drainage made this type of habitat uncommon in Wiltshire. Now, sandwiched between the River Ray, Wilts and Berks Canal and the former Old Town railway line, it a vital area for wildlife. Be careful not to step on a handsome slow worm basking in the sun!

Wetland plants thrive in the rich peat soil, including marsh thistle, fragrant water mint, poisonous bittersweet and greater bird's-foot trefoil. In the summer dragonflies like the broad-bodied chaser and the fearsome emperor prey on butterflies and other flying insects. Can you tell them from the daintier blue-tailed damselfly and banded demoiselle? Reed bunting, common snipe and little grebe, along with other more common waterfowl, populate the area. Rustling in the scrub are great spotted woodpecker, jay, finches and crows.

You may hear the ‘plop’ of the water vole as it dives into the canal. This charismatic animal is slowly recovering from huge population falls since the middle of the 20th century. 

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Worcestershire Wildlife Trust

Ipsley Alders Marsh  - Redditch

Situated within the community of Winyates Green and Ipsley this reserve offers great potential to build up strong links with our neighbours and involve them in the management and monitoring of the reserve as well increase the opportunity for wildlife friendly management in their gardens and on the nearby allotments.

The reserve is the perfect spot for bird-watching. Winter offers opportunities to snipe, siskin, redpoll and all three woodpecker species. Throughout the summer reed bunting, grasshopper warbler and cuckoo all breed here - bring your binoculars!

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Droitwich Community Woods - Droitwich

Fittingly for a town whose history is so closely connected to salt extraction, saline springs in Droitwich Community Woodlands have created a rare habitat of inland salt marsh. A way-marked trail leads visitors through woodland, grassland and scrub habitats and along the River Salwarpe. The slow-moving water of the nearby canal creates pond-like conditions.

A wander through the woodland and grassland offer primrose, bluebell, red campion and dog’s mercury; making spring the perfect time to visit to Droitwich Community Woods. Great for family walks.

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