Merlin at Oare Marshes cpt Kevin Duvall
Here’s a selection of some of the fantastic wet and watery places cared for by individual Wildlife Trusts across the UK – they are part of the network of 2,300 nature reserves which we look after with the help of thousands of amazing volunteers.
Many of these wetlands have events happening during our Wetland Wildlife weekend (19/20 November 2016). To find out what’s happening in your area visit our events page here .
Woodberry Wetlands is a fabulous new nature reserve in the heart of high-rise London, connecting city dwellers with wildlife on their doorstep.
Opened by Sir David Attenborough In April 2016 and spanning 11 hectares (the equivalent of 13 football pitches), Woodberry Wetlands is a free and inspirational place to connect with nature in the capital. The protected waters and extensive reedbeds are alive with wildlife. Birds such as reed bunting, chiffchaff, kingfisher and Cetti’s warbler breed here, alongside a rich assortment of inner city wildlife including bats, butterflies and moths.
Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve
Near Ringwood, Hampshire
Woodpeckers, grass snakes and dragonflies abound at this vast 400 acre oasis. Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve is a series of former gravel pits surrounded by grassland and willow, birch, alder and ancient woodland.
The autumn passage brings in many birds to delight: waders to and from northern breeding areas including greenshank, black-tailed godwit, common sandpiper, dunlin - also, black tern, little gull, osprey, garganey and many more.
In winter there are up to 5,000 wildfowl on the lakes including gadwall, wigeon, pintail, shoveler, teal, tufted duck, pochard, goldeneye, goosander and coot.
The Avenue Washlands
Near Chesterfield in Derbyshire
It's hard to believe this wild have was once the most heavily contaminated industrial site in Europe.
Now this former coking works ripples with reeds and is studded with ponds, marsh, wet heathland and other wetland habitats, together with paths, trails and viewing facilities for visitors. The habitats provide support for a wide range of wetland wildlife and in addition to great crested newt and water vole other wildlife such as wildfowl, dragonflies, butterflies and, occasionally bittern.
The Learning Centre is open for events only and these include activities for families in the school holidays.
Stocker's Lake Nature Reserve
A 100 acre wetland reserve in the Colne Valley which attracts a huge array of birds and has the largest heronry in Hertfordshire.
In autumn the lake provides a haven for moulting ducks. Look out for ospreys overhead on migration.
In late autumn water birds return from the north including shoveler, smew, gadwall, pochard, wigeon and spectacular goldeneye and mandarin ducks. The wet woodland around the margins provides habitat for flocks of siskins and redpolls in the winter.
The reserve has links to Chess Valley Walk, Ebury Way and Grand Union Canal towpath and is an easy ten minute stroll from Rickmansworth Metropolitan line.
Drumburgh Moss Nature Reserve
West of Carlisle, Cumbria
Drumburgh Moss National Nature Reserve an internationally significant expanse of lowland raised mire, one of Western Europes's most threatened habitats – it is one of four impressive peat bogs on the south side of the Solway estuary.
Sphagnum moss, sundew and other bog-loving plants thrive in the wetlands that make up much of the terrain. Curlew and red grouse breed and adders and roe deer are seen. This fantastically wildlife-rich peatland is home to large heath butterfly, emperor moth, curlew, adder, great sundew, bog rosemary and a myriad subtle beauties. Take your wellies and luxuriate in the sight of the multi-coloured carpet of sphagnum – or watch out for a short-eared owl!
Part of a major wetland habitat restoration project, The Moors is a beautiful wetland nature reserve on the edge of town which floods from the Redhill Brook during winter. On occasions this creates one large lake, which the footpath crosses - you feel as if you are walking on water! This floodwater helps stop Redhill from flooding. Ducks such as mallard and teal flock to feed on the flood. Moorhen and the shy water rail also creep through the waterside vegetation. Grazed grassland provides the right habitat for skylark and lapwing to nest.
In autumn, snipe, and other waders, arrive for winter. They probe the soft ground with their long bills, searching for food.
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve
Rye, East Sussex
Internationally acclaimed, this fabulous saltmarsh and shingle wildnerness is a spectacular place to enjoy birds and rare plants. In early autumn, look out for spoonbill, osprey, wryneck, aquatic warbler, Brent geese, short-eared owl, migrant hawker dragonfly. Visit this website for full lists of species seen in a month-by-month diary. The site is quite flat with some wheelchair access to all five of the bird watching hides and many paths suitable for rugged wheelchairs with some paths along a private tarmac road. It’s a great day-out with options for circular routes from three to nine kilometres and a visitor centre at Lime Kiln Cottage which is manned by the Friends.
Mere Sands Wood
This reserve takes its name from medieval times when the area was on the shore of England’s largest lake 'Martin Mere'. It is made up of lakes, mature broadleaved and conifer woodland, sandy, wet meadows and heaths in the heart of an agricultural landscape and is nationally important for wildfowl and dragonflies. Over-wintering birds start to arrive in September and early October with gadwall, teal, wigeon, pintail, shoveler, pochard, tufted duck, goldeneye and goosander among the highlights.
If you’re lucky you might glimpse a red squirrels which are beginning to colonise the pine woods around the Mere End Wood extending the stronghold on the Sefton Coast - they are actively looking for food in preparation for winter.
Nature has reigned for the past 15 years in this former sand and gravel quarry - 180 species of birds have been recorded in and around the shallow pools.
The reserve is a rare and much valued haven for breeding birds including lapwing, tree sparrow, oystercatcher, shelduck and little ringed plover.
The sand mountain provides an ideal nesting site for sand martin, of which 500 pairs have been known, while waders, such as greenshank, ruff and green sandpiper drop off to feed here on their autumn migration.
At this time of year you never know quite what might swoop down – a snow goose appeared briefly in autumn 2002 and a Hottentot teal in 2009.
Near Droitwich and Bromsgrove
Worcestershire’s premier bird-watching reserve, Upton Warren attracts a range of birds but is particularly good for waterfowl and waders. The reserve consists of a series of freshwater and saline pools, created by land subsidence resulting from local brine extraction. Not only do these attract a wide variety of birds but the saline pools are an important inland site for saltmarsh plants. The 26 hectares reserve is split into two distinct areas; the Moors and the Flashes. The freshwater Moors Pools form the northern part of the reserve and the saline pools of the Flashes form the southern part. There are numerous hides looking out over both parts of the reserve. As well as attracting a range of wildfowl they’re also home to breeding avocet, common tern, black-headed gull, oystercatcher and redshank. The reeds and surrounding vegetation support populations of reed, sedge and Cetti’s warblers and reed bunting. There is a £3 a day permit to buy or free to members.
Between Salisbury and Warminster
In the heart of the Wylye valley, this beautiful wetland is made up of three lakes and a half mile stretch of the River Wylye, one of England’s finest chalk streams. Visitors here make use of several hides to keep an eye out for a variety of ducks, such as mallard, gadwall, tutfted ducks and pochard and can also spot our regular inhabitants of kingfishers and great crested grebe all year round. There are a wide variety of migrating birds to enjoy, including waders, terns and osprey. The lakes are an ideal place to see shoveler and wigeon and yen cau may even catch a glimpse of elusive water voles as well as enjoy seeing patrolling dragonflies and fantastic displays of wetland flowers. There are challenging opportunities for anglers who can buy day tickets to catch and release wild Brown Trout and Grayling.
Oare Marshes Local Nature Reserve
These grazing marshes occupy the site of a former gunpowder works that was in operation up to the end of the First World War. The reserve covers 89 hectares of traditional grazing marsh, reedbeds and saltmarsh. The whole area is dissected by freshwater and brackish dykes. Management is mainly achieved by maintaining and manipulating water levels and by grazing to create vegetation of various heights. The marshes are of immense importance to a variety of wildlife that relies on this type of habitat. Oare Marshes is a very special place for many reasons, but is particularly important for wildfowl and wading birds. In the Autumn the numbers of migrating birds is at a peak, when huge numbers of wading birds will spend time on the reserve (including around 1,500 Black-tailed Godwits on most days) to fuel up before continuing their journey. If the weather remains mild, birds will stay for many weeks and even over winter in the area. Other birds also seen in large numbers in the autumn include redshank, golden plover, ringed plover, avocet and dunlin. Scarcer species such as Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper. Greenshank and Ruff will also be seen.
Nestling in the quiet eastern corner of Budworth Mere in Marbury Country Park, Northwich, this reedbed and wet woodland nature reserve has been in the care of local naturalists for more than 80 years. All 15 acres are now managed by the Cheshire Wildlife Trust which this summer introduced more than 150 metres of boardwalks taking you to the heart of the whispering 8ft high reeds. Summer migrants like reed and sedge warblers are joined by the azure-blue flash of kingfishers, whilst the wet woodland is home to all three British woodpeckers. A viewpoint along the new boardwalk trail gives views across the wider mere and the chance to spot a variety of ducks, gulls and grebes all year round. A hide also overlooks the mere and reedbed on the southern bank.
Whisby Nature Park
Nature has reclaimed the once lifeless landscape of sand and gravel pits - 2,795 species have been recorded here. The lakes are surrounded by grassland, marsh and scrub with fragments of heathland, old hedgerows and woodland. The Whisby wetlands are attractive to mallard, teal, wigeon, gadwall and shoveler through their vulnerable moulting stage feeding on invertebrates and the fallen seeds of abundant marginal water plants. Wet margins are bright with water mint, purple loosestrife and water forget-me-not and their attendant butterflies in early autumn. Later the dying stems of the reedbeds provide a secure shelter for roosting reed buntings, starlings and other small birds as the weather becomes colder and the secretive water rail moves in for the winter.
Flocks of coots and diving ducks arrive from further north and east in Europe to our comparatively mild conditions. The Natural World Visitor Centre includes a cafe, Little Darters Wildlife and Adventure Play Park and exhibitions.
North Cave Wetlands
15 miles west of Hull
This is a true example of a 21st century habitat, developed in the footprint of a large sand and gravel quarry. The site is an oasis for a diverse wildlife mix thanks to the assortment of wetland habitats from shallow to deep water lakes with shallow gravel islands and reedbeds. 2kms of pathways gives access around the 40 hectares of established nature reserve (there are plans for 100 hectares of land to be developed as quarrying ceases) and four bird hides provide unprecedented views.
Autumn in particular is a special time to visit as migrant wading birds begin to pass through including common, green and wood sandpipers, greenshank, black-tailed godwit and large numbers of lapwings. There is also a resident population of tufted duck, gadwall, great crested and litte grebe, as well as shoveler. If lucky you may also catch a glimpse of the enigmatic and endangered water vole. Be sure to call in at the new hide constructed from hay bales - this hexagonal hide is made entirely from locally-sourced materials.
Brownsea Island nature reserve
Near Bournemouth, Dorset
Autumn is the best time to visit this haven for red squirrels. Brownsea Island holds the record for the largest single avocet flock in the UK (1,331) and during the autumn you could watch up to 2,500 black tailed godwits as well as spoonbills, curlew, grey plover and oystercatcher from the reserve’s bird hides, which overlook the lagoon. There are already flocks of avocets and black tailed godwits on the lagoon now (21 August) and numbers will build up through the autumn towards a peak of up to 10,000 birds during late autumn or winter high tides. Spoonbills, little egrets and other wading birds, such as redshank and dunlin, also use the lagoon, as do wildfowl including teal, wigeon and shelduck. Common and Sandwich terns, which nest on the lagoon in the summer, can still be seen in August and some birds may linger in September.
Abberton Reservoir Nature Reserve
Near Colchester, Essex
One of Europe’s best birdwatching sites with a history – it was the reservoir used as a practice area in 1943 by 617 Squadron, the Dam Busters. Now it’s a wetland of international importance for wildfowl in particular, attracting close to 50,000 ducks, swans and geese every year – with a stunning visitor centre. It’s a birdwatcher’s paradise in autumn. As a huge expanse of fresh water, just a few miles from the sea, the reservoir is a perfect refuge and feeding point for migratory birds. As well as common species, it always attracts scarce birds and often rare ones, too.
In early September, you may be lucky enough to watch from the visitor centre a majestic osprey stop off to fish on its journey south. Migrant waders, such as spotted redshank and wood sandpiper, refuel on the reservoir fringes, as might the beautiful and rare spoonbill. The surrounding pastures are perfect for passerines, like the wheatear. Birds of prey, such as hen harrier and short-eared owl, will start to appear, too. In early September, damselflies, darters and skimmers should still be putting on exciting and colourful displays.
In the grasslands next to the reservoir, look out for butterflies, grass snakes and brown hares. As evening approaches, look up for bats.
This is an enormous tidal estuary that plays host to large numbers of wildfowl and waders throughout the year. The highlight is the arrival of around 60,000 pink footed geese which overwinter here. People come from miles around to see and hear the spectacle of the geese taking off in unison at dawn. Scottish Wildlife Trust runs ‘Goose Breakfast’ events in October and November, taking people down onto the mud flats to witness the birds at close range. There are four hides on the reserve and a four-star Visitor Centre for environmental activities on a variety of topics.
Home to the Scottish Beaver Trial, this area of ridges, woodland and lochs in Argyll is a landscape unique in Scotland where land juts out into the sea at Loch Sween. The monitoring phase of the Scottish Beaver Trial has now finished but you can still visit the beavers in Knapdale. All the scientific findings from the trial will now be written up and are due to be presented to the Scottish Government by Scottish Natural Heritage in May 2015.
A trip to the Scottish Beaver Trial in Knapdale Forest provides a fun family day out. Be a beaver detective and spot the signs of beaver activity in one of the most stunning parts of Scotland.
This is the largest shingle beach in Scotland. Constant erosion and deposition by the river creates a range of habitats from bare shingle to reed beds, freshwater marsh and brackish saltmarsh. Breeding birds, a rich flora and diverse invertebrate communities all make their home here. Visit to enjoy the ducks, divers and dolphins!
Home to the fantastic Rutland Osprey Project, this internationally famous nature reserve saw the first Osprey chick to fledge in Central England for 150 years back in 2001 – if you’re lucky you may see one of the several ospreys that now spend the summer there before heading back to Africa in September. But this reserve, which occupies shore line and shallow water lagoons along nine miles of the western end of Rutland Water Reservoir and covers a total area of 1000 acres, has much else to offer too, regularly holding in excess of 20,000 waterfowl.
Enjoy a ramble around dropping into its dozens of bird hides and visitor centres – or join in one of the many activities on offer - guided walks, Birdwatching for beginners, Natural History Photography Courses, Dry Stone Walling, Hedgelaying, Family Fun Drop in Days, Watch Group monthly meetings, tree dressing days...
Coombe Hill Nature Reserve
Near Gloucester, Gloucestershire
An historic landscape in the heart of the River Severn floodplain, Coombe Hill Canal and Meadows nature reserve is a place of vistas and endless skies. It was one of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust's biggest restoration projects after the damage caused by the great flood of 2007. Snipe, redshank, oystercatcher, lapwing and curlew are just a few of the many bird species sighted here, as well as spectacular numbers of over wintering wildfowl during times of high water. Equally appealing on a russet autumn morning or a glorious summer day, Coombe Hill is an ideal place to revel in the peaceful serenity of the countryside; bring binoculars to bird watch, or simply enjoy the wildlife and scenery on offer.
Near Stalham, Norfolk
NWT Hickling Broad is a National Nature Reserve and the largest Norfolk broad, and its wide skies and open landscape offer the perfect place for a walk at any time of year. It is a haven for rare Broadland plants and animals, particularly bittern, marsh harrier and swallowtail butterfly. Marsh harrier soar overhead, and hobby, water rail, Cetti’s warbler and a wide range of water fowl are present. Swallowtail butterfly and a variety of dragonflies thrive here. Electric powered boat trips at Hickling Broad take you across open water, passing reed beds and grazing marshes where you will spot wildlife in its natural habitat. Beautiful dragonflies, spectacular marsh harriers, and a variety of other water birds and Broadland wildlife may be seen. There is also the opportunity to climb a 60ft tree tower and visit bird hides only accessible by boat. Either one or two hour trips can be booked at the visitor centre or by phoning 01692 598276.
Bury St Edmonds, Suffolk
This is one of the best places in the county for kingfisher, and cormorant are often seen fishing at the sailing lake or roosting in the tall trees by the river. Almost any migrant bird can turn up - black tern are regulars but species like little egret and the more uncommon waders are also seen. This former gravel pit is a wonderfully diverse reserve with meadows, woodland, reed beds and streams, and has been quickly colonised by plants. A superb site for wildfowl in both winter and summer, Lackford attracts tufted duck, teal, pochard, gadwall, shoveler and goosander. There is a large winter gull roost which can hold as many as 28,000 birds. Passing birds of prey include the majestic osprey, whilst buzzard and sparrowhawk can be seen regularly. Tree sparrows are seen year round feeding from bird feeders and specially grown crops.
Titchmarsh Nature Reserve
Nr Kettering, Northamptonshire
An enchanting wetland site with a good variety of birds, butterflies and a heronry, Titchmarsh is a 76 hectare nature reserve and part of the Thrapston Gravel Pits complex. It lies within the Upper Nene Valley gravel pits Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The larger lake is Aldwincle Lake. It provides a large area for overwintering birds, as well as islands to encourage breeding. The smaller lake is the Heronry Lake, which is enclosed by marginal vegetation. The Heronry lake is the old duck decoy and is home to one of the largest populations of breeding grey herons in the county. This Wildlife Trust’s vision is to create a valley with interlinked wetlands - restoring and creating habitat between nature reserves will produce a more natural and diverse riverscape. Known as a Living Landscape, this project will provide havens for wildlife and people as well as space for species to move and adapt to a changing climate. Look out for passing waders!
Carshalton, south London
Follow the enticing nature trail between two babbling arms of the River Wandle through fruit trees and crack willow to a vibrant meadow. The ponds are an important feature of the island and they have been colonised by a wide variety of wetland plants, including water plantain, yellow flag, reedmace and water crowfoot. Frogs use the ponds to lay their spawn and dragonflies and damselflies often hunt here in summer. The river supports good numbers of waterway birds for an urban river, particularly moorhens.
You may see little grebes hiding close to the bank while you may see grey wagtails near the weir where they have bred. If you are very lucky you may see the blue flash of a kingfisher flying past. Species for Sept/Autumn – peer into the water to see water beetles and water boatmen – then gaze upwards for dragonflies, migrating warblers such as blackcap and chiffchaff, speckled wood butterflies, jays are more commonly seen.
Helman Tor Nature Reserve (including Breney Common and Red Moor Memorial Nature Reserve)
Home to a Neolithic Hill settlement, this large wetland complex spreading from the slopes of Helman Tor is also celebrated as one of the wildlife gems of the county. Centuries of tin streaming here has created a landscape of hummocks and hollows, host to a patchwork of wildlife rich habitats including wet and dry heathland, acid grassland, large areas of willow and oak woodland and numerous ponds. All of the sites of Helman Tor are linked by the Wilderness Trail, a waymarked trail forming an eight mile circuit around this fantastic nature reserve. The marsh fritillary butterfly can be found on Breney Common and Red Moor. It is on the wing during late May and early June, and its larval webs can be seen around the leaves of its food plant devils bit scabious during September. Cattle grazing helps to maintain the habitat for this beautiful butterfly. It’s worth looking out for the royal fern, a distinctive and stately fern, growing up to chest height.
More information on Helman Tor Nature Reserve here and Cornwall Wildlife Trust here
Meeth Quarry nature reserve
Near Hatherleigh, Devon
Meeth Quarry is unlike any other Devon Wildlife Trust nature reserve. Its industrial past has dramatically shaped its present. For nearly 100 years it was a series of busy clay quarries and mines. The legacy of this industry has created a very diverse landscape. Today, two enormous lakes and massive piles of clay spoil dominate its features. Elsewhere there are ponds, woodlands, bogs and grasslands. Together these make Meeth Quarry nature reserve a home for a diverse range of wildlife and a wonderful place for people to explore.
You can see 14 species of dragonfly and damselfly around the settling ponds and other areas of open water, butterflies (including wood white, grayling and green hairstreak). Look out for brown hare in the sparse open areas on former clay 'spoil' heaps and listen for skylarks and tree pipits in the open grassland. You're likely to see geese and ducks, incuding tufted duck, shoveler and goosander, on the lakes.
Magor Marsh Nature Reserve
Magor, east of Newport, Gwent
Set within the intriguing Gwent Levels, which lie along the northern bank of the Severn Estuary, the 48 hectare Magor Marsh Nature Reserve is a SSSI which hosts an enchanting blend of wildlife throughout the year. A mixture of winding boardwalks and paths allows you to explore the mosaic of reed beds, wet willow woodland, rush pasture and damp hay meadows, each of which is home to its own specialised wildlife. Hidden within the murky depths of the ditches that crisscross the site are many rare invertebrates like the great silver water beetle and the water scorpion, whilst on the water's edge, water voles feast on a mixture of reed, rush, sedge and herb species. These hungry mammals eat 80% of their body weight every day. Up above the water, kingfishers, little egrets and the elusive water rail stalk their prey. In the late autumn, after sunset swirling clouds of jackdaws plummet into the trees to roost, filling the air with their eerie cries.
Parc Slip Nature Reserve
Bridgend, south Wales
Parc Slip was mined for coal for over a century and was the site of a colliery tragedy in 1892, which claimed the lives of 112 men and boys. A hundred years later, opencast mining ceased and the landscape began to be restored for the benefit of wildlife. It’s now a thriving nature reserve although its origins as opencast can still be spotted by the keen observer; for example one of the now species-rich ponds was created from a lagoon that was used to clean minewater. The park includes a number of lakes, ponds, wader scrapes and wetlands, with four bird hides provided for wildlife watching. These waterbodies are great for all manner of wildfowl including teal, wigeon, gadwall, pochard and many more. Lapwing, a species under great threat in Wales, still breed here and the marshy grasslands also provide cover for skylark, meadow pipit and snipe. A patient winter visitor may be rewarded with sightings of bittern.
Between Pentraeth and Benllech, Anglesey
Cors Goch is one of Anglesey’s wildlife treasures; its story was millions of years in the making. Look out for the grey, fine grained, limestone and the coarse, pebbly sandstone in the walls as you enter the reserve. During the last Ice Age, around 16,000 years ago, glaciers gouged out the valley where Cors Goch lies. Today, there are still areas of open water left but over large areas of the valley vast amounts of peat have accumulated. You can follow where the rocks change by the plants that grow on the soils associated with them. Common rock-rose and thyme are just two of the many plants that you can find on the lime-rich soils. The limestone was once quarried for building walls and farmhouses. Where the more acidic sandstone is close to the surface you will find very different plants and maybe parts of the abandoned, broken millstones this rock was used to make.
Purple heather and yellow-flowering western gorse are the most abundant plants. Among the fading colours and mists of autumn, as the hawthorn berries and sloes ripen, small flocks of redwing and fieldfare often pass over the reserve.
During the winter months snipe often feed amongst the reeds. Grazing ponies wander through the wetland and help provide the right conditions for plants and insects.
Druridge Bay and surrounds
This former opencast coal mine was sold to Northumberland Wildlife Trust by British Coal in 1987 and is now a wonderful coastal wetland that is grazed in the autumn and winter – it is part of the Dynamic Druridge Project that is connecting habitats to encourage wildlife, heritage, recreation and tourism. There’s a deep lake to the north and two wet fields to the south. The lake attracts large flocks of wintering wildfowl, mostly wigeon and teal but including goldeneye; wading birds feed along the shores. The two adjacent wet fields are very good feeding sites, especially for snipe, redshank and teal, along with occasional rarities such as pectoral sandpiper and black-winged stilt. The surrounding area is a picturesque coastal stretch of dunes, beaches and wetland nature reserves.
Redcar, Tees Valley
At the heart of Coatham Marsh is a series of pools and reed swamp; the last remaining wildlife habitats that have survived the industrial and urban reclamation of virtually the entire south Tees estuary. The reserve is bordered to the north by the dramatic Redcar blast furnace and to the south by residential areas of the town, but it still manages to provide a sanctuary for more than 200 species of bird and a wonderful variety of wildflowers. A railway line and a freshwater fleet cut the reserve in two, although bridging points allow visitors to explore the whole of the reserve in a single visit. The lakes are fringed with dense reed-beds which provide nesting habitat for reed warbler, sedge warbler and grasshopper warbler in some years. Mammals such as fox and stoat can be seen and many smaller mammals must also be present as the grasslands are regularly visited by birds of prey including barn owl.
Described by wildlife expert and TV presenter Iolo Williams as the best wetland in Wales, the reserve is home to otter, water shrew, deer and fascinating fish species, including the lamprey. It is situated on the floor of the wide pre-glacial channel left by the former course of the Teifi and now occupied by the river Piliau, which meanders through the marshes in a narrow but deceptively deep cut. Wander through open pasture and well wooded hedgerows and enjoy the varied habitats of alder and willow carr, freshwater marsh with open pools and reedbeds to tidal mudbanks. Winter flooding attracts large numbers of wildfowl, notably teal, wigeon and mallard. Water rail are present in winter in considerable numbers, and other regular winter visitors include snipe, curlew and lapwing. Peregrines hunt over the marshes.
Between Durham and Sunderland, County Durham
Rainton Meadows was created by the restoration of the Rye Hill Opencast coal mine in 1996 by UK Coal in partnership with Durham Wildlife Trust and the City of Sunderland. Home to Durham Wildlife Trust’s headquarters, there is a small visitor centre with toilets, classroom and meeting room and coffee shop. Some lovely trails have been created with brass rubbings of various wildlife for children to follow around the lakes, woodland and grasslands. Waders such as redshank, oystercatcher, lapwing are regularly seen and also more unusual species such as little ringed plover. All five species of UK owl can be seen at different times of the year and there are good numbers of warblers, finches, tits and farmland birds. Look out for stoat, weasel, brown hare and roe deer, More information about Rainton Meadows here . Durham Wildlife Trust here .