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Our Favourite Family Friendly Nature Reserves

Here we highlight some great nature reserves as well as how to turn a walk into an activity you can share

 

Do you have a budding photographer, an avid birdwatcher, or fancy fostering an ecologist? Children use technology on a daily basis now, but going on a nature walk is a great way to get them using technology and enjoying some fresh air, not just playing games or watching TV programs. With digital cameras and mobile device cameras constantly increasing in quality it is easier to gain a child's interest.

Why not turn your outings into a project you can work on together with your child, you both might learn something. Why not make a scrap book, or a photo collage? Using programs like Instagram you can turn an ordinary image into a plethora of different looks, or learn to use Photoshop together and have fun adding moustaches to grandma or glasses to yourself?

Visiting nature reserves in the UK with children

With more than 100 RSPB nature reserves across the country we asked them to tell us about some of their favourites, scattered around the country. Whether it's discovering special habitats, spotting wildlife or exploring the scenery there is something for everyone.

To discover the full list of reserves near you visit the RSPB.

RSPB sites are free to visit for members, otherwise the costs are listed below. Don't forget to check out the activities that are happening at each site, you never know when knowing how to make a bow and arrow might come in handy.

Old Moor, South Yorkshire

Adult £4, Family £8, Children £2, Concessions £2.50.

Old Moor RSPB SITE, Photo By Andy Hay

In the heart of the Dearne Valley, Old Moor is teeming with wildlife.

Easy trails that are less than a mile long take you around the ponds, wildflower meadows and picnic areas, and are great for seeing a variety of birds and insects.

There's a 'Kids Go Wild' adventure playground and backpacks to borrow that include magnifying glasses, bug jars and wildlife guides.

The reserve also hosts some really unique events all year round like sungazing and cycle rides. In fact, the Trans Pennine Trail cycle route passes right by the entrance to the reserve, so travelling by bike is a lovely way to get there. The tearoom serves a hearty cooked breakfast and other homemade meals.

Minsmere, Suffolk

Visitor centre free, Walks and Wildzone Adults £7.50, Family £15,
Children (under 19) £3, Concessions £5.

Minsmere, RSPB site, Photo by David TiplingMinsmere has always been a great place for families and now it's even better, as new family-friendly zones opened here in spring 2012.

In the Wild Zone and Wild Wood Adventure, children can pretend to be a sand martin clambering through tunnels, discover what it's like to weave through a reedbed, hear seasonal sounds at the listening posts, build dens and discover some of the reserve's wonderful wildlife for themselves. Avocets are a popular bird to look out for in the spring and summer.

Other star species include bearded tits and red deer. There are often special family activities at Minsmere including art workshops, pond-dipping and owl pellet dissection. Or, families can borrow a backpack that contains bug boxes, ID booklets and checklists to help with self-guided exploration. After all that activity, take time to relax with a hot meal or tea and cake in the cafe.

Conwy, North Wales

Adults £2.50, Family £5, Children £1, Concessions £1.50.

Conway RSPB site, Photo by Eleanor BentallOn the Conwy estuary with magnificent views of Snowdonia and Conwy Castle, this reserve is in a strikingly beautiful part of north Wales. There are two circular nature trails that are pushchair-friendly and are easy loops of around two miles each.

The reserve has a real community feel too; the local Wildlife Explorer group - the junior membership of the RSPB - meets at the reserve regularly, there are wildlife walks every Saturday and a local farmer's market here once a month.

As for wildlife, there's always a lot to see; colourful shelducks and lapwings can be seen most of the year round, in the autumn huge numbers of birds pass through as they migrate and the winter starling roost is particularly impressive. The waterside coffee shop overlooks the lagoon so it's easy to do some relaxed wildlife-spotting over a cup of tea.

Radipole Lake, Dorset

Free to all, donations welcome.

Pond dipping, photo by Eleanor BentallThe middle of Weymouth may seem like an unlikely place for a nature reserve. Although it is really central, Radipole Lake is still a tranquil place that is rich in wildlife. Boardwalks and pushchair-friendly trails help families get closer to the wildlife amongst the reeds and lagoons here.

There are lots of familiar birds to spot like finches, robins and sparrows, as well as rarer and more secretive species like bitterns. Bug hunts and pond-dipping sessions are some of the good family activities on offer, and there are lovely picnic spots too. The visitor centre looks out over open water where there is always something to see.

Loch Leven, near Kinross, Scotland

Grandfather exploring nature with his grandchildren

Adults £5, Family £10, Children £1, Concessions £3

With 45 years of experience in environmental education, Loch Leven is a fabulous place for young people to discover and explore nature.

Spectacular views, woodland trails and wetland trails make it a very varied place for a visit. It hosts children's parties on request, that include activities like bushcraft and den building, as well as some very different events during the year like bow and arrow-making!

If dramatic birds of prey interest you then you're in with a chance of seeing ospreys over the Loch in the summer, or even white-tailed eagles, which are occasional visitors to the reserve.

Image References

  • Family by the Coast photo courtesy of Andy Hay RSPB Images
  • Old Moor photo courtesy of Andy Hay RSPB Images
  • Minsmere photo courtesy of David Tipling RSPB Images
  • Conway photo courtesy of Eleanor Bentall RSPB Images
  • Family Pond Dipping photo courtesy of Eleanor Bentall RSPB Images
  • Grandfather with Girls photo courtesy of David Levenson RSPB Images.
 
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