Looking for a place to go and see some nature? Here are some of my favourite spots from my home region the East Midlands, UK.
Attenborough Nature Reserve
Close to Nottingham with well maintained trails, a huge variety of species and so easily accessible you can get to it by train, nothing should stop you from visiting this wonderful reserve. Attenborough Nature Reserve ranks as one of the best reserves in the region. Originally a gravel pit, the site has been transformed by the Wildlife Trust and boasts a number of impressive species. The site is 145 hectares of lakes, wetland, scrub and grassland. Sand martin, kingfisher and even the occasional bittern are just some of the highlight bird species found at Attenborough. This reserve is a year round hub for wildlife. There is no wrong time to go. I would seriously suggest having a look at the hides located across the reserve. The new sand martin hide is a great experience; the hide adjoins sand martin nests so gives you a real close up view of these hardy little migrants. Another favourite is the tower hide overlooking the reedbed; this hide gives you a unique glimpse into the reeds, and is a great spot for bittern and warblers.
Nestled in the rolling green hills of Leicestershire, Charnwood Forest offers birds, mammals, insects, plants as well as rich natural and geological history. The spot is a well known favourite of David Attenborough, who grew up exploring the forest and often speaks of it being the place he fell in love with the natural world. Now whilst I am not David Attenborough I also grew up on the doorstep of this spot and definitely vouch for its ability to inspire. The countryside scattered with wildflowers and woodland which glows blue in the spring with the bluebells, and progresses throughout the year to vibrant greens and autumnal reds and oranges. Ancient oaks dotted across the landscape, skylarks sing and yellowhammers chirp their pleasant tune. There are not many places where you can sit on 600 million year old rocks looking at fossils, whilst red deer stags rut in the distance. The area is not specified as one reserve, so to visit you can choose from a number of different sites such as Bradgate Park, Swithland Woods, Beacon Hill and The Outwoods. The area is very accessible, it is just a stones throw from Loughborough and Leicester with lots of villages throughout the area. Most main paths in the heavily visited sites are well maintained, although if walking through the woods during the wetter times of the year a pair of wellies are definitely necessary.
Tucked away between Leicester and Loughborough, this surprisingly large reserve is perfect for some casual nature watching. Although sometimes wellies are recommended the walk around the reserve is generally easy. Spread across a number of meadows backing onto the River Soar and run by the Wildlife Trust, work has been put into creating scrapes, ponds and reeds and the area attracts a high number of species. A number of waterfowl can be seen during both summer and winter. As well as this waders and reed dwelling species can also be observed. Along the river it is not uncommon to see kingfisher and overhead buzzard and kestrel are common visitors. The site is an excellent spot for owls. Short eared owls are known to winter at Cossington Meadow, furthermore barn owls are often spotted throughout the year. The best places to see the owls are in the fields adjacent to the main path. As usual with owls the best time to spot them is just before sunset.
Rutland Water Nature Reserve
Rutland Water Nature Reserve is without a doubt one of the best reserves in the country. A strong statement I know, but with the successful reintroduction of one of Britain’s rarest raptors, 25,000 wintering waterfowl, a host of migrants, a few exotics including egrets and spoonbills as well as owls, songbirds, waders and a huge variety of insect and plantlife, Rutland is a site of high quality nature watching. My first tip for visiting Rutland would be to base yourself around the birdwatching centre. The centre itself has a great view overlooking a large lagoon and a number of different species (including osprey) can be seen. Walk round the well maintained and fairly easy paths to the different hides located around the reserve. Each hide gives a glimpse of different areas and habitat. The diversity you will find at Rutland is huge, on a good day birdwatching it is not unusual to see 30-40 bird species as well as mammals, plants and insects. The site is well known for its water vole and badger populations as well as hare and fox. Although there is a lot of activity all year round, to see osprey you must visit the reserve in spring or summer, during the winter the osprey are found in west Africa. However as mentioned before over 20,000 waterfowl winter on the site, so it is definitely worth a visit. Look out in the reeds for water rail and bittern, which can be heard booming during spring. Each year Rutland Water hosts the renowned Birdfair which is attended by birders from across the country and the world and features many exhibitors and guest speakers. The local Wildlife Trust has put in a huge effort in creating a reserve that is perfect local nature, this internationally renowned nature reserve should definitely be top of your list of nature reserves to visit in the East Midlands.