“ Address: Fish Lane / Burscough / Lancashire / L40 0TA / England „
My name is berrydelight and I love ducks. An admission I do not share with many people and a guilty secret I harboured for years. Nothing makes me happier than a nice walk and feeding the ducks, on last years camping trip to Cornwall I became well known amongst the duck community waking every morning to find a growing group outside my tent awaiting breakfast. Life is pretty stressful at the moment and every waking moment seems to spent doing everything but having fun. A few weekends ago my boyfriend insisted I needed a break, the weather was nice if a little chilly and we decided to check out Martin Mere, a wetland nature reserve run by the WWT (The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust).
**How to get there**
Martin Mere is located on the A59 6 miles from Ormskirk in the North West of England. It is signposted along the M6 directing you to leave at junction 27. From Preston we travelled down the A59 towards Burscough the nearest small town. We were surprised once into the town that the large signs had disappeared and had to travel the same route three times before we saw a tiny duck sign indicating the correct direction.
The centre can also be reached by following a trial from Burscough which takes your through the new reedbed walk and is approximately two miles. Discounted admission is offered to those who travel without their car.
Car parking is free and we were able to park right beside the centre with no problem.
On arrival I was met by a duck! Nestled on the roof of the visitor centre and quacking to anyone who would listen, I already knew this was going to be my sort of day. The wooden visitor centre was busy, mostly with families and some avid bird watchers with some very impressive camera and binocular equipment.
During summer the centre is open every day from 9.30am till 5.30pm, in fact the only day it closes is Christmas Day.
The cost per adult was £9.30, a family ticket for two adults and two children is £24.90, under four's go free.
My initial thoughts were that this was pretty pricey but after spending the entire day there and thoroughly enjoying myself it was well worth it. Your money is also used to help provide for the animals and conserve our fabulous wetlands so its all for a good cause.
We purchased an information guide for £2 that contained a great map (although the free ones are perfectly adequate) and also a bird spotting guide. Great for us novices! The information desk was buzzing and I spotted a sign "Otter feeding 2.30pm" not expecting the bonus of otters I was pretty excited, excitement which was then surpassed when my boyfriend pointed out that they also have a family of beavers! Beside myself I very nearly tipped over the edge when the option to buy a bag of duck seed arose. For a £1 I was provided with a heavy and substantial bag of duck seed. It was shaping up to be the best day ever! First though I required some sustenance in order to make it round the exhibits.
I will get my gripe out of the way the café was a real disappointment. It was much too small for the number of visits and although it had a great set up overlooking one of the lakes the food, service and general ambiance was disappointing. The food costs were also extortionate so if possible I would take a picnic and utilise the many beauty spots. A new café is in the process of being built and hopefully it will encorporate more local produce at a more reasonable cost.
Our day was really split in half. We spent the first half walking to the various 'hides' along the wetlands and the second through the continent enclosures. The walk took us through woodland and was easy to follow I found a sign at the entrance to the wetland very amusing 'do not let the ducks through the gate.' This was made hilarious by a duck flying over my head at that moment into the area it was being denied access to. You just cannot teach some ducks!
The walk took us past the enclosure that holds Wizzy, a baby beaver that was found injured in 2008 and is now being reared by the WWT. Unfortunately he was not out and about but he does make a daily appearance between 12- 2 as he exercises.
The walk was very quiet with most people being attracted to the other end of the reserve but was filled with pretty spring flowers and plants. The hides are basically quiet huts were the avid bird watchers were located. They were also a great place to escape from the occasional rain showers and sit in some peace and quiet. It is certainly a popular place with twitchers who had set themselves up for the day with flasks and bird identification manuals. We were limited by our eyesight but binoculars can be hired. Geese were clearly visible as was an abundance of ducks but more unusual sightings have included kingfishers, Marsh Harriers, Dunlin and the Wood Sandpiper.
The second half of the day we spent visiting the more organised exhibits that are organised into continents. On our way back we encountered the very graceful flamingos who were delighting the children.
Our first stop in the afternoon was the otter enclosure, Im not sure who had the most fun the adults or the children as these delightful little creatures kept us entertained and swam right up to the large glass frontage that made the feeding experience fantastic.
The exhibits were well organised and because of the wildfowl's exposure to humans a lot of them were tame allowing you to get very close to them and feed them with your duck seed.
The beavers were a slight disappointment because they could not be seen but the principle of trying to repopulate the beaver population is terrific.
By far the highlight of my day was the ducklings, the goslings had been fantastic but ducklings barely a few days old allowing me to feed them was incredible. They seemed to have no fear and were happily swimming up to the fingers of eager children and gobbling as much seed as they could get hold of.
I had a great day, I will admit that liking ducks and animals helped but it was a pleasant walk and well laid out. Because all the paths are wide and on one level disabled access is good. For children they will be delighted by the animals especially the baby wildfowl. A good playground is provided beside the picnic area and the gift shop nearly had me spending a fortune on bird feeding equipment. The conservation theme is well explained but not pushy and I certainly came away thinking we are very fortunate to have such wonderful attractions in our country. The only improvements in my eyes are the café. I would certainly recommend bringing extra layers as you are outside for about 90% of the visit.
Every day at 1pm there is a flamingo talk and the otters are feed at 11.30am and 2.30pm. During term time a special event is held on Thursdays for toddlers, please see the website link below for more details.
Downy Duckling Week of course grabbed my attention running from 29th May - 6th June where, along with many other attractions, you can visit the duckling nursery and learn about the hatching process.
I cannot bear to loose a star for the café as they are making efforts to improve it so am therefore unashamedly awarding it 5 stars.
Martin Mere is a wildlife reserve and wildfowl collection centre in Lancashire near the town of Ormskirk. Martin Mere is owned and run by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) and is justifiably famous for the huge numbers of wild geese and swans that flock there during the Winter.
Many people who've never visited the centre will be familiar with the name Martin Mere as the annual TV program 'Autumn watch', with Bill Oddie and Kate Humble, was based here in 2006 and 2007.
Martin Mere offers a great day out for the whole family as well as for the keen birdwatcher as it has lots of different activities and exhibits to keep everyone amused. The family's day out will not be cheap though. Prices are quite high at £8.75 for adults, £4.30 for children. A family ticket is available for £23.50. The proceeds do go towards wildlife conservation, however.
The reserve is split into two areas, the wildfowl collection and the nature reserve.
As a keen birdwatcher, my favourite part is the nature reserve. This is brilliantly laid out, with a total of 10 hides overlooking different areas. One of the hides is heated and fitted with comfy chairs; great for really cold weather (on the other hand, the other nine are open to the outside air with uncomfortable wooden benches to sit on!).
Winter is the best time to visit Martin Mere, when up to 30,000 pink-footed geese, and 1,500 whooper swans will be on the reserve. Lots of other wildfowl are present too, and the large mere is usually packed with birds making for a real wildlife spectacle.
Some of the hides jut out almost on to the mere so it's possible to get within a few feet of hundreds of wild birds (the whooper swan picture in my member image was taken here).
Martin Mere also has a daily "Swan Spectacular" at 3:30 pm. Here the warden gives a talk and you can see the swans being fed right in front of you. Other events are run throughout the year.
The wildfowl collection area is really impressive. Martin Mere has some extremely rare birds in captivity (birds that would be almost impossible to see in the wild) as well as some impressive flocks of geese and other wildfowl. The collection is arranged in 'geographical' order (in other words, birds from similar parts of the world are kept together).
Food dispensing machines are dotted around the wildfowl area, where you can buy a bag of seed for £1 to feed the various birds with.
Two exhibits stand out here. Firstly, the flamingos. They have a large flock of breeding flamingos which give a colourful display, even on a cold winter's day (when, I agree, they do look cold and out of place!).
Secondly, the Hawaiian geese, or Nene (pronounced nay nay). These roam freely throughout the enclosure and can be fed by hand. Very small children might be intimidated, however, as the geese, though friendly, are quite large.
Martin Mere is also the place to see beavers! Beavers used to be native to Britain but were killed off in the Middle Ages. There is talk of reintroducing them to Scotland, but for now, if you want to see these giant rodents, Martin Mere is one of the best places to come. 'Woody' and 'Twiggy' have their own enclosure with a great viewing platform. They tend to be nocturnal, but with care, you might catch a glimpse of them. They bred last year so baby 'Wizzy' is now something to look out for.
Facilities wise, Martin Mere is excellent. There are several toilets dotted around the park. There's a large children's play area which has plenty of slides and swings etc. set on soft ground. The café is excellent, although a bit pricey. The sandwiches are good quality and you can have a full meal if you want (the café must be good, it's usually packed!). You can eat your food looking out over the wildfowl pond for a nice relaxing meal.
There's also a reasonably well stocked shop. The shop sells garden bird feed, clothing, books, DVD's and ornaments so you might get a good souvenir of your day.
If you're looking for something to do with the family, even on a cold winter's day, Martin Mere is worth a look. You'll be supporting a great conservation organisation too!
The wildfowl and wetlands is home to over 100 species of rare and endangered ducks, geese, swans, flamingos and beavers.