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Come on a wild goose chase!
Martin Mere Wetland Centre (Burscough)
Member Name: markos9
Martin Mere Wetland Centre (Burscough)
Advantages: Great facilities, spectacular views of wild geese and swans
Disadvantages: A bit pricey
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!
Summary: A great day out for all the family