I have grown up with Slimbridge. I was that little girl in the red wellies nervously putting out a hand to let the geese peck at the grain, giggling as their beaks tickled my palm. I was the slightly older child sitting quietly in a hide, clutching onto my yellow children's binoculars, eager to see what my dad had just spotted through his grown-up pair.
I even went on a date to Slimbridge. Tentatively I suggested to my boyfriend, who is now my husband, how about going to Slimbridge for a day out and he jumped at the chance. We both hadn't spoken up until then about our love of bird watching - it's not something you readily admit as a young person - but since that first visit together we have been many times, predominantly during the winter as it is the best time to see a whole variety of migratory birds.
Slimbridge is my all time favourite 'paid for' place to go for wildlife. Nothing beats spotting an unusual bird off your own back whilst walking out in the countryside but Slimbridge is not as contrived as some wetland centres. If you go at the right time of year, yes you are guaranteed to see a number of different varieties of duck, geese, swan and wader, but Slimbridge never fails to offer a few surprises as well.
We will usually spot some kind of bird of prey flying past the hide or sitting on a fence post in the distance. There is even a fox who can be spied prowling the fields viewed from the tallest hide. We have seen him on at least two separate occasions.
A bit of History
Slimbridge is one of nine visitor centres set up by the Wildlife and Wetlands Trust (WWT). The WWT is a charity primarily, which was founded by Sir Peter Scott, son of the Arctic explorer, in 1946. There is a bust of Sir Peter in the Swan Lake area.
In fact Slimbridge is the WWT headquarters. It was picked as an ideal spot for a visitor centre due to its position on the banks of the river Severn. Many geese naturally relied on the water and the surrounding area before the centre was built.
Slimbridge is open every day of the year except Christmas Day between 9.30am and 5pm. There are also special early opening times to see birds such as Bittern but you will have to keep an eye on their website for when these are.
Slimbridge is easy to find. It is signposted with brown duck signs from junction 14 and 13 of the M5, then is three miles off the A36. A narrow road, which is single track in places, leads up to the visitor centre but there are passing places and everyone is usually highly co-operative.
On arrival you park in a relatively large tarmacked car park. There are also two grassy overflow car parks. There are toilets on the right as you approach the centre, otherwise there are more inside the centre to use once you have paid.
A sweeping gangway leads up to the centre's door. There is a small desk inside the doors where people can sign up to be members of the WWT. There is also an area where people can hire a wheelchair. Otherwise proceed on through to the reception desk.
During busier seasons there can be a queue but it is usually well-managed by a member of staff who will endeavour to disperse the queue to the two or three cashiers as quickly as possible.
Entry costs £10.95 for adults, £8.45 for concessions, and £5.95 for children aged four to 16. A family ticket costs £30.70. All prices include a voluntary gift aid donation.
Before leaving the reception area make sure you check the sightings board for the day to see what it would be possible to see. You can also hire binoculars from the reception desk but I have not done this myself.
Down a further winding ramp is a darkened archway which leads to the educational area with information about the environment and conservation. During the school holidays it is in here that kid's activities are laid on, including crafts.
To the right of the entrance to the educational area is the grain desk. Before going outside make sure you pick up a bag of wheat grain to feed the birds. Bags are £1 each.
Waters Edge Restaurant
This restaurant is based in the visitor centre. Usually we make sure we get quite a bit of bird watching done before we head to the restaurant as it's good to feel you've earned one of the hearty meals they have on offer. Sundays are the best days as they lay on Sunday roast dinner. Alternatively there are a range of other hot meals, salads, sandwiches and cakes, all with a home cooked feel. You won't get much change out of a £10 note for a meal and a drink.
Otherwise you could take sandwiches and a Thermos flask. There is a picnic area near the play area. The restaurant is always clean and well-presented with views of the Caribbean flamingos outside.
The gift shop is also based at the visitor centre and sells wildlife books, bird feeders and boxes, home-ware, souvenirs and toys.
Time to go and see the birds
There are generally two types of people who visit Slimbridge - families who enjoy walking around and feeding the birds and those armed with binoculars and telescopes keen to do some serious bird watching in the hides.
We tend to fall into both groups. We'll happily buy a bag of grain and walk around the various lakes and ponds feeding the birds, but once the grain is gone it's time to hit the hides.
There is a useful refreshment kiosk if you follow the main path around to the left towards the picnic and play area. We usually fuel up on a cup of tea or coffee and a muffin before retracing our steps and taking the right hand path which leads to the hides.
The outdoor area is divided into regional areas - North and East Asia, South Asia, Europe, North America, Africa and the Tundra. There are information boards in each section detailing the birds you can expect to see. Some birds will be in their allotted areas but as you can imagine, others like to cross over the divide to a different section. The gates between the areas do little to keep them segregated off in their regional areas.
The best feeding areas are Swan Lake immediately outside the visitor centre and the Geese of the World area of the loop-way - next to Puddleduck corner.
Slimbridge is the only place in the world you can see all six species of flamingo - the Caribbean, the Lesser, the Greater, the Andean and the James. They are all part of a breeding programme.
These are the rarest geese in the world but the tamest at Slimbridge. They will happily peck grain out of your hand.
These are being reared as part of Crane School. This involves humans disguised as adult cranes teaching the cranes life skills such as how to feed, swim and avoid predators.
Make sure you check out the otters. This is best to do at feeding times when the warden also gives a talk about them. The set times for this should be available at reception. Otherwise you may see them out playing or snuggled up in their burrow, which can be viewed through a pane of glass.
The tropical house offers several species of tropical bird and fish. Trying to spot them all is a good game for children, and adults. Information boards outline what is available to see.
Serious bird watchers
There are 13 hides at Slimbridge
The South Lake Observatory Hide is soundproof with large windows and comfy seating. It is the best hide for beginners.
As the name suggests, looks out onto a specially created bank aimed at enticing Kingfisher breeding pairs. There are also bird feeders which attract a wide range of garden birds.
Multi-storey Holden Hide
This hide looks out on the Severn Estuary and is where the most serious of bird watchers camp out. It can be intimidating but the best bird spotting opportunities are here. This is where you are most likely to see birds of prey and also where we have spotted the fox.
The list of possible sightings are endless but ours include Avocets, Snipe, Oyster catchers, Curlew and Water Rail.
There is a great camaraderie in this hide as bird watchers will often call out when they have spotted any bird of great significance to ensure others don't miss out.
From this hide you also have the best views of the geese, ducks and Bewick swans. If you are lucky you may see one of the three Whooper swans they have return there each year.
The best time of year to visit
Winter is the best time of year to visit Slimbridge if you want to see a wide variety of birds. This is the time of year when hundreds of thousands of birds descend on the reserve. It is obviously the coldest time of year to sit in the hides for any stretch of time but is well worth getting chilly for. Just make sure you wrap up very warm with good shoes - walking boots or alternatively Wellington boots are best.
Alternatively, spring is when the courtship rituals begin and boxing hares can be spotted in the fields. The first chicks will also start to hatch later in the spring into summer and so this is probably the best time for families to visit.
It is a cliché, but there really is something for anyone who has the vaguest interest in birds at Slimbridge. It is a great place to take the family and get your youngsters interacting with birds for the first time. While the hides and variety of bird is unmatched anywhere else, making it the best centre for serious bird watchers to go.
A highly-recommended day out.
Slimbridge Wildfowl & Wetlands Centre is run by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, the charitable bird / nature conservation charity set up by Sir Peter Scott in the late 1940s. Slimbridge in Gloucestershire is the Trust's original / flagship reserve, though there are at the time of writing, eight other WWT reserves up and down the country (excluding Scotland). In addition to Slimbridge other WWT reserves I have been to myself are The London Wetlands centre (in London) and Martin Mere in Lancashire, and bearing in mind that I have personally visited only a relatively small sample of WWT sites, I would say that they all seem to be largely alike.
What they are is great big dirty bird zoos, effectively. The birds - mostly waterfowl such as ducks, geese and swans - are sort-of free-range, in that many types are able to get in and out of their (muddy) lake-containing enclosures, to mingle with visitors on the tar-mac-surfaced paths that run through the viewing areas. (You do a sort of a waterbirds of the world tour, following these tracks through the reserves.) The birds on site are also sort of habituated to people, so if you don't care to be mobbed by hordes and hordes of tame Nenes (a famous and rather beautiful type of endangered goose rescued from extinction in Hawaii by the WWT) during your day out, WWT reserves are unlikely to be the kind of place for you. Why the WWT waterfowl would wish to mingle with human visitors is a simple enough matter: you can buy paper bags of waterfowl food at the reserve visitor centres - most people who visit do - and the ducks & geese etc. are used to being regularly fed.
What goes in has to come out and yes, the paths of WWT reserves are generally awash in bird excrement. We are not talking about discreet little dabs of inoffensive black-and-white-stuff, unfortunately; most waterfowl are plant-eaters; combine this with the high-fibre grain diet they're all on at the WWT and the end result is they generate surprisingly large piles of semi-digested waste. Given the high bird stocking densities at WWT reserves there tends to be a heck of a lot of it about; hence WWT reserves are not places to visit when you're wearing your good shoes, of if it's a wet day because the stuff gets - I mean REALLY - everywhere. When our sprog was about two and a bit and walking but still needing to be carried on longer jaunts, we went to Slimbridge one spring but all came back coated in goose faeces from off the soles of her feet when we picked her up to carry her - and this was not just poop from common or garden British geese; it was goose shit from exotic types of bird from all the four corners of the earth, and lord alone knows what kinds of bizarre aquatic transferrable-to-human endo-parasites they were all carrying. Unless all the pet wildfowl at WWT reserves are hopped up to the gills on super-strong anti-helminthics, I cannot, for the life of me, understand how theses places get through their health-and-safety evaluations for opening to the public.
Add to that the fox and in particular rat problems these types of 'reserves' obviously have - if you take more than a cursory look at the waterfowl enclosures, you'll see the rat holes just above the waterline, and poison traps lining the banks of the artificial mud-brown lakes that are all the captive birds have to paddle in (the rats are attracted by all that spilt grain, not to mention the bird eggs). And consider the Slimbridge flamingo breeding aviary - I'm not at all a religious person, but if I was, the unholy stench and sight of those dismal mud-puddles that flamingos breed in, all crammed together in that dark, dilapidated, over-heated shed - well, that would be pretty close to what - if I was a religious person - my mental image of hell would be like, actually. So is Slimbridge a nice place to go for a day out? Personally I don't think so, although living fairly locally, every so often we run out of better things to do, forget how awful it was the last time and go for another visit. (Having lived in the area for a while, I've realized it takes a surprisingly regular approx six to nine months each time for us to forget about the last visit).
To get in it's £8-odd per adult and just under a fiver for sprogs, which I suppose is about average for an attraction in the south-west. The indoor art exhibitions are quite nice, there is an all-right kids' educational area downstairs, and it has an all-right shop and theoretically all-right - but far too small for the extremely high visitor numbers, and very expensive on-site restaurant. If you do visit Slimbridge, the problem unfortunately is that at some point you're going to have to go outside and wade through all those ghastly tame birds.
They were building - ie digging the ditches for - this much-vaunted canoe-ride paddling trip 'excursion' on the Slimbridge site the last time I visited; I understand this has now opened to the public. Watch out for leptospirosis, which is a rather nasty disease most affected people catch from contact with contaminated water that has had infected rats swimming (weeing) in it, is all I can say.
There are extensive areas of 'natural wildfowl environment' on the Slimbridge site - it is on the floodplain of the River Severn, after all - but most of these are (probably quite rightly) closed to visitors and though there are several hides, to see anything really interesting you'll have to visit the reserve in winter when presumably the on-site bird-shit-slurry problem gets even worse with the wet weather. If you're keen on seeing 'real' - by which I mean 'wild' - waterfowl I would say that there are far better places locally in which you could do this.
They may well be doing important conservation work for wetland areas at home and abroad, the WWT; but I don't know, I'm not sure raising money by exhibiting far too many birds in these hell-hole conditions is the best way to go about it.
We had been spending a few days in Devon and decided to extend our trip by visiting the wonderful Wetlands centre at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire on our way home. This is a great place to visit if you are interested in birds or wildlife in general. It is one of a number of centres up and down the country that belongs to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT).
We were travelling up the M5 from Devon and left the motorway at junction 14. It was then very easy to follow the brown duck signs to Slimbridge which was a further ten miles. You can also leave the motorway at junction 13 if you are travelling south.
When you arrive there is a large car park which is free and good access into the visitors' centre. Here you can pay your admission or if you choose, take up membership of the trust. Admission is really reasonable with adults costing £8.75, concessions at £6.75, children at £4.80 and under fours are free. I think these prices represent really good value for a day out and at Slimbridge it is easy to spend the whole day there. However, if you are a member you don't pay any entry fee at any of the centres across the country. We are members and we pay £60 for an annual family membership consisting of two adults and two children. There are lots of different memberships on offer though, depending on your situation at the time. If you live near to any of the centres it is definitely worth considering a membership. Much of the money from the admissions or the memberships go directly towards the conservation work that takes place at the centres.
There is so much to do at Slimbridge that it's difficult to know where to start. The site is divided into different geographical areas where you can see birds from all over the world. Our favourites are the Hawaiian Nenes which are beautiful endangered birds. I couldn't help noticing that there are far less of these though than when I first visited Slimbridge about twelve years ago. There are so many other birds to see but the ones that seem to be in the greatest abundance are the fascinating flamingos. They are very noisy, brilliant to watch but also extremely smelly!
A new feature for me this visit is the otter exhibit which has only be open to the public since July 29th. These are a family of four North American female otters who are happily swimming in a large pond which can be viewed from behind a glass screen. My daughters loved watching the otters swimming around and it was such a rare treat for us too. This area is called Back from the Brink which says it all really.
For the more serious birdwatcher there are a number of hides which look out on to lakes or the Severn estuary. There are notice boards that tell you what has been sighted recently so you know what you might expect to see. Also, if you visit the website there is a list of all 393 birds that have been seen at the centre since its opening in 1945 and the present! It's a particularly good area for waders. My husband is a keen birdwatcher so he went off to the hides with his binoculars while I took the girls to the newly opened Welly Boot area.
This is a totally amazing play area but be warned because your children are likely to get very wet! There is a shallow stream that runs all the way around the area with lots of different crossings as well as slides, roundabouts, climbing structures and much, much more. Everywhere you looked children were having lots of fun and getting incredibly wet. My girls did not have swimming costumes with them (which would have been ideal) but as we had changes of clothes in the car they just ran about getting wet and then changed before going home. I do recommend taking spare clothes though if you are going to take your children here. I also couldn't help noticing just how safe the surface was. There were loads of children slipping over in the water, but not one of them seemed to get hurt and not one got upset at falling over! It was quite difficult to drag the girls away though!
Every day there are plenty of events going on at specific times. You need to pick up a leaflet which has a map on one side and all of the events on the other as you will otherwise end up missing something as it is all quite strictly timetabled. Daily events include things such as guided walks and talks, land rover and canoe safaris and bird feeding during the winter months. There is also a cinema showing wildlife films. We did not do any of these this visit due to the times not fitting in for us, but we have done things in the past and they are all incredibly good.
Children are well catered for at Slimbridge. Apart from the Welly Boot area, they can go pond dipping or go to the Visitors Centre to see Toad Hall where there are lots of amphibian displays. There is also an area here where they can do lots of art activities. On our visit, for a minimal charge they could make clay models or badges. My girls always enjoy their art activities and they loved being able to make a badge that they could bring home!
All of the areas are really well kept and it is wonderful to see all the birds mainly being able to roam free in their areas. There are no birds in cages at Slimbridge. The whole area is beautiful and just walking around is an absolute delight. A lot of the areas do get very busy though as it is a hugely popular place. The whole site is pretty large so you could do quite a lot of walking. There are plenty of benches to sit on though, mainly ones that have been donated in memory of people who loved the site. It is quite moving reading some of the plaques and it goes to show just how much people have enjoyed Slimbridge over the years.
If you get a bit hungry or thirsty you can visit the Waters Edge Restaurant. We had drinks here when we first arrived and we also ate lunch. They do specials every day which are served at a self service husband. Both my husband and I had a very tasty lasagne and our daughters had a lunch box each which had about five different items including sandwich, fruit, crisps and a drink. They also got a free mask each which they absolutely adored and wore for the rest of the visit! The food is fairly reasonably priced and including drinks, we paid just over £25 for our four lunches. They also do very nice looking cakes but for once I resisted temptation.
There is so much to do at Slimbridge and I have only just touched on a few things. If you want to get an idea of their full programme and also their special events you can visit the website at
If we lived nearer I am sure we would be visiting there many times. As it is, we have to restrict our visits to just one or two a year but we do love going back!
There was just one other incident on this visit that has made me think even more of Slimbridge. As we were going home after about an hour, my elder daughter suddenly realised she had left her teddy behind (even though we had told her to leave it in the car as she is always losing things!) She was quite upset so I told her that I would email the centre as soon as we got home. I did so, and within an hour I had a reply from a very nice lady telling me that Teddy's in the post! How's that for good customer service?
Spring has officially arrived, the Kingfisher are back perching on their favourite branch and the hoards of twitchers are queuing up, telescopes, binoculars and very long lens cameras in hand.
Living in Gloucestershire not far from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre at Slimbridge I have been a member of the Wildfowl and Wetlands trust (WWT) on and off for a good many years. The WWT is primarily a charity, started in 1946 by Sir Peter Scott, the son of the arctic explorer.
Slimbridge was the first of the 9 visitors centres set up by the WWT and is the headquarters of the trust. Sir Peter Scott chose Slimbridge because it lies on the banks of the river Severn, and he noticed how many visiting geese relied on these waters and the area surrounding it. He is of course right, the wetlands along the Severn are under threat here as anywhere, a little further down the river we have Berkeley Power Station, and further up river many flood defences are in place and areas reclaimed to support the city of Gloucester so the wetlands even around here are being destroyed. Slimbridge, however is now very well protected.
How to get there
Slimbridge is very easy to find, signposted from Junction 14 and 13 of the M5, then is 3 miles off the A 36 which runs parallel to the motorway. The road leading down to it however is single track most of the way, with typical passing places. There is also a nasty blind spot as the road goes over a canal bridge.
But, once you have passed the canal bridge, your spotting can usually start. I dont think I have ever driven down there without seeing anything of interest, there is an old tree about half way down that we have seen great spotted woodpeckers, buzzards the always present pigeons and all sorts of other things in at one time or another. You also get your first glimpse of the centre. The visitors centre at Slimbridge was the millennium project for the WWT, it contains a high observatory tower that allows you to view right down onto the Severn for miles and naturally a view of the entire site. It is not often used by serious twitchers though as because of the height and the distance most personal optics are not strong enough, and whilst there is an industrial sized scope up there, as you can imagine it is usually surrounded by kids. It is this tower that you see first.
Walking out from the car park always gives me a sense of excitement, even after all these years because you never get two days the same (yes Ill admit it, Im a twitcher) There is a gangway leading up to the main reception area which as with most areas in the centre has excellent disabled access and wheelchairs are available if necessary. At the top of the gangway last year were a couple of nesting pigeons just under the gables of door.
Now there are two ways to do Slimbridge, the first is recommending for visitors with children who simply want a nice easy walk round to feed the ducks and have little interest in sitting in a hide with a pair of binoculars, the second for people who have optical equipment and want to sit in a hide. Leaving the centre you go through an educational area with some details on environment and conservation and during half term and holidays they have brass rubbing and badge making for the kids and here you can buy your bird food for 50p a bag, we rarely buy this these days but if I do Ill get one and a spare bag and split it, there is plenty, but the Canada geese will eat out of your hand if you get it, which the kids love. You walk out to a small walkway over a couple of man made lakes and this is the area where you will find most of the swans. Now Slimbridge is an important resting place for migrating Bewicks and Whooper Swans (Bewicks have a yellow and black beak, half and half, Whoopers are similar but about two thirds yellow.) The best time for this area is winter and early spring, before they head off back up north. My girls always have a healthy awareness of the swans, there is no doubt that they are beautiful and majestic but a swan can break a mans arm if it attacks and these are wild birds so whilst they are on the whole safe, please remember that they are wild birds and as a precaution I always carry the food through this area for my girls, and have seen many an unhappy child lose its entire bag because a swan has gone for it and theyve panicked. Also in this area is a bust of Sir Peter Scott, I have never taken one myself but I can assure you, you wont have to wait long to get a picture of it with a bird sat on top.
Slimbridge is divided into regional areas, they have North and East Asia, South Asia, Europe, North America, Africa and the Frozen North with identification boards in each area. Now to be honest I never really saw the point of these divisions as although there are resident birds who are quite happy to stay put in their allocated area the majority of birds are visitors and are free to roam throughout the centre, so you will see similar species throughout depending of course on the time of year. These areas are also separated with gates, I never really saw the point of that either, I mean birds fly and can certainly clear a 5 bar gate!
So moving on passed the swans you come down through an area where there are some stepping stones for the kids, yes I have regularly taken home a slightly soggier child than I arrived with but they like it. In this area you also have the first of two groups of flamingos that live in Slimbridge, this is great for the visitors but part of me always feels that this is not what Slimbridge is about, for me it is about visiting or resident wild birds not flocks that are bought in.
You then come to a crossroads which depending on which group you fit in to Group 1, (families with children and no binoculars) turn Left, unless you have a picnic with you, Group 2 turn right, the right hand way takes you down to a number of hides, and we have often seen herons down here and if you are early enough you can hear sedge warblers. The hides at the bottom look out over the river and many a visitor goes up and comes straight back down again because you can see nothing of interest without binoculars. This area is always rather noisy as there are some large trees housing a rookery, (Im sure Peter Scott is sat up there looking down on us saying no! I meant a rockery!) There is however right down at the very end and quite a walk, a wonderful little hide that looks over a bank that was created for kingfishers, checking the website they are there now, and we took some great photos last year which my husband subsequently wiped by mistake. This bank was created for them back in 1991 and they have bred there ever since, so if you check at the desk on the way in this bit will be of interest to both groups.
The Tropical house in the centre has been there for many years and is looking a little tired now, but has a warm wet atmosphere, and a few butterflies and birds.
You can then follow the path around to the second flock of Flamingos. Interestingly if you check the website (www.wwt.org.uk) there is a story about a pair of gay flamingos, two male flamingos have been together now for a period of 5 years and have raised adopted chicks every year.
Near these flamingos there is a childs play park, and up beyond this is my favourite hide, partly because of the fact that it is fully built with sofas in, but mainly because it looks over another great lake and is great for introducing kids to birdwatching, the lake was man made about 3 years ago, they launched a huge campaign at Christmas for people to bring their old trees down to line the lake and give plenty of places for the fish. This lake attracts Cormorants that you can see drying their wings and there are not many places in the UK that you can see this quite so easily. For a while now there have been Black Tailed Godwits, which should have migrated, but they couldnt be bothered so stayed! There have also been literally hundreds of Lapwings this winter
The Return Route
Walking back to the centre there are a number of conservation projects like a marsh garden, a natural garden and a decoy hide. Then for members there is a summer walkway which takes you down to the Severn, in Winter this has one of the more popular serious twitcher hides, where we have seen Merlins, Buzzards and lapwings which are really spectacular when disturbed and they all fly off together.
Focus is an optics shop selling everything from £10 starter binoculars for children to large size Telescopes, tripods, hide clamps and they have probably one of the best testing views for this kind of shop in the country this is another lake, very popular with water birds and the odd heron so plenty of things for you to try out your potential new pair of binoculars on.
You have then made your way back to the centre where they have the obligatory restaurant and shop I do try and avoid the restaurant because I feel it a bit too much of an extravagance when I only live 20 minutes away. But it is good value, especially on Sundays with the roast dinner. The shop is good for unusual gifts for people who appreciate nature and conservation.
Slimbridge hosts a number of special events throughout the year, this varies naturally but mainstays are:
Downy Duckling Week Kids go free during February half term, when many of the ducklings are out
Dawn Chorus walk we did this last year and it was wonderful, we arrived there at 4.30am (had a good sleep later) and a guide took us around listening to all the birdsong, Nightingales, Goldcrests and so many others, one of the things that really struck me about this was how strong the early morning scent is, stinging nettles have a beautiful smell but you never really notice it. They also took us on a landrover along the banks of the Severn once the sun had come up then back to the centre for an included breakfast.
The great west bird fair
Evening Landrover safaris
And daily at the centre are free guided walks as an introduction to birdwatching.
So how much does it cost
Adults are £6.75, Children £4.00, family ticket £18.00
To be honest, whilst I certainly dont begrudge the trust the money as they do a great deal of conservation and research into wetland areas, this is fairly expensive considering it is possible to walk round in an hour, and I can understand that for people with little interest in ornithology it could be a let down. However for keen bird watchers joining is not that expensive, £50 gives a years family membership 3 visits make it worthwhile and you can visit any of the 9 centres these are at Arundle, Caerlaverock, Castle Espie, London, Camarthenshire, Martin Mere, Washington, Welney and of course Slimbridge.
Opening hours for Slimbridge are 9.30 to 5.30 daily, except Christmas day and closure is at 5.00pm in Winter
So all in all, I love Slimbridge and spend many hours down there, and should you decide to visit I hope you enjoy it too.
Thank you for reading.
PS Plipplop has just made an excellent comment about bird flu, if you check the WWT website www.wwt.org.uk, they have some information on it and do mention that it is not considered a threat as yet but they will not hesitate to close centres if they believe it to be a risk to staff or visitors.
I went on a school trip on Monday. No, this is not a revelation declaring I am only twelve after all. I went as a parent helper. Unfortunately, it was 31 degrees Celsius that day and I didn’t have enough drinks with me, so that might have clouded my experiences somewhat, but I will try to give a fair assessment of the place we visited. The trip was to Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre. This is situated in the beautiful little village of Slimbridge, between Bristol and Gloucester. There are nine such centres across Britain, the others being at Martin Mere (Lancashire), Arundel (West Sussex), Washington (Tyne and Wear), Caerlaverock (Dumfriesshire), Welney (Cambridgeshire), Castle Espie (Co. Down, N. Ireland), Llanelli (Dyfed) and Barnes, London. The one at Slimbridge was founded by the artist and naturalist, Sir. Peter Scott in 1946. There is more than three hundred hectares of land, where thousands of birds live and visit. The main ones are ducks, geese, swans and flamingos. Being quite unknowledgeable about birds, I took only a passing interest in the varieties there, but I am sure this would be paradise for ornithologists. The children I went with were aged between four and six years old and found them fairly interesting, but soon preferred the play area! Slimbridge is well set out, with plenty of nature walks, wide paths and easy access to everywhere. There were many disabled people there on the day we went, as well as families with buggies. Wheelchair access is excellent, with ramps in most areas where needed. Initially, we had a short talk about the different types of birds, although this was rather dull and disappointing. Afterwards, we walked around outside looking at the birds. The children bought bags of grain for 50p each and loved feeding them, especially when some geese came and ate from their hands. There are areas to eat outside, which we did. There are also
good toilet facilities and, as I previously mentioned, play areas for the children. We did find it hard to stay in the shade though and ended up staying inside for the last hour, as it was just too hot to be in the sun. Indoors, there is an excellent educational centre, where children learn about the birds and aspects of conservation through play. These included a tunnel to run through, a ball pond, puzzles, things to press and a fairly large room done as a mock supermarket. In here, the kids can take a form and stamp it with different pictures, while learning about the Wetlands. The shop is large and not too expensive, with fridge magnets and small beanie birds available for £1 each. It is best to take your own food and drink though, as the restaurant is rather pricey and even buying a carton of juice cost 70p. Other attractions include nature trails, hides, a cinema and the Wildlife Art Gallery. We spent four hours there and that was enough for us, although I’m sure bird enthusiasts would happily spend longer there. I wouldn’t really suggest it is suitable for very young children, as there is a lot of water and little ones do get bored quite easily. At the end of our day there, we waited for everyone to get back to the coach. We let the kids run round a field for a while and they came across to tell us there was a ‘dead man’ in the field. It turned out it was just a bloke having a nap. One of the kids ran off with his book and the man ended up chasing him round – thankfully, taking it in the right spirit! I’m sure that was the highlight for those children, rather than the birds. Oh well. So, if you want to go to Slimbridge, it is open daily from 9:30am to 5pm (4pm from November to March), except Christmas Day. It cost us £4.50 each including the coach, but the admission prices are around £3.50 per adult. Ring for more details on 01453-890333 or email sli
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website www.wwt.org.uk Sorry, but I can’t guarantee a ‘dead man’ with each visit…