WWT’s conservation work isn’t just something to watch from a distance. We’ve got more than 3,000 hectares of the best wildlife-watching land in the UK and you’re invited to come right in amongst it. You don’t have to be a keen naturalist or birder to enjoy a day getting close to nature.
We’re really lucky in the UK. Our position at the junction of continents and temperature zones makes us globally important for migratory birds, and WWT’s nine Wetland Centres across the country are positioned right at the heart of the action.
We’ve designed our Wetland Centres to provide great habitat for a huge range of wildlife. Every hedgerow, pond and marsh is managed for a reason: That might look like just a field but the grass is the right length for some species, hollows have been scraped to form pools at the right depth for other species, and trees along the edge have been cropped short for flight lines.
We’ve also designed our Wetland Centres to bring wildlife as close to you as possible. Some of our hides even have heating and sofas while nationally rare species preen and feed just a few feet away.
Look out also for features like reed bed waste treatment systems, or green roofs that store water so it doesn’t add to local drainage pressures. There’s a whole range of little wetland solutions going on if you look carefully.
Most of our Wetland Centres have collections of non-native birds telling the story of wetlands around the world. Some are part of international breeding programmes. Some test prototype tracking equipment for research in the wild. Our aviculturists develop unrivalled skills in rearing rare species – which they use to save species from extinction in the wild.
Every one of our nine Wetland Centres has land which is protected because it’s nationally or globally important for wild species we provide homes for. Here’s just a flavour of each Wetland Centre’s star conservation status.
Our reedbeds form part of an SSSI. There are booming populations of dormice and water voles. Warblers breed in large numbers. Our electric boats are a great way to get up close. Arundel Castle, atop a steep ancient woodland, provides a romantic setting.
On the Solway Firth marshes we’re providing protection for more than 30,000 overwintering barnacle geese. Whooper swans come in close to feed and osprey nest nearby in summer. It’s one of only two places in the country where prehistoric tadpole shrimp have been found. You’re more likely to see the badgers that come up to the farmhouse every evening.
The overwintering brent geese population here is internationally important. The mudflats on the banks of Strangford Lough are nationally important for several species including both black-tailed and bar-tailed godwit. The mix of habitats includes wet woodlands – look out for an amazing array of fungi. And you can find out how Northern Ireland’s rich industrial heritage grew up alongside our natural heritage.
Cattle graze our coastal saltmarsh which makes room for many salt loving plant species including rock sea lavender and yellow horned poppy. The site is designated for many bird species including shelduck and shoveler. Water voles and sometimes otters are seen. Views of the Burry inlet and the Gower make for a beautiful open and airy backdrop.
This 42 hectare site is a wildlife oasis among London’s suburbia. As the planes fade away towards Heathrow, listen for the wind through the rushes that are homes for nationally important populations of gadwall and grebes. Also listen for the boom of the regular bittern visitors. It’s one of the southeast’s top locations for bats, marsh frogs and moths.
Thousands of pink footed geese and hundreds of whooper swans shelter here every winter. We seasonally flood our ‘duck marshes’ to provide homes for nationally important populations of duck and wading birds. It’s also important for wildflowers – we’re creating large areas of whorled caraway, a western Britain specialist. Look out for water shrew, water vole, brown hare and a range of bat species who feed on the vibrant moth population.
Often called the birthplace of modern conservation, we manage a mosaic of goose pasture at Slimbridge and seasonally flooded grasslands as well as reedbeds, lagoons and saltmarsh along the Severn Estuary. There are nationally important numbers of European white-fronted goose in winter among a range of visitors including spoonbill, avocet and even giant Eurasian cranes – originally bred at WWT and still visit from their release site on the Somerset Levels. Nationally rare grass-poly. Also look out for wasp orchid, a waspish variant of bee orchids.
Tucked behind industrial estates, woodland slopes down to reedbeds and a saline lagoon alongside the River Wear. The reeds are home for a variety of amphibians, dragonflies and other insects as well as breeding warblers and buntings. Look out for great crested newt, a European protected species.
More than 6,000 whooper and Bewick’s swan visit each winter and come in close to the hides to feed. It’s one of the UK’s most important summer breeding sites for black-tailed godwit. There’s also a comparatively rare opportunity to see an inland avocet colony. More than half of the UK’s wetland plant species are here including rarities like greater water-parsnip (which is inedible despite its name). Welney lies on the Ouse Washes which are regularly flooded through to help prevent flooding of houses and fields upstream.