With the school Christmas holidays upon us and two weeks of festive family fun to plan, why not escape the hustle and bustle at our wetland centres? Take in the peaceful stillness of a clear winter’s morning, enjoy the spectacle of thousands of migratory birds or join in the excitement of the otters at feeding time. Whatever you choose to do, it’s a great way to relax, have fun and make memories. For inspiration, we’ve put together a list of ‘seven wonders of wetlands’ for you to discover when you visit our wetlands this winter.
Our wetlands come alive in winter with thousands of swans, geese and birds arriving to find a home for the colder months. Getting closer to this spectacle at our sites is a truly magical experience for all the family. Our swan feeds are an opportunity to learn all about them from our on-site experts at Caerlaverock Wetland Centre, Martin Mere and Welney. At Slimbridge Wetland Centre the wild bird feed is not to be missed. You’ll discover how far they’ve travelled, how they navigate and where they’ve come from. You’ll even hear stories about individual swans that visit us year after year.
Wetlands really are breath-taking at this time of year – in fact, it’s the perfect place for a winter selfie with the wow factor. Dazzling winter light, stunning sunsets and magical murmurations all make our centres the perfect place for capturing some precious family memories and having a go at a bit of wildlife photography. Encourage the kids to join in and see the world through their eyes, it’s always more interesting, and you might just spark a new passion.
So who can take the best wildlife picture? Why not have a family photo competition? Just don’t get too competitive!
Although Christmas can be magical, this time of year can also be exhausting. Children too can get overwhelmed and tired by the time the Christmas holidays come. Being on our wetlands has been proven to reduce stress and increase wellbeing. So why not bring the whole family along to escape the hustle and bustle? Fresh air, space to run around, no screens (a welcome break for us all) and a valuable chance to be together and enjoy a different kind of festive experience. Our wetlands are also a great place to take some time out for yourself, whether it’s a walk and talk with a friend, or some alone time in the gentle company of wetland nature.
Children are great at being in the moment, they use all their senses to learn about the world around them. It’s also an integral part of the practice of mindfulness but it’s something we don’t do instinctively as we get older. So get the kids to show you how it’s done, ask them to take you on a senses scavenger hunt around our wetlands for a truly mindful natural experience. At this time of year our reserves are full of visiting birds. Listening is an important mindfulness skill (you might find you’re better at this one than the kids!) so keep an ear out and use our audio guide to distinguish your Bewick swans from your Whoopers.
There’s nothing like wrapping up warm and getting out there for a winter adventure. So blow the winter cobwebs away and join us for some family fun. From winter trails to wild walks and even a secret swamp to explore at our centre in Castle Espie. Not forgetting our all-time favourite winter activity – puddle jumping (you’re never too old, right?) you could even get in some practice and perfect your splashes in time for our Puddle Jumping Championship event, running at some of our sites during February half term. And then - if you needed one - you’ve got the perfect excuse to head to one of our cosy cafes to warm up afterwards.
Wetlands are amazing places all year round but winter can be a great time to discover the things you might not spot during the busyness of the summer months. With many trees and plants leaf-free at this time of year it can be easier to spot wildlife. Seek out some secluded spots – also perfect for a game of hide and seek - and look out for wetland favourites such as kingfishers, swans, geese, ducks and bearded tit. Reedbeds can be great fun at this time of year. Enjoy our peaceful reedbed walk at Martin Mere or rustle through the reeds at our ‘explore’ wild play area at Llanelli. For a truly memorable experience, head out on our boat safari at Arundel Wetland Centre. If you’re lucky you might spot a water vole, they’re shy but they don’t hibernate, so now is a great time to spot them.
We know that our otters love visitors, they missed you all during last winter’s lockdowns. Their playful antics never fail to raise a smile with all our visitors, young and old. So come and find out all about these fascinating animals from our experts at our centres in London, Slimbridge, Martin Mere and Washington. You’ll make their day (as well as yours).