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Wrap up and enjoy the gift of WWT Castle Espie this winter

At WWT Castle Espie we're getting ready to welcome in winter 2023 and everyone is invited to wrap up warm and take in the wonderous sights and sounds. From fantastic bird spectacles and winter woodland walks, to Elf Academy and beautiful nature illustrations from Quentin Blake – there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Flock of wigeon

Look out for the huge numbers of wintering birds and many thousands of brent geese which pattern the Strangford Lough sky, waters, salt marshes and fields, creating an unforgettable natural spectacle. Also watch for wigeon, siskin, dunlin, long-tailed tit, and shelduck. Wigeon start to gather in larger numbers, with the males showing off their striking pale stripe down the top of their heads and their delicate, little blue/grey bills. Huge mixed flocks of tits move through the woodland following the remaining food sources and huddling together at night. Great tits, blue tits, coal tits and long-tailed tits come together in an awesome spectacle. Lapwing, also known as a ‘pee-wit’ due to the call they make, can be seen in large flocks flying high and showing off their rounded wings: an easy identifier of the species.

Child dressed as an elf opening a present

Celebrate the gift of giving this Christmas with a fun, festive experience at the Castle Espie Elf Academy. In partnership with local charity North Down Home Start, help give gifts to children who would otherwise receive nothing on Christmas Day. Drop off a donated gift with the elves before enjoying Christmas craft creativity and getting cosy in the crannog round-house for a story from Papa Elf himself! Toast delicious marshmallows on the fire before exploring the reserve to find all the ‘reindeer’. Sessions run throughout December. Booking is essential.

Get ahead of the Christmas rush and buy a gift with a difference that makes a difference! WWT Castle Espie’s new gift cards are perfect for family and friends - give the gift of wetland nature and support their wetland restoration work to help nature thrive! Starting at £5, cards are plastic-free and can be topped up.

Family walking through woodland in winter clothing

This winter, run, splash and play your way around WWT Castle Espie with a new and updated Wild Welly Walks. Pick up a checklist and complete all of the challenges on your adventure around the site. Pull on your boots, get exploring and even earn a free cookie!

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As part of the Drawn to Water: Quentin Blake at WWT partnership, enjoy a unique opportunity to explore some lesser-known works from Sir Quentin Blake’s personal archive, on display in the Graffan gallery. Discover beautiful illustrations on display using everything from pens, inks and washes, to quills from the birds he has illustrated to help bring their subjects to life, all rendered in Quentin’s iconic style. Make sure you collect one of the seasonal guides full of his unique drawings and explore WWT Castle Espie’s wonderful wetlands. Feeling creative, make sure and check out the range of art and illustration activities sparking the imaginations of all ages and abilities.

Paul Stewart, Centre Manager at Castle Espie, said:

The magic of winter is upon us at WWT Castle Espie. The site is filled with lots of spectacular natural displays – from wildlife in the sky to the sights along our woodland walks and trails. We are also delighted to welcome the return of our ever-popular Elf Academy: a lovely festive treat for all the family with an important message at its heart. We also continue with our wonderful Quentin Blake exhibition and trail which we hope inspires and guides visitors across the site. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported us throughout 2023 and wish you all a very merry Christmas.

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