A selection of the finest Wildlife Trust sites with great access and facilities for wheelchair users
Limited mobility needn’t mean missing out on nature. With many of our reserves equipped with accessible paths, lifts, sensory gardens, disabled facilities and buggy hire, nothing needs to hold you back from enjoying the great outdoors!
1) Bystock Pools (Devon Wildlife Trust)
Only a part of it is wheelchair-accessible but it’s a really beautiful part – a boardwalk allowing all round access to a freshwater pool where the air is filled with flittering dragonflies and damselflies in the summer.
The boardwalk’s close proximity to the lake also provides a great opportunity to accompany children who want to go pond-dipping, while its surrounding trees provide great nesting sites for birds and the ideal shelter for visitors from the sun.
2) Knettishall Heath (Suffolk Wildlife Trust)
This diverse mosaic of habitats including woodland and riverside meadows also holds one of the largest remaining areas of heathland on the eastern edge of the Brecks. Knettishall Heath is a national stronghold for rare species including the grey carpet moth, skylark and maiden pink. The reserve’s all year round access river trail is great for wheelchair and pushchair users, while the reserve also has disabled toilet facilities.
3) Blashford Lakes (Hampshire & IOW Wildlife Trust)
Former gravel pits surrounded by grassland, willow, birch and alder woodland, and a New Forest river bounded by ancient woodland of oak and beech. Managed by HIWWT on behalf of a project partnership consisting of the Trust, New Forest District Council, Sembcorp Bournemouth Water and Wessex Water, the lakes are home to nationally and internationally important populations of overwintering wildfowl, but the varied habitat of the nature reserve makes Blashford Lakes a wonderful visit at any time of the year. All of the main paths are rolled gravel with shallow gradients, while access points can be operated with RADAR keys, allowing wider openings for wheelchairs and buggies to easily pass through. Mobility scooters are available to borrow from the centre where visitors may also use the accessible toilet facilities.
4) Mere Sands Wood (The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester & north Merseyside)
Mere Sands Wood is a wildlife-rich haven in the heart of agricultural west Lancashire. Covering 42 hectares (104 acres), the reserve’s lakes, mature broadleaved and conifer woodland, wet meadows and heaths are ideal for spotting dragonflies and wildfowl. Beginning at the car park, three of the reserve's circular trails wind their way through the main area of the reserve, providing great access for wheelchair users. Six hides, a viewing platform and the reserve’s well-equipped visitor centre and picnic area are also fully accessible.
5) Thurrock Thameside Nature Park (Essex Wildlife Trust)
Built on top of a former landfill site, the park is particularly good for seeing and hearing skylarks, while being an important site for invertebrates and reptiles. The views over the Thames Estuary, where there are thousands of wading birds in the winter, are spectacular.
Scattered abundantly over the 41ha (120-acre) park are many easy-access paths. Additionally, one hide and a visitor centre equipped with a roof, where if you are lucky, you can spot harbour porpoises along the coast, are fully accessible for wheelchair users. Other facilities include a hearing loop and disabled parking and toilets.
6) London Centre for Wildlife Gardening
An inspiring garden reserve on the site of an old council depot, the London Centre for Wildlife Gardening does a great deal of work with local communities, including projects to improve the self-confidence and wellbeing of socially isolated older people. Its pleasant wildlife garden, including two ponds, offers a relaxing place to listen to the sound of frogs, grasshoppers and songbirds. It’s accessible but please call first on 020 7252 9186 for details.
7) Attenborough Nature Reserve (Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust)
The Attenborough Nature Reserve’s flooded gravel pits and islands support the region’s largest heronry. Most of the reserve is wheelchair-accessible, including three hides, parking and toilets. The award-winning Nature Centre has displays, a shop and cafe and you can even embark on an audio trail.
8) Rhayader Tunnel (Radnorshire Wildlife Trust)
With its variety of habitats including rocky outcrops, traditionally managed hay meadows, woodlands and river valleys, there are plenty of opportunities at Rhayader Tunnel for getting close to nature. The nearby Elan Valley trails and Gigrin Red Kite feeding centre are fully wheelchair-accessible. The reserve's Otter hide is accessible by wheelchair (via a ramp), which is surrounded by a beautiful calm stream.
9) Winnall Moors (Hampshire & IOW Wildlife Trust)
Winnall Moors offers a tranquil location to take a break from the hectic city lifestyle. Just a short walk away from the city centre, Winnall Moors' renowned River Itchen flows throughout its length, providing much needed water for the wet grasslands, reedbeds, wet woodlands and ponds.
Thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, a 5 year programme of improvement work has strengthened public access, including surfaced paths and boardwalks around the site.
10) Newlands Corner (Surrey Wildlife Trust)
103ha (255 acres) of chalk downland and woods with ancient yews, Newlands Corner is a popular reserve with superb views of the surrounding countryside. The wild flowers are spectacular in spring and summer. Facilities include a free tramper buggy hire, disabled parking, radar key toilet, and a wheelchair-friendly visitor centre and cafe.
11) Rye Harbour Nature Reserve (Sussex Wildlife Trust)
Rye Harbour nature reserve is an internationally important wetland. This 465 hectare site is a mosaic of habitats beside the sea with shingle, saltmarsh, sand dunes, grazing marsh, reedbeds and farmland. The nature reserve offers great birdwatching at any time of year, with frequent rarities, including little terns, sandwich terns, bittern, lapwing, wheatear, marsh harrier and wildfowl.
The site is quite flat with wheelchair access to all five of the bird watching hides, many of the paths are suitable for rugged wheelchairs. Access from the free car park is along a tarmac road with regular stopping points. The Beach Reserve is particularly suitable for wheelchairs, manual and electric wheelchairs can be hired from the Information Centre. Toilets are available very near the car park, accessible with a RADAR key.
12) Salmon Pastures (Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust)
A truly urban reserve, this tiny but important wildlife haven has a variety of habitats in a very small area attracting many birds and insects. Sit back and soak up the many species of butterfly here as they warm themselves in the sun and flitter between the flowers. Paths are wheelchair friendly.
13) Sunnybank (Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust)
The most visited of Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves. Containing a pond, woodland and grassland, Sunnybank supports a wealth of wildlife in a thoroughly urban setting. With wheelchair-friendly paths, keep alert for foxes, tawny owls and wildlife sculptures.
14) The Wildlife Trust Countryside Centre
A converted Victorian brickworks in a medium sized fenland site. Feel free to touch and feel many of the ancient fen and wildlife finds on display here. All-terrain wheelchairs are free to hire and there are lots of benches, disabled parking and toilets and no gates or stiles.
15) Whisby Nature Park (Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust)
120ha (300 acres) of marshy wetland. The site contains a visitor centre, parking (£2) and wheelchair-friendly facilities, including a lift to the lower floor exhibition, and six bird hides. Children are spoilt for choice here: a sandpit, outdoor play gym and a fantastic play-park situated on top of a lake, provides a thrilling opportunity to admire fish and frogs. Thorpe, Coot and Grebe lakes have wheelchair-friendly paths, and mobility scooters can be hired for £2 (free to members).
16) Swanwick Lake (Hampshire & IOW Wildlife Trust)
Created by nature from abandoned clay workings, the reserve holds scenic lakes, woods and grassland. Rich in orchids, birds and dragonflies, walks around the reserve are scenic and comforting. Over 1 mile of the paths and marked trails have been surfaced, allowing great access around the lakes and wood. An easily accessible study centre and braille trail guide can also be found here.
17) The Welsh Wildlife Centre (The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales)
This wildlife gem on the banks of the Teifi river at Cilgerran has full disabled access: parking, toilets, a lift in the visitor centre and an easy, wheelchair-accessible path around the site. There are frequent guided tours and activities, and a newly-planted willow maze. You may see water buffalo and otters in the marsh, and in spring and summer, osprey overhead.
18) Testwood Lakes (Hampshire & IOW Wildlife Trust)
Winner of the New Forest ‘Access For All’ recreation award, this lakeside reserve has surfaced paths throughout its grassland and woodland areas. There are accessible hides and education centre, and an all-terrain wheelchair and mobility scooter for hire. There are also wheelchair-friendly sensory gardens and ponds right outside the centre.
In summer swallows, house martins and sand martins hunting for insects over the meadows and lakes make Testwood an exciting place to visit. In the winter months look and listen out for flocks of lapwing, wigeon and geese that make Testwood Lakes their home before flying back home to northern Europe in the spring.
19) Lackford Lakes (Suffolk Wildlife Trust)
A superb site for wildfowl in both winter and summer, Lackford Lakes attracts tufted duck, teal, pochard shoveler and goosander. Never failing to delight, the reserve’s wildflowers and dragonflies can be enjoyed in the summer, while gull and starling roosts provide a real spectacle during winter afternoons. Most of the reserve's paths are surfaced, and the visitor centre is fully accessible. Allocated parking and toilet facilities for disabled visitors are also available.
20) Lower Smite Farm (Worcestershire Wildlife Trust)
Habitats here include arable and pasture farmland, ponds, a new orchard and wildlife garden. The reserve has worked very hard to ensure that wheelchair and buggy users have full access to and around the education centre and wildlife garden, including raised flower beds, ramps and grass protector matting to ensure all year around access. The ponds here are great for dragonflies, where up to fifteen different species can be spotted.
21) South Walney (Cumbria Wildlife Trust)
This shingle island reserve offers stunning views across Morecambe Bay and is a fantastic place for bird watching with over 25 species known to breed on the reserve. In spring, gulls return to take up territory and male eider court females. In small areas of the dune grassland pyramidal orchid, portland spurge and heartsease pansy can be found. Take a ride on the off road ‘Tramper’ to see these fantastic sights and sounds by booking with the reserve’s warden
Matthew Lipton on 01229 471600. The reserve also has disabled toilet facilities.
22) Close Sartfield (Manx Wildlife Trust)
Lying on the north-west edge of the Ballaugh Curragh, Close Sartfield is made up of damp hay meadows, marshy grassland, curragh and developing birch woodland. The reserve is excellent for bird watching including the occasional hen harrier, but also watch out for red-necked wallabies! The wheelchair-friendly boardwalk from the car park to a hide, which runs along the edge of a wildflower meadow, is praised for its hundreds of common and heath spotted orchids.
23) Ellesmere (Shropshire Wildlife Trust)
Although this site is authority owned, Shropshire Wildlife Trust is playing an increasing role in its management including improved facilities for disabled visitors. Among these include the installation of audio boxes, wheelchair height information boards and a tactile map (all expected to be installed in the spring/early summer of 2014). One of the easiest heronries to access and view in the United Kingdom can be found here.
24) Great Fen (The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire)
A crucial fenland haven for wildlife, the Great Fen has five visitor centres providing great opportunities for recreation, education and business. Follow the grass paths through Woodwalton Fen to watch butterflies and dragonflies or admire the large silver birch woodland that is home to a huge variety of fungi at Holme Fen. Two all-terrain electric wheelchairs can be hired free of charge during weekdays for up to 3 hours from the Wildlife Trust Countryside Centre. To book please contact the Great Fen team on 01487 710420. The Wildlife Trust Countryside Centre also has disabled-access paths down to the toilets (including disabled) and picnic area, disabled picnic benches and an all-access bird hide.
23) Loch of the Lowes (Scottish Wildlife Trust)
A large freshwater loch with a diverse aquatic flora, Lock of the Lowes is fringed by areas of fen, reedbeds and semi-natural woodland. From early April to late August the star attraction here is the resident female osprey that nests close to the observation hides. Fallow and roe deer are regularly seen all year round from the hides, while red squirrel, great spotted woodpecker and treecreeper can also be spotted in the woodland. The visitor centre and all of the reserve’s hides (except one) are fully accessible. Disabled parking and toilets are also available here, alongside a manual wheelchair that is available to hire during the visitor centre's opening hours.
25) Woods Mill Nature Reserve (Sussex Wildlife Trust)
Woods Mill is the headquarters of the Sussex Wildlife Trust. This 13 hectare nature reserve provides a peaceful setting, comprising coppice woodland, meadows and a large reed-fringed pond. Wildlife highlights include nightingales, woodpeckers, warblers, turtle doves, dragonflies, wide range of woodland and meadow flowers.
The nature reserve has an all-weather path around the pond and through woodland, with many benches and boardwalk across lake and reedbed. Other footpaths are mostly wide mown grass paths. Toilets are available in the car park. No dogs are permitted.
26) Folly Farm (Avon Wildlife Trust)
A little piece of unspoilt English countryside in the Chew Valley, between Bristol and Bath. Its peaceful atmosphere, impressive lake views and history make Folly Farm a unique and exciting visit. The reserve’s access for all trail starts from the car park and goes through woodland, with views on to meadows, and includes a badger-viewing platform. An exciting new project next to the reserve is ‘Feed Folly’ where volunteers grow wildlife-friendly food. Avon Wildlife Trust is currently putting in a disabled ramp at Feed Folly to allow easy access. Accommodation at the Folly Farm Centre is also available for guests with wheelchairs.
27) Joe’s Pond (Durham Wildlife Trust)
An old coal pit pond at its best in May and June, the site contains a variety of habitats including open water and reed swamp. A grant from Cummins Engineering has enabled the Trust to install sixty metres of new elevated board walk providing a wheelchair and pushchair-friendly route around Joe’s Pond. There are also disabled toilets at the Rainton Meadows visitor centre next door. Designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), the reserve has recorded 140 species of bird, making it an excellent location for bird watching.
28) Low Barns (Durham Wildlife Trust)
This 124-acre (50ha) site comprises interconnected lakes, extensive alder woodland and species-rich grasslands. Designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) mainly for its ornithological interest, resident and migrant bird populations here include redstart, pied flycatcher and several warbler species. The lakes are also visited by otters. The reserve contains a well surfaced and even-graded circular walk that is suitable for wheelchair access. Hides are also ramped providing good access.
29) Montrose Basin (Scottish Wildlife Trust)
Just minutes from the centre of Montrose, this tidal basin plays host to large numbers of wildfowl and waders. Although only one of the reserve’s trails is fully accessible, the Tayock walk provides great views of over 400 indigenous trees, and, between September to March, up to 60,000 pink footed geese can be seen taking off and returning to their roosting sites on the Basin. During the winter, the walk provides views of oystercatchers, curlew, redshanks and shelduck wading among the water. The reserve’s four-star visitor centre, which contains a viewing gallery, gift shop and light refreshments, is fully accessible. The site also has disabled car parking and toilet facilities and a manual wheelchair is available for hire.
30) Meeth Quarry
Meeth Quarry - a mixture of lakes, woodlands, ponds, bogs and grasslands is home to a diverse range of wildlife and is a wonderful place for people to explore. Highlights include brown hares, skylarks, tree pipits and a superb diversity of butterflies. The reserve contains a 1 mile multi-access trail suitable for wheelchairs and mobility scooters.
31) Rutland Water (Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust)
Rutland Water is renowned as one of the most important inland sites in Great Britain for passage waders. Flocks of tufted and pochard reach 5,000. One of Britain’s rarest birds, the osprey, can also be seen here. The reserve’s two visitor centres and some of its hides are suitable for wheelchair access. Meanwhile, a mobility scooter can be pre-booked. Car parking and toilet facilities that are suitable for wheelchair users are also available.
32) Brockholes (The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester & north Merseyside)
An old quarry site, Brockholes is an amazing place to explore and see wildlife. One of the largest strips of ancient woodland in the UK can be found here, alongside large wetland areas and the beautiful River Ribble. Most of the footpaths here are level and surfaced, and the reserve’s kissing gates are accessible for smaller wheelchairs and pushchairs. If you are using a large mobility vehicle you can obtain a key to vehicle access gates by visiting the Welcome Centre.
33) Moseley Bog and Joy's Wood (The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country)
Moseley Bog & Joy’s Wood is a special place rich in wildlife and history that has long played an important role in the lives of local people. Managed by The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country it is a beautiful site with a unique atmosphere and plants ranging from bog mosses to abundant flowering plants in the woodlands and meadows. The whole of the reserve is not accessible by wheelchair or pushchair, but there is a good wheelchair accessible route around it (which can be viewed here) and a car park on Yardley Wood Road which has disabled spaces.
34) The Avenue Washlands (Derbyshire Wildlife Trusts)
A wetland reserve consisting of reedbed, marsh, ponds and grassland in the valley of the River Rother, The Avenue Washlands is a great site for seeing water voles and great crested newts. The site is also popular for its many wetland and wintering water birds. Access to the site is via squeeze stile; however these are just wide enough for mobility scooters to fit through. Around 80% of the reserve, including the two viewing screens is also accessible to wheelchairs.
35) Hill Hook (The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country)
This hidden oasis of green, bordered by residential street, includes the old, now demolished, Hill Hook Mill which ground corn for local residents and farmers for more than 300 years. Although not all of the site is fully accessible, there’s a nice path around the top of the mill pool, and there is an ongoing programme of work to open up more of the reserve.
The mill pool now provides the focal point for the 7.7 hectare reserve, which also comprises an extensive area of woodland and rough grassland providing habitat for a wide variety of plants, animals and birds.
36) Wolseley Centre (Staffordshire Wildlife Trust)
The Wolseley Centre has 26 acres of beautiful grounds to explore, which are full of wildlife, sculptures and display gardens. A network of accessible footpaths and boardwalks weave around the grounds - ideal for pushchairs, wheelchairs and little feet. Enjoy views over tranquil pools and across the River Trent. There are plenty of benches if you want to sit and enjoy the tranquillity. Stop off in the sensory garden, packed with plants that stimulate your sense of smell, taste, touch, sight and sound, or pick up ideas for attracting wildlife to your plot in the wildlife garden.
At the friendly and welcoming visitor centre and gift shop enjoy drinks and snacks at the indoor or outdoor seating areas. There is a mobility scooter available to hire.