One of the main aims of the Wildlife Trusts is to make nature accessible to all and our nature reserves are the best way to access nature in the Uk.
Although there are now many reasons to visit a reserve, from the play areas to shops and cafe's the main reason people visit is for the nature. The beautiful scenery, the wildlife and the feeling of peace and calm that often only nature can provide.
With reserves spread across the UK, you are always likely to find one near you. Even if you are in the middle of a city, you could visit one of our urban reserves and find what many of the visitors have described as "our secret place of calm within the city".
Here are a selection of our reserves from across the UK
Falls of Clyde - South Lanarkshire, Scotland
Walk from New Lanark, the UNESCO World Heritage site, and explore the River Clyde’s hidden side.
Follow the river as it surges through a narrow gorge and over three spectacular waterfalls. Walking through the Falls of Clyde nature reserve, where birdsong competes with the roar of the waterfalls, keep a look out for kingfishers, otters and badgers.
In spring the highlight of the walk is watching the resident peregrine falcons raise their fledglings.
The Falls of Clyde Site is a part of the Clyde Valley Woodlands National Nature Reserve, an area of mixed woodland, including semi-natural native oakwoods and some areas of conifer plantation.
It provides suitable habitat for badgers, roe deer, and over 100 species of bird. The site is well known for its resident breeding pair of peregrine falcons, which are protected during the breeding season by Operation Peregrine, providing security for the birds and a chance for the public to view the birds through scopes and CCTV.
Within the reserve the Clyde River is suitable habitat for Otters and Kingfishers as well as the protected Brook Lamprey.
The Falls of Clyde Visitor Centre, operated by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, features exhibits about the waterfalls, the woodland and the area animals, including a special bat display.
Bog Meadows - urban nature reserve, Belfast
An oasis for wildlife and people, in the heart of Belfast city.
The largest piece of natural wild land remaining within the urban area of Belfast. The UNESCO award winning Bog Meadows, managed by the Ulster Wildlife Trust, is a safe haven for wildlife and a fun place for visitors of all ages.
The 47 acre Local Nature Reserve is an urban oasis, composed of a mosaic of reedbeds, meadows, ponds, woodland, streams and hedgerows. There are over 3km of ‘access for all’ paths with interpretive signage. It is a wonderful resource for local communities to get outdoors and to learn about local wildlife.
During the summer months, look out for African visitors of the feathered variety, including sedge, willow and grasshopper-warblers, sand martins and swallows. During the autumn, a variety of waders are attracted to the ponds when water levels are low. Winter is the best time to see the variety of ducks, geese and swans that overwinter here.
Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Skomer Island, off the Pembrokeshire Coast, is one of the most important seabird breeding sites in southern Britain;
On calm days the seas around Skomer are so glisteningly translucent that it is possible to see deep into the turquoise water.
For most people this will be their only glimpse into the undersea world of a marine nature reserve that is an almost untouched wilderness. Above the waves, the richness and diversity of wildlife are much more obvious.
Further exploration of the island reveals a coastline of sheltered bays, exposed headlands, towering offshore rocks and shaded inlets, all painted with the graduated colours of lichen. Perhaps the most stunning of all these sights is The Wick, a sheer cliff carved with ledges that are ideally suited to nesting seabirds. It is partly enclosed by an amphitheatre of sloping stone, which provides a perfect view of the polished jade water and the birds wheeling and diving above and below its surface.
Atlantic grey seals can be seen at any time of year, meandering languidly with their noses above the water, or basking on their favourite offshore rocks at the Garland Stone, where their high-pitched wails drift up to the cliff top. In late summer, when most of the seabirds have left, they gather in growing numbers around the island.
Camley Street Natural Park, London
Two unique acres of wild green space right in the heart of London, this innovative and internationally acclaimed reserve on the banks of the Regent's Canal is a place for both people and wildlife.
Camley Street Natural Park was created from an old coal yard back in 1984.It sits in the middle of King’s Cross, alongside the sparkling new Eurostar station at St Pancras. It is popular with all kinds of people seeking respite from the buzz of the city around them, as well as being a hub for London Wildlife Trust volunteers.
Individuals are welcome to drop in during opening hours or call for details of holiday play activities. The reserve has a visitor centre and provides natural habitat for birds, butterflies, amphibians and a rich variety of plant life.
Habitats you'll see - Pond, meadow and woodland
Species you might spot - Rare earthstar fungi; reed warblers, kingfishers, geese, mallards, and reed buntings; bats.
Morgans Hill, Wiltshire
Morgans Hill is one of the highest points in Wiltshire and boasts incredible views of the surrounding county.
Walkers and wildlife watchers can enjoy a rewarding backdrop to their climb, and perhaps even catch a glimpse of the endangered Marsh Fritillary butterfly which feeds on the Devil’s-bit Scabious found here during late summer. Indeed, the reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its orchids, butterflies and for the general quality of its grassland.
As well as this, the reserve has a number of important historical features, including a Roman road which once ran all the way from London to Bath, and a fifth century Wansdyke that was built to defend the northern territory of Wessex.
Hayley Wood, Cambridgeshire
Many species that make England’s oak-ash woods special can be found in abundance in this historic wood
This ancient woodland is a treasure trove of spring flowers, traditional management practices and archaeological clues to times past. As well as the usual flora, such as bluebell, wood anemone and dog’s mercury, Hayley Wood is host to hundreds of species of fungi, and thousands of insects and birds. Its chequered history is laid out for all to see, if you know how to look.
As you walk up Hayley Lane, the hedge on your left is at least 800 years old and in the winter groans with berries that sustain fieldfares and redwings. As you pass the cottage, you cross the bed of the old Cambridge to Bedfordshire railway line. The tracks are long gone but the telegraph poles give a clue to the industrial past and many of the plants which thrive here today were carried here as seed in the wake of speeding trains.
In the wood itself you cannot fail to notice the fence, erected by the Wildlife Trust to protect most of the wood from the ravages of deer browsing. Although not in keeping with the landscape, it has reversed twenty years of decline in the oxlip population for which the wood is so famous. The area you first enter is young oak woodland, grown up since 1920 on a ridged arable field, then as you pass over the bank and ditch which mark the original wood boundary, you enter the ancient wood.
The main ride is a flower-filled corridor between 14 coppice plots, it shows the gradual progress from freshly harvested crop, through lush spring flowers to shady grove. At the end of the plots is the roundabout, the historical turning point for teams of heavy horses when extracting timber, now the site of an information hut where you can explore more of the history of the site. From here you can see some of the wilder parts of the wood, where coppicing is long abandoned and the undergrowth is thicker.
Whitelee Moor, Northumberland
Whitelee Moor is one of Britain's most important upland nature reserves.
A large part of the reserve is rare blanket bog, which is home to a variety of plants including sphagnum mosses, cloudberry, bog asphodel and cotton grasses. The site includes blanket bog, heather moorland, rough grassland and acid grassland, with pockets of valley fen and a few calcareous habitats.
Whitelee is grazed as it has been for hundreds of years, but levels of sheep and cattle are carefully controlled. Former drainage channels have been dammed to make sure the bog stays wet and over 35ha of new woodland has been planted, largely birch, rowan, willow and hazel. Some aspen has also been incorporated in the scheme while small amounts of ash and oak have been put in more sheltered spots.
On the lower slopes the heather moorland is home to birds such as red grouse, and birds of prey including merlin, buzzard, peregrine flacon and hen harrier. One of the moor's most striking insects is the northern eggar moth - its brown woolly caterpillars emerge as a large brown day-flying moth. Butterflies such as ringlet, small heath and green veined white are seen in summer. Skylark, stonechat and meadow pipit are common across the site, while on the high ground dunlin and golden plover arrive in spring to breed.
The River Rede and its tributaries add to the habitat diversity. Otters often hunt along the Rede. Adder and common lizard are common here as well as palmate newts on small pools along the burn.
A herd of feral goats can sometimes be seen on the border with Kielderhead. There are interesting flush areas with plants such as early marsh orchid. High up the Bateinghope Burn, near Buzzard Crag, are two sets of limekilns, which burned limestone from a nearby quarry and mine.
The three bays of Kimmeridge, Brandy and Worbarrow form a Voluntary Marine Nature Reserve. The beautiful coastline - Worbarrow in particular has been called the most beautiful bay in the country - provides a variety of habitats and consequently a wide variety of flora and fauna.
Kimmeridge Bay in particular, because of its shallow waters and extended low tides, is of particular interest to those interested in marine life.
In its shallow waters you may come across a lobster - blue in colour, the red it is associated with comes after cooking. Edible crabs can also be found among the colourful sponges. Kimmeridge Bay is so shallow it is like a huge rock pool and many are those who use a snorkel to see what is below the surface.
However there is plenty to see without a snorkel along the shoreline. Here there are more delicate, coral-like seaweeds and the much more invasive japweed which first arrived in the 70s and which has defied all attempts at eradication. Also watch out here for the snakelocks anemone whose sting can even be felt by people on more sensitive parts of the body.There are large numbers of crabs to be found here as well. Look out in particular for the Velvet Swimming Crab with its bright red eyes. Don’t argue with it though. It moves faster than you can and takes on all comers!
Even further up the shore of Kimmeridge Bay you will find those species which more readily adapt to drier conditions - limpets and barnacles live alongside the Beadlet Amenone which, out of water, looks like a blob of jelly but opens like a flower when submerged and does slow but deadly battle with those of the same species. Look out for the shore crab - another resident of Kimmeridge Bay - who may be found lurking under fronds of seaweed hiding from its predators. Every so often it outgrows its armour-like shell and you may see some discarded ones which are often mistaken for dead crabs.
Again, even further up the shore, there is life. Certain types of seaweed such as Channel Wrack are so dry and brittle they seem dead until revived by the sea which may reach them here only rarely.
It is the tidal system at Kimmeridge which allows for such variety. The tables for Portland will give precise times but the best tides are in the spring (March to May) and comes just after the full and new moons when low water will be at about 12 noon and about three quarters of an hour later over each of the next few days.
More is to be found away from the shoreline at Kimmeridge. Many of the birds we think of when we think of Purbeck - oystercatchers, buzzards, redstarts etc - all make an appearance. There are also many butterflies of note including the local Lulworth Skipper. Also in the Kimmeridge shales you may chance upon some fossils - some of which are suitable for rubbing though it should be remembered that it is dangerous to wander onto the unstable cliffs.
Apart from all the wildlife Kimmeridge is a great place for recreational pursuits. Swim or stroll along the beach. Fishing or diving along the Underwater Nature Trail and when the surf is up and it is windy enough come and see the windsurfers as they shoot across Kimmeridge Bay and leap over the waves.
Cley Marshes, Norfolk
Cley Marshes Nature Reserve on the north Norfolk coast is one of the UK’s finest bird watching sites; worth a visit at any time of year.
The view from the visitor centre across the Marsh to the sea is breathtaking.
It was purchased in 1926 making it the first Wildlife Trust reserve in the country. 2011 was its 85th anniversary!
The shingle beach and saline lagoons, along with the grazing marsh and reedbed support large numbers of wintering and migrating wildfowl and waders, as well as bittern, marsh harrier and bearded tit.
A new eco-friendly visitor centre opened in 2007 containing a café, shop, viewing areas (including viewing from a camera on the reserve), exhibition area, interpretation and toilets. Despite being only four years old the new centre has already had its first re-paint in time for spring 2011.
Potteric Carr, Yorkshire
Potteric Carr is a truly special place all year round. With nature paths suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs, that guide you around a stunning wetland habitat littered with pockets of woodland and wildflower meadows. Whilst you wander you may come face to face with a stoat or fox, whilst hides allow you to get up close and personal with birds such as lapwings and kingfishers.
There is a wide range of wildlife on the reserve owing mainly to the diversity of habitats from open water through marsh (the largest area of reedbeds in South Yorkshire) to scrub and mature woodland. Over 158 species of bird have been recorded. Around 70 species breed every year including kingfisher, bittern, grasshopper, reed and sedge warblers, all three woodpeckers and woodcock.
Marsh plants include great spearwort, lesser water-plantain, lesser reedmace, greater tussock sedge, purple small reed, great water dock, yellow-wort and traveller’s-joy. Twenty eight species of butterfly have been recorded including comma, gatekeeper, white-letter hairstreak, purple hairstreak and brown argus. Of the 20 species of dragonfly which have been recorded, 17 are known to have bred. Recent newcomers include black-tailed skimmer, banded demoiselle, hairy dragonfly, broad-bodied chaser and ruddy darter.