At The Wildlife Trusts, we love wild play. We’ve got sand pits, mud kitchens, outdoor gyms and even hire-able nature packs at many of our nature reserves to encourage young minds to explore, create and discover. Have fun and learn at our nature reserves where it’s always okay to play!
On our reserves go pond-dipping, bug-hunting, birdwatching, hill-rolling, tree climbing, duck feeding, den building, trail exploring, sandwich-munching, wildlife-watching and lots of lots of running and jumping! Share your wild summer adventures with us by sending in your photographs and tweeting us using #mywildsummer.
The Nature Discovery Centre (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust)
Families can really have an adventure at BBOWT’s Nature Discovery Centre. With lots of paths and boardwalks the reserve is very pushchair-friendly. The reserve also has a lot to offer for children: nature trails, pond-dipping areas, picnic areas, play equipment and interactive interpretation. Why not make some cardboard binoculars with the children and take them to a bird hide? For parents and grandparents there is a cafe to reenergise alongside toilet facilities and a shop.
Summer wildlife highlights here include hunting swifts and swallows, garden tiger and butterbur moths and a fantastic range of beetles including the bloody-nose and rhinoceros beetle.
College Lake (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust)
This pushchair-friendly reserve has plenty to offer for families. Try the Time Trail, great for first-time visitors, just follow the ammonite waymarkers. Why not make up stories along your way around? Who lives up in that tree? Which dinosaur’s footprint does that puddle belong to? Explore the world of bees at the Bee Centre, or learn about old farming methods that are still practiced on the reserve.
Fancy some bird watching? There are 11 hides scattered around the reserve. Can you find them all? If that’s not enough, the reserve has areas great for great pond-dipping and picnics. A shop, café and toilet facilities are also available on site, alongside many Family Fun days.
Warburg Nature Reserve (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust)
With a visitor centre, bird hides, picnic area and resident warden to help with queries, Warburg Nature Reserve is a great place to bring your family. From the visitor centre families can pick up a special backpack that includes games, trail notes and spotter sheets for wildlife as tiny as beetles and as big as red kites. Children can follow the trail through the woods, the wildlife pond and the grassy glades at their own pace. Warburg is BBOWT's best reserve for orchids - 15 species have been recorded here, including the fly orchid and bird's-nest orchid.
The Nature Discovery Centre (Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust)
Managed by BBOWT Wildlife Trust on behalf of West Berkshire Council, this new centre and reserve are ideal for families. Adventure playgrounds, picnic areas, buggy friendly walks and nature trails and tons of activities including bug hunting and pond dipping there is plenty of family action here. The visitor centre is also interactive containing puzzles, microscopes, binoculars and games. After all of that fun treat yourselves to a hot chocolate or pot of tea in the cafe, perhaps you’ve even earned yourself a cookie?
Warburg (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust)
Borrow wildlife explorer packs for the day and set out on the nature detectives trail. There are games to try, spotter sheets to help you identify your finds and trail notes for clues through the woods and glades. Look out for rare orchids and butterflies along the way. Unwind in the bird hides, munch on sandwiches in the picnic area and go on a quest for purple hairstreak caterpillars that make home in the oaks.
Potteric Carr Nature Reserve (Yorkshire Wildlife Trust)
Famed for its wetland birds including bitterns and black-necked glebes, Potteric Carr has a network of paths enabling visitors to explore the mosaic of habitats and enjoy the stunning vistas found at this large nature reserve. With excellent facilities including a tearoom, shop, toilets and hides, the reserve is great for all the family. Children can enjoy the natural play sculptures and nature trails. Want to play some games along the way? I-spy leaflets are available from reception, alongside activity rucksacks including pond dipping and bug hunting to offer a fun adventure.
Staveley Nature Reserve (Yorkshire Wildlife Trust)
This large, buggy-accessible site has been sculpted through quarrying activities followed by decades of work by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. Today families can enjoy children’s trails and wildlife sculptures. Overlooking the East Lagoon, look for bubbles on the water surface along the edge of the reedbeds, or sudden panic among the resting ducks as signs of an otter's presence. The bright colours of damselflies and dragonflies that flitter around the main lagoons and small ponds also deliver splashes of shiny bright colour that children often enjoy.
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. Its rainbow coloured meadows are something out of a dream – unspoilt by pesticides and fertilisers – in summer they explode into beautiful displays of flowers including betony, ox-eye daisy and heath spotted orchid
Feed Bristol (Avon Wildlife Trust)
Located next to Folly Farm, Feed Bristol is Avon Wildlife Trust’s wildlife-friendly food-growing site which enables people across Bristol to access and value the natural world through learning how to grow food using wildlife-friendly methods. Over the summer, children can take part in the holiday club ‘Running Wild’ and toddlers can have fun in the ‘Pea Shoots’ group where activities include den building and bush crafts. Disabled toilets, onsite parking, hot water and baby change facilities are on site.
Willsbridge Valley (Avon Wildlife Trust)
An oasis of wildlife amongst modern housing estates. Go on a summer woodland picnic or visit the ponds to embrace hopping frogs and toads and hunting kingfishers. The valley is often used for foxes and badgers, can you find their tracks? Learn about the history of the valley by following the heritage sculpture trail or visit the wildlife garden for inspiration on how you can make your garden a better home for wildlife.
Portbury Wharf (Avon Wildlife Trust)
This fun nature reserve is a valuable wetland habitat great for spotting rarer species such as the water vole and otter. Other interesting species include the hairy dragonfly and greater horseshoe bat. Have a picnic in the hay meadows and listen out for buzzing insect life, if you’re lucky you might spot a hunting buzzard or owl. The majority of the reserve is flat and contains public footpaths providing good access for pushchair users.
Brockholes Nature reserve (Lancashire Wildlife Trust)
Families are spoilt for choice at Brockholes with things to see and do. You can explore the iconic floating visitor village complete with a restaurant, shops and welcome centre, while the reserve plays host to family-friendly hides, walking trails and a adventure play area. A host of events aimed at getting toddlers and their parents out on the reserve run here, including a weekly ‘Nature Tots’ group and a monthly free guided reserve walk for parents with pushchairs. Seasonal ‘Wild Families’ events are also run, which encourage children to have a natural adventure and utilize the reserve’s den building and pond dipping areas. There are also picnic areas, while Brockholes’ footpaths and kissing gates are accessible for smaller wheelchairs and pushchairs. Sorry no dogs allowed.
Moss Bank Park (The Hive Project) (Lancashire Wildlife Trust)
The Hive project is a fantastic visitor attraction for people of all ages, with its main aim to teach people on how to lead and create sustainable lifestyles, placing a large focus on home-grown food. When you walk through the gates you and your family will be taken along the path and through some amazing gardens where children’s minds can captivated in the dinosaur, world food and fairy gardens. All the paths are suitable for prams and wheelchairs, and when you reach the top of the site parents and children can get messy playing in the mud kitchen and having fun dressing up under the willow tepees and dome. The site is open 4 days per week excluding Tuesdays and Sundays.
Loch of the Lowes (Scottish Wildlife Trust)
Have a wild day out at this four-star Visitor Centre and Wildlife Reserve! The perfect opportunity for wildlife watching all year round and one of best osprey watching sites in the UK. There is a year round events programme which includes ranger-led walks, children’s activities & family fun days to wildlife trails. In the visitor centre, the children’s hide has a host of activities; kids can have fun playing wildlife I-Spy to bird bingo. The observation window has close-up views of red squirrels, great spotted woodpeckers and other woodland birds. There is a shop packed with wildlife themed gifts and toys and a refreshment area to enjoy relaxing with a hot or cold drink and snack.
Falls of Clyde (Scottish Wildlife Trust)
Part of the Clyde Valley Woodlands National Nature Reserve, the Falls of Clyde begins in New Lanark World Heritage Village with its four star Visitor Centre. Inside you will find footage of their nesting peregrine falcons, interactive games and seasonal spotter sheets to take with you when exploring the woodland trails. From March to June you can follow the peregrine trail. This series of clues will lead you to our family friendly peregrine watch site; manned with its very own peregrine ranger! Whilst walking through the reserve you will notice lots of signs of the resident badgers and other wildlife. For your chance to see a badger, why not join the rangers on a family badger watch, which run from May - August? This woodland reserve is a truly magical place to visit; with a boardwalk along the river, it gives everyone the opportunity to get close to wildlife. It's a great place to explore with regular sightings of otters, dippers, kingfishers and more…
Jupiter Urban Wildlife Centre (Scottish Wildlife Trust)
Jupiter is one of Scotland's finest examples of the reclamation of disused industrial land for wildlife and people. This urban nature oasis right in the middle of industrial Grangemouth is a haven for birds, butterflies and wildflowers. The centre is a fantastic place for family adventures and is completely pushchair friendly. Want to do something independantly? Then embrace some self-lead activities including tree orienteering, den building and pond dipping. The centre can help by loaning out equipment free of charge. Free all year around visit for wildlife encounters and then rest with a picnic with several different picnic areas to chose from.
Montrose Basin (Scottish Wildlife Trust)
Just minutes from the centre of Montrose, this unique wildlife attraction combines the sights and sounds of birds such as kingfishers, ducks and geese or watch seals through the high powered telescopes. There are a host of child-friendly activities within the four-star Visitor Centre. Whatever your age, Montrose Basin offers fun for all the family. Relax in the refreshment area and soak up breathtaking panoramic views of the reserve, have fun playing games and activities, or learn about the fascinating world of tiny creatures using the centre’s microscopes. There are "Wild about the Basin" children's activity sessions every Wednesday throughout the school holidays.
Langford Lakes (Wiltshire Wildlife Trust)
Having a manic summer and need to find a peaceful spot for the family to unwind? Then Langford Lakes is your answer. Its tranquil lake, flourishing bird life and abundant hides make up the perfect recipe for relaxing and getting close to nature. Langford Lake’s two visitor centres also play host to many family activities. The reserve also includes parking for disabled visitors and coaches, cycle racks and toilets. If you’re having a lucky day you might even spot an Osprey.
Lower Moor Farm (Wiltshire Wildlife Trust)
Lower Moor Farm is a stunning haven for both wildlife and people. A wonderful waterscape linked together by ancient hedges, woodland and meadows make this a very magical place. The visitor centre, which is used as a resource for education groups, looks like a home from another area adding a sense of adventure. Outside, raised beds are planted seasonally with vegetables and salad crops, herbs and other sensory plants. A replica Iron Age hut is a focus for the wildlife learning area where children can enjoy pond dipping. Hands-on educational activities and holiday clubs are run throughout the summer.
Conigre Mead (Wiltshire Wildlife Trust)
A small urban nature reserve in the heart of Melksham, Conigre Mead is a lovely grassy meadow on the banks of the Bristol Avon. Easily accessible with good level paths, families arriving with pushchairs will find it easy to walk around the meadow and sit overlooking the river. Many children wildlife favourites can be found here. On sunny days dragonflies and damselflies will entertain you with their courtship displays, while butterflies probe their long tongues into the colour of flowers. You may be lucky enough to spot a grass snake or water vole. Need some shade? Retreat to the magnificent ancient willow tree and tell wildlife stories. What animals could be living inside listening to your stories?
Westhay Moor NNR (Somerset Wildlife Trust)
Westhay Moor offers beautiful exploration along its shimmering lakes, reed beds and singing birds. Ideal for families, the reserve has pushchair-friendly paths leading up to numerous hides, wildlife sculptures and wildlife murals (large wall paintings). Even better, Exmoor ponies are now allowed to graze through the reserve adding an extra dose of elegance to the beautiful landscape.
Portrack Marsh / Maze Park (Tees Valley Wildlife Trust)
A green oasis right at the centre of the Teesside. Park at the Tees Barrage and follow the cycle path along the River Tees and through Portrack Marsh. Keep your eyes open for a variety of birds on the marsh including heron, sand martin and the elusive kingfisher. As you continue along the River Tees to Newport Bridge keep an eye out for seals. Cross over the bridge and follow the path back through Maze Park Nature Reserve and you will discover an excellent spot for butterflies. Relax and get your breath back by watching the scarce grayling and dingy skipper and see if you can spot our giant butterfly mobile.
Newlands Corner (Surrey Wildlife Trust)
Newlands Corner is a popular reserve with superb views of the surrounding countryside. With 103 hectares of open chalk downland and woodlands to explore, coupled with a snack bar, play area and picnic area children can really let off stream. The hundred year old yew trees here provide the perfect backdrop to hide and side. The woods shelter roe deer, green woodpeckers, nuthatches and tawny owls, keep your ears pricked for their calls.
Norbury Park (Surrey Wildlife Trust)
A working landscape with farms and a commercial sawmill. The reserve is a mixture of habitats such as woodland, grassland and various areas of farmland. It is this variety that encourages a vast amount of wildlife to visit including roe deer, foxes, badges and all three species of British woodpecker. Equipped with car parks and a cycle route enjoy a family fun cycle ride together. Afterwards, visit Bocketts Farm, a place full of children’s indoor and outdoor activities. Need a rest? Then grab a brew from the tea room.
Low Barns (Durham Wildlife Trust)
This 50 hectare site comprises extensive alder woodland, species-rich grasslands and lakes visited by otters. Containing well surfaced and even-graded circular walks, having a buggy needn’t stop you from exploring. The hides also have ramped access. Want to see jewelled flying insects? The small ponds are excellent places to marvel at damselflies and dragonflies, including the impressive southern hawker. Toilets and a visitor centre are also on site.
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. The Rainton Meadows Visitor centre (next door) has classrooms that cater for children’s clubs and events, with lots planned over the summer including pond dipping and den building. The centre has also a cafe, information panels and toilet. Visit in August for the new installation of an interactive nature trail before for children!
Attenborough Nature Centre (Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust)
The Attenborough Nature Reserve really has grafted the concept of a great ‘family day out’. With most of the reserve containing push-chair and wheelchair friendly paths and boardwalks, all visitors can easily navigate their way around flooded gravel pits and islands supporting the region’s largest heronry. Have fun in the willow peninsula area, which is complete with a pond, bird feeding stations and a sensory nature trail. Can you spot the bug hotel? Parents can relax in the cafe, while children explore the centre’s nature table which is full of specimens to look at and puzzles to complete. A large screen in the cafe also shows nest box images, views of the reserve as well as information on forthcoming events.
The Idle Valley Rural Learning Centre (Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust)
This spectacular wetland site, the size of 600 football pitches, it is one of the largest sites for families to explore this summer. Pushchair-friendly paths and boardwalks are plenty here alongside a natural play area including nature sculptures, a musical bridge, willow domes and picnic tables. Children can embark in den building and pond dipping as part of an organised activity with the Trust. The Wildlife shop and coffee shop, which are now open 7 days a week, provides the perfect pit-stop for thirsty explorers.
Bystock Pools (Devon Wildlife Trust)
Want to see flittering dragonflies and damselflies in the summer? Then Bystock pools is the place to visit. With the reserve’s freshwater pool containing a boardwalk allowing all round access to the pool, families can get extra close to nature. Children can go pond-dipping, while its surrounding trees provide great nesting sites for birds and a cool shady shelter for visitors. Climb the slopes of the nature reserve's valley to marvel in heathers and huge meadows alive with butterflies.
Meeth Quarry (Devon Wildlife Trust)
A mixture of lakes, woodlands, ponds, bogs and grasslands makes Meeth Quarry a wonderful place for people to explore and wildlife to dwell. The reserve contains a 1 mile multi-access trail suitable for pushchairs. Bring along some cardboard binoculars and keep watch for brown hares, skylarks, tree pipits and bright butterflies. Embark on a family treasure hunt with the reserve’s geocache trail – an outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices (Global Positioning System). What will you find?
St Nicholas Park reserve (Northumberland Wildlife Trust)
St Nicholas Park is a mosaic of different habitats; maturing woodland, a small pond, grassland and a wildlife friendly garden. Families will find this park a great visit as children can be entertained with the reserve’s play area, nature trail and stone circles which illustrate examples of the many rocks found around Northumberland.
Both little ones and adults can awe at the pond’s wildlife diversity including frogs, palmate newts and many bright species of dragonfly and damselfly. If you like chasing butterflies, St Nicholas Park is home to the holly blue, small skipper, comma and orange tip. The reserve’s surrounding woodland is also great place to hunt for minibeasts and for telling stories. Sorry no dogs allowed.
Wolseley Centre (Staffordshire Wildlife Trust)
A family paradise covering 26 acres of beautiful grounds. Packed with interesting featured and wildlife-friendly display gardens there is lots to explore. Enjoy the woodland, lakes and sensory garden, or take the Play Trail complete with welly ford, musical sculptures and knobbly knoll tunnels. Feed the ducks or take a picnic beside any of the three lakes or search for colourful dragonflies and the bright blue flash of the kingfisher as you stroll alongside the river. Stop off in the sensory garden, packed with plants that stimulate your sense of smell, taste, touch, sight and sound.
Whisby Nature Park (Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust)
The Little Darters adventure play park stretches across the water from the main land to an island where youngsters can go underground, climb the exploration towers and watch wildlife through a mole’s eye view. There is also a sandpit, outdoor gym and lots of picnic benches. Stroll through one of the six waymarked trails that take you around the most interesting and accessible places within the park. Visit the Natural World Centre to enjoy a bite to eat from the cafe, a roam through the gift shop or a visit to the underground exhibitions to learn about our changing world.
Blashford Lakes (Hampshire & IOW Wildlife Trust)
This pushchair friendly reserve has eight kilometres of rolled gravel paths giving access to six bird hides. Two mobility buggies are available to hire prior to arrangement. The lakes attract thousands of wildfowl, visit to hear the boom of the bittern and the singing of redpoll and siskin. Why not try recording their bird song and use them as your ringtone? Contains an education centre and toilets. Regular family events organised here include basic bush craft skills, lake splashing and buggy walks.
For more information visit Hampshire & IOW Wildlife Trust’s website
Winnall Moors (Hampshire & IOW Wildlife Trust)
Winnall Moors is unique in many ways, not least because it is only minutes away from Winchester’s bustling city centre. Over the last five years the Trust has been working to improve Winnall Moors for people as well as wildlife. The lower part of the reserve is equipped with paths, bridges, a pond dipping platform and plenty of benches making it very accessible for families with young children and those with mobility difficulties. Guide your way around the reserve using the story trail and keep your eyes peeled for wonderful wildlife including the reserve’s secretive otters and water voles.
Testwood lakes (Hampshire & IOW Wildlife Trust)
Managed by HIWWT on behalf of Southern Water, Testwood Lakes Nature Reserve is steeped in Bronze Age history and is an ideal place for families to learn about this historic place as well as the wildlife that can be found here. Most of the paths are pushchair-friendly; including those around the lakes and to the two bird hides (including ramps into them). An all-terrain wheelchair and mobility scooter are also available to hire. The education centre provides scavenger hunt leaflets and activity sheets to help guide you around the reserve. Have fun finding wooden sculptures along the way – the tree bench is a popular place to stop. A range of toddler and family events is an offer at the reserve where families can get involved in pond dipping, having fun in the mud kitchens and making musical instruments from natural materials.
Swanwick Lakes (Hampshire & IOW Wildlife Trust)
This family friendly reserve has plenty to offer people of all ages. With over 1 mile of surfaced marked trails passing round the lake and through woodland there are plenty of opportunities to explore the wildlife here. There are benches and grassy areas to stop for a wild picnic. All throughout the year the education centre runs lots of family events including meadow mini-beast hunts, wild camping and art craft days.
Parc Slip Nature Reserve (The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales)
This 300 acre reserve has something for everyone in family. The variety of different habitats is great for entertaining wildlife enthusiastic parents, while children can explore the discovery room, packed with exhibitions, videos and a nature table. Don’t forget about the adventure playground too! Why not discover the reserve in a different view? The well -maintained traffic-free cycle tracks are great for family cycle rides. For grandparents, there are many accessible paths for wheelchair users and walking sticks at hand for those who need it. Fancy a rest? No problem, soak up a hot beverage and a bite to eat at the coffee shop. The dog can even join in too – with tracks for dog walking, free water and dog waste bags, you really have no excuse not to bring the whole family!
Teifi Marshes (The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales)
This is a reserve that has embraced many tactics to empower families to enjoy nature. The list is a long one: guided tours, explorer packs, binocular hire, a willow maze, walking and trail maps, an osprey platform, pond dipping area, a glasshouse cafe and accessible are just for starters..
The reserve is also loaded with incredible wildlife too! Otters and mink are present in the marshes, while lamprey, stickleback and salmon dwell in the water. Frogs and toads are numerous, while grass snakes and adders make home in the grass. Visit around Easter time to watch the reserve's magnificent water buffalo graze the site. Don’t forget to the pay the giant badger a visit too!
Castle Woods – Llandeilo (The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales)
This reserve is something completely out of ordinary. For families that enjoy fairy tales, you will love the reserve’s castle. Surrounded by two ancient woodlands, this is a place where your imagination can really fun wild. In spring the woodland’s floor is carpeted in bluebell flooding the reserve with a magical atmosphere. Butterflies fill the air with dancing colours as the comma, silver-washed fritillary and speckled wood bounce from flower to flower. Listen out for the great spotted woodpecker, nuthatch, redstart and sparrowhawk.
Remember: Families don't have to stick to these larger reserves! We also have lots other wild (and even wilder) places for you to discover and enjoy a family day out at. Visit our reserves page to see the full list.