For those of us living in towns and cities, you would be forgiven for thinking your life is a world away from wildlife, but nature is often closer than you think. The Wildlife Trusts care for 2,300 nature reserves many of which are in or near towns and cities, so there’s bound to be one not too far from you. There are a huge variety of species that have learned to live alongside us in the hidden corners of our urban habitats.
Nature is closer than you think
Find urban wildlife
Do a little research in advance and find out where you can get up close to wildlife near towns and cities.
Cheshire Wildlife Trust
Eastwood - Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s Eastwood is a hidden gem of a woodland, nestling in a stunning clough valley, just a stone's throw from the centre of Stalybridge. The woods are carpeted with bluebells every spring and woodland birds are here in good numbers too, with treecreepers, nuthatches and woodpeckers a year-round sight. Warblers also arrive in spring, and then butterflies and dragonflies during the summer.
The winter is great time to see dippers feeding in the brook or a flash of blue and orange as the resident kingfisher flies over the pond. Early in the morning, if you’re really lucky, you might even spot a deer or two that come in from the moors for a sheltered spot to feed. With a host of trails to explore it really is a great place to get away from it all!
Marbury Reedbed - This hidden gem near Northwich is home to a delightful spring and summer reedbed and woodland trail and is also one of the best winter sites to spot a rare bittern in the region. After strolling through the dappled woodland canopy, head amongst the reeds rising above your head along our boardwalk – bringing you face to face with warblers, reed buntings and dragonflies.
Woodpeckers, including the secretive lesser spotted woodpecker, are here too clambering amongst the gnarled trunks. If you take a stroll here on a summer evening you might see Daubenton's bats hunting over the water. A winter visit brings the chance to see a kingfisher or maybe the elusive bittern from the shore line hide. The starling roost of 20,000 or more birds during November and December is another sight not to be missed!
Red Rocks Marsh - Cheshire Wildlife Trust's only coastal reserve, Red Rocks has a backdrop of mature sand dunes hugging the fringes of the Royal Liverpool Golf Club with a striking vista out into the Dee Estuary and Hilbre Island. These rare and constantly changing habitats are home to more than 50 types of plants, whilst spring and autumn migration sees visitors like ring ouzels, redstarts and wheatears stopover as they make a landfall.
A spring visit may reward you with the unforgettably loud calls of the natterjack toad from deep within newly created habitats. In the summer you can look forward to the arrival of warblers in the reedbed, and skylarks in full song head for the clouds above.
Durham Wildlife Trust
Shibdon Pond is one of the few large open water bodies left in the southern part of Tyne and Wear and is one of the best wetlands in the region for wintering wildfowl. The meadow is the last substantial, traditionally managed herb-rich permanent pasture in this part of the Tyne Valley. It contains a wonderful assemblage of plants including a colony of southern marsh orchids and is a great place for butterfly watching.
Winter may be the best time for bird-watching on the pond, there is something to see all year round, from breeding frogs and tadpoles, to the dash of a kingfisher and if you are really lucky a glimpse of an otter or great crested newt.
Tees Valley Wildlife Trus
Portrack Marsh - This is one of the area’s most important wildlife sites given its location at the very heart of Teesside. The wetland attracts hundreds of birds each year and it provides a home to an exciting variety of mammals, amphibians, insects and wildflowers. A network of surfaced footpaths allow visitors to explore reed beds from which views open out onto a series of shallow and deeper water pools.
In spring the reserve is visited by wheatear and whinchat. This is a reliable spot for the grasshopper warbler and other common warblers including whitethroat, willow warbler, blackcap and sedge warbler. Sand martins are often the first of the summer migrants to arrive, while common terns arrive in the second week of May and remain throughout the summer.
The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and The Black Country
Hill Hook - A mosaic of habitats preserved between housing developments, Hill Hook contains many realms to explore: wet woodlands to the south, bluebell woods to the north and wildflower meadows onwards. If you love watching birds, the site has good access along the dam wall running alongside the mill pool, from where you can view a good range of water birds, from heron to kingfisher, and swans to grey wagtail, as well as all the usual waterfowl.
Portway Hill - part of the Rowley Hills, was saved from developers by the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country and turned into a nature reserve. Looking out over Sandwell, Birmingham and parts of Dudley, the site is home to an astounding wealth of grassland, wildflowers and butterflies.
Scarce plants are an exciting find here such as the exotic bee orchid and the unusual hare's foot clover, giving support to many important butterfly species, including one of the few colonies of marbled white butterflies in Birmingham and the Black Country which you can enjoy here during July.
The site is also excellent for birds of prey including the peregrine falcon and kestrel; while other birds like the warbler can be seen in the reserve’s open grassland and scrub at the edges of the site. The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country run regular guided walks here, as well as volunteer days to manage the reserve for the benefit of wildlife.
Moseley Bog and 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.
Moseley Bog is said to be the inspiration of the ‘Old Forest’ in the writings of JRR Tolkien who lived nearby as a child and it remains an important local cultural space, with events and activities happening all year round.
Bring your friends and family to discover the woodlands, meadows and ponds. You can spot butterflies, go bird watching, take a woodland walk and enjoy the wildflowers. If you’re an early riser, you could join the Dawn Chorus Walk there on the 3rd of May; an annual event.
Staffordshire Wildlife Trust
Doxey Marshes - A vast expanse of nationally important wildlife-rich wetland on the doorstep of Stafford town centre. Doxey Marshes is a bird spotter's dream with over 200 species, and 80 recorded breeding species of bird. Seasonal highlights to look out for include snipe, teal, water rail and even the rare bittern. Spring/summer highlights include sedge and willow warblers, blackcap, swallow, shellduck, skylark and lapwing.
Hem Heath Woods - The largest woodland in the Stoke-on-Trent area is not only an urban oasis for both people and wildlife, but one of our most accessible nature reserves with a series of flat, easy-access footpaths. Visit the reserve in spring and not only will you be rewarded with bluebells and other spring flowers, but you'll also be able to hear the huge variety of woodland birds.
As you walk around the site you’ll come across woodland areas which are dominated by tall trees, predominantly sycamore. In other areas, where the Trust has been managing the woodland for many years, you should be able to see that management has encouraged an understorey of woody shrubs to develop, such as hazel, rowan and hawthorn.
Warwickshire Wildlife Trust
Ashlawn Cutting - A former railway cutting just outside the centre of Rugby, Ashlawn Cutting is the only extensive natural space for wildlife in the area. Benefiting from the lias clay soils, flowering plants flourish here during spring and summer, attracting a wide variety of insects. Ashlawn Cutting is the only known location for the forester moth in Warwickshire. Keep an eye out for the dragonflies that prosper here in summer, as well as the grass snakes that nestle in the undergrowth.
Kenilworth Common - Fantastic for family woodland walks, Kenilworth Common is a delightfully diverse Local Nature Reserve. Finham Brook at the southern boundary is home to feeding kingfishers and a natural population of brown trout. Further areas of the reserve retain some resident heathland, a habitat that is now rare in Warwickshire.
Slow-worms and common lizards have been spotted at Kenilworth Common, as well as stunning glow-worms in summer and a delightful variety of fungi in autumn.
Newbold Quarry - A deep lake dominates the site at Newbold Quarry, where natural springs have flooded a former blue lias quarry site. The lake is home to thousands of breeding toads and a native population of white-clawed crayfish. Spring welcomes many beautiful wild plants to the lime-rich clay soil, including wild strawberry, followed in summer by a delightful selection of wildflowers including common spotted orchid and bee orchid. Perfect for a relaxing escape from urban life.
Glasshouse Spinney - The presence of flowers such as sweet woodruff, yellow archangel, lily-of-the-valley, wood melick, wood anemone and dog’s mercury show that this site has been wooded since ancient times. Visit in springtime for the wonderful wildflowers, or in autumn to see a stunning array of fungi, including turkeytail, false deathcap, and the vivid purple of amethyst deceiver.
Stoke Floods - Visit Stoke Floods on the floodplain of the River Sowe to see just how wildlife can flourish in an urban environment. The large pool that is the main feature of the site attracts over 90 species of bird, many of which breed there.
Visit in winter to see overwintering bird species such as tufted duck, shoveler and snipe, contrasted in summer by the bright colours of wildflowers. Several nationally notable species of invertebrates have also been sighted at Stoke Floods, and surveys have identified 242 species of beetle alone.
Worcestershire Wildlife Trust
Ipsley Alders Marsh - Situated within the community of Winyates Green and Ipsley this reserve offers great potential to build up strong links with our neighbours and involve them in the management and monitoring of the reserve, as well increase the opportunity for wildlife-friendly management in their gardens and on the nearby allotments.
The reserve is the perfect spot for bird-watching. Winter offers opportunities to snipe, siskin, redpoll and all three woodpecker species. Throughout the summer reed bunting, grasshopper warbler and cuckoo all breed here - bring your binoculars!
Droitwich Community Woods - Fittingly for a town whose history is so closely connected to salt extraction, saline springs in Droitwich Community Woodlands have created a rare habitat of inland salt marsh. A way-marked trail leads visitors through woodland, grassland and scrub habitats and along the River Salwarpe. The slow-moving water of the nearby canal creates pond-like conditions.
A wander through the woodland and grassland offer primrose, bluebell, red campion and dog’s mercury; making spring the perfect time to visit to Droitwich Community Woods. Great for family walks.
Avon Wildlife Trust
Brandon Hill Nature Reserve is in the heart of Bristol city. It is full of cowslips in spring but during the summer ox-eye daisies, yellow rattle and knapweed add a fine splash of colour. There is a thriving pond on the reserve where you may find frogs, toads and smooth newts breeding. Birds such as blackcap and jay may be seen along the woodland walk.
If you venture to the top of Brandon Hill you will be treated to a brilliant view over the city towards the River Avon. Avon Wildlife Trust was a pioneer of urban conservation and Brandon Hill in Bristol became the country's first city centre nature reserve in 1980 – bringing hay meadows, wildlife ponds and butterfly gardens to a formal city park.
Bennett's Patch and White's Paddock - The Avon Gorge is an essential wildlife corridor for foraging species including several species of bat. It is also home to badgers, hedgehogs, slow worms and some truly unique plant species.
As part of celebrations marking Bristol’s year as European Green Capital in 2015, Avon Wildlife Trust created a new nature reserve – the Bennett’s Patch and White's Paddock Reserve – in the Avon Gorge. The 12-acre neglected sports facility was transformed into a wildlife haven of wildflower meadows, native woodland and ponds.
My Wild City - Avon Wildlife Trust's vision is for Bristol to be a nature-rich city, helping wildlife to thrive in a developing urban environment. Working with communities across Bristol, we can transform our gardens and open spaces to attract wildlife right to our doorsteps.
The 'My Wild City' maps picture the city as it's never been seen before, with the needs of wildlife at its core. They show the best places to connect habitats by linking gardens, passageways and other green spaces.
Feed Bristol is a unique community growing hub, connecting people to nature through wildlife-friendly growing. Based in Stapleton since 2012, the project brings benefits to people’s health and wellbeing by delivering a mix of education, events and volunteer opportunities. Since the opening in 2012, Feed Bristol has supported 5,500 disadvantaged people, 4,000 school children from 38 schools. In total we have been supported by 453 volunteers giving nearly 22,000 hours of their time!
Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust
CS Lewis Nature Reserve -Thought to be the inspiration behind the Narnia Classics, this tranquil woodland and large pond used to belong to celebrated Oxford author CS Lewis. With the A40 nearby and surrounded by houses, it is a surprise that the reserve has kept its sense of stillness. The pond, a flooded Victorian clay pit, is full of aquatic plants. Toads migrate here to spawn in spring and there are fascinating displays of dragonflies and damselflies in summer.
Waterfowl such as moorhens and coots regularly nest here alongside the large numbers of songbirds filling the site with melodies! The steeply rising woodland has a canopy of beech, oak, birch, alder, ash and hawthorn. In spring, the reserve is full of birdsong. Look out for large boulders known as 'sandstone doggers' on slopes in the trees. Where springs arise, giant horsetail grows in the wet ground.
Lye Valley - In Headington, surrounded by roads, hospitals and housing, is a truly remarkable piece of Oxford’s natural history – the Lye Valley! The reserve has one of the best examples of a calcareous valley fen, and is noted for more than 300 plant species, including 20 that are on the Rare Plants of Oxfordshire register.
A short walk down from the busy streets off The Slade, you will discover a land that time forgot. This place was studied by Tudor botanists. Some of their plant samples can still be found at the Oxford University Herbarium today. Take a walk around the reserve this summer and you will see orchids, the delicately striped flowers of Grass-of-Parnassus, lizards, slow-worms and a huge variety of birds.
Chilswell Valley - Take a short walk from South Hinksey, or a slightly longer walk from Abingdon Road, and you will stumble upon this wonderful gem of a reserve, known locally as Happy Valley! A boardwalk takes you through a reed bed and fen and into a steep sided wet woodland with ancient gnarly oak and ash. From here you can follow the stream and walk back along the limestone grassland.
In the summer you will see a wonderful array of orchids, intriguing wild liquorice and other beautiful wildflowers. You have every chance of catching sight of a sparrowhawk, or buzzard hunting around the reserve.
Rivermead Nature Park - You might not expect to find this place in the middle of Rose Hill housing estate, blocked on two sides by the Southern Bypass, and with the River Thames on its other boundary. But sure enough this wonderful little piece of wildness exists in the middle of an urban setting.
The pond here is notable for its vast array of fresh water invertebrates. It’s also famous for the toads which make their way back here each year to spawn. A tiny spring opens into a flush, which has formed a small fenland. The fen then disappears into the dense woodland while the water makes it way down to the Thames.
Iffley Meadows - In spring, the blooms of cuckooflower mark the start of a colourful sequence of wild flowers in the meadows. Several species of dragonfly and damselfly patrol the vegetated ditches during the summer. Warblers can be heard chattering in the reeds - Cetti's warbler can be distinguished by its loud, 'explosive' song.
These are wet meadows crossed by old river channels with willow-lined ditches and have a rich diversity of wildlife typical of old, unspoilt meadow land. They were once a widespread feature of our river systems, but many have been lost to drainage and farming.
Thatcham Reedbeds - Just around the corner from the popular Nature Discovery Centre is Thatcham Reedbeds, one of the largest inland reedbed habitats in southern England. These reedbeds are important for a number of breeding birds including the Cetti's warbler. You can also look out for water rail, sedge and reed warbler and reed bunting.
Over 14 species of dragonfly and damselfly have been seen in the reedbeds and at least six are thought to breed here. Look for migrant hawkers, emperor and four-spotted chaser dragonflies, as well as common blue, azure and red-eyed damselflies. There are future plans for this reserve including making the site more suitable for bittern to breed rather than just visit, so keep your eyes out for this impressive species on your next visit.
Greenham and Crookham Commons are at the heart of the West Berkshire Living Landscape, which covers more than 27km2 of lowland heathland, ancient woodland, reedbeds, rivers and streams. In summer, the heath comes alive with over 30 species of butterflies including the small blue and the expertly camouflaged grayling. They are joined by dazzling displays from damselflies and dragonflies, all set to the unmistakable music of grasshoppers and crickets.
Look for the nightjar and the Dartford warbler, both heathland specialists and experts at avoiding attention. You may also be lucky enough to hear the rich and varied song of a nightingale, or the warbling call of a skylark high in the sky.
Paices Wood is a wonderful place to enjoy a quiet walk around lakes and through woodland and is home to a rich variety of wildlife. This woodland is beautiful all year round: in spring bluebells carpet the woodland floor and in summer you can see butterflies, such as the common blue fluttering across woodland clearings.
Later in the year keep an eye out for fungi such as chicken of the woods, springing up on logs and stumps of wood. There is also an area of connected ponds on one side of the lake, which provides a perfect habitat for breeding amphibians.
Hosehill Lake hosts a wide variety of water fowl in the winter and nightingales join the butterflies and dragonflies in the spring. Whilst out walking, look out for wetland birds including lapwings, little ring plovers, great crested grebes and a number of more unusual visitors like the bittern. A large sand martin bank can be viewed from the opposite side of the lake and house martins, swifts and swallows can be seen from March/April.
The meadow to the east of the lake is a visual treat throughout the spring and summer. This area is cut and then grazed by wild Exmoor ponies in the spring and autumn. The best places to see a range of butterflies, day-flying moths and many insects are the meadow and the Butterfly Bank to the south of the lake.
Haymill Valley is a peaceful wildlife haven in the heart of Slough. A lot of recent efforts by the Friends of Haymill Valley volunteers have created a beautiful reserve which is worth a visit. Yellow iris and marsh-marigold provide a splash of colour in the reeds, where reed warblers nest. Brightly coloured kingfishers may be seen flying along the stream.
In spring, the mixed woodland is carpeted with bluebells. Great spotted woodpeckers nest in the trees. Chiffchaffs and willow warblers are among the summer visitors. A variety of butterflies including orange-tip, brimstone and speckled wood can be seen flying along the woodland edge, while small mammals such as the wood mouse make use of the dense cover.
Loddon Nature Reserve - This large, flooded gravel pit has several islands and a ragged, scrubby fringe that skirts around the shallows creating ideal conditions for wintering birds such as gadwall, smew, tufted duck, pochard, cormorant and snipe. The shallows of the lake are perfect feeding areas for wetland birds, while its islands provide quiet spots where common terns and oystercatchers can breed safely away from predators such as foxes.
In early spring, you might be lucky enough to spot the elaborate courtship 'mirror dance' of the great crested grebe, while the plant life around the lake attracts a range of butterflies, dragonflies and other aquatic insects. On summer evenings, bats will take advantage of the rich pickings as they hunt over the lake.
Gomm Valley - This steep slope is all that remains of the chalk grassland in this dry valley on the edge of built-up High Wycombe. Much of the reserve has become over grown with scrub species including dogwood, hawthorn, buckthorn, spindle, guelder-rose and wayfaring-tree. In spring, these produce a spectacular display of blossom, and the Gomm Valley is good for butterflies such as the marbled white, and more than 180 species of moth have been recorded here.
Orchids, including bee, pyramidal and common spotted, grow in the grassy areas, while common twayblades flourish in the scrub margins. On the chalk grassland, knapweeds, agrimony and lady's bedstraw can be found. Bluebells grow at the southern end of the reserve where there is some mixed broadleaved woodland and patches of wood anenome can also be found here. Some years, the scarce coralroot, can also be found in late spring. Flocks of birds, particularly from the thrush family, gorge on the berries that follow in autumn and winter.
Devon Wildlife Trust
Cricklepit Mill is a wildlife oasis in the heart of Exeter. The volunteer-led project has seen a disused overgrown area bloom into a wonderful wildlife garden. Only a 10 minute walk from the city centre and a short stroll from the Quay, Cricklepit Mill is a great place to relax and gain inspiration for your own wildlife garden.
A stream or ‘leat’ runs through the garden providing a corridor for wildlife including grey wagtails, dippers and if you’re lucky, kingfishers! The leat also provides power for the historic mill, which still runs today. More than 150 species of plants flourish in its grounds, including its sedum roof. The wildlife garden comes alive in the spring and summer months with bee and butterfly borders, mini tub ponds and a wildflower meadow patch.
Otters are also regular visitors and are caught on motion-capture cameras in the early hours of the morning. Visitors can watch this amazing footage in the small visitor centre as well as find out more about the Trust’s work and other reserves.
Dorset Wildlife Trust
Holes Bay Nature Park is located in the heart of Poole and makes a huge contribution to the high quality nature environment enjoyed by residents, visitors and local businesses. The area also provides important space for wildlife and for people to enjoy nature and outdoor activities. From this spot you have the chance to get as close to rare and beautiful nature as it gets!
Poole harbour is the largest natural harbour in Britain and an internationally important area for wildlife. Part of the shore is a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI), providing grassland, scrub and swampy areas for all sorts of wildlife including orchids, wild carrot, grasshoppers, bees and the rare round-headed club rush. Up to 20,000 wildfowl and wading birds can be found in the harbour in winter - One of the reasons for this is the mud, which is very rich in invertebrates, the perfect food for wading birds.
Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust
Winnall Moors is hidden among the hustle and bustle of Winchester urban life. A collection of former water meadows and reed beds surrounding the River Itchen, the reserve sits in the heart of this ancient city. It’s the perfect place to take the family for a fun day out trying to spot and name birds, trees or animals that live there. From rare orchids to kingfishers, dragonflies and water voles, the wildlife in Winnall is diverse, and very special.
The Water Vole Story Trail runs from the City, where you can learn about the history of the area and the wildlife that calls it home. Children’s Discovery Packs can be picked up at the tourist information centre for a refundable deposit of £10, and contains binoculars, a magnifying lens, spotter sheets and take-home activity guides for children.
Herefordshire Wildlife Trust
Lugg Meadow lies on the eastern outskirts of Hereford but is only a few minutes’ walk from the bustling city centre. Covering 330 acres, it is the largest surviving Lammas Meadow in the country – though it was once much larger. The land changes between common and private ownership over the year in a form of traditional management, 'inter-commoning', thought to date back to the Bronze Age. 90 dole stones still stand in the meadow, each marked with a name, or initials, and a date, used to mark the strips allocated out to the Commoners.
The Lugg Meadow is especially well known for its snake’s head fritillaries, many of which are a rare form - white rather than chequered purple, and flowering in April and May. Lady’s smock also flowers prolifically here in early summer before the meadow becomes a field of gold buttercups. Orange tip butterflies and banded demoiselle damselflies fly, while a few pair of curlew arrive at the meadow in early spring. While you may not be lucky enough to see an otter, you may well see paw prints or spraints by the river banks.
London Wildlife Trust
Camley Street Natural Park - The nature reserve sits in the middle of King’s Cross, alongside the sparkling new Eurostar station at St Pancras and includes two unique acres of wild green space in the heart of London. This innovative and internationally acclaimed reserve is on the banks of the Regent's Canal, providing a natural habitat for birds, butterflies, amphibians and a rich variety of plant life.
Visit in spring or summer to experience a natural tranquillity that can be hard to find in the capital. This reserve has also adopted a section of the Regent’s Canal through the Wildlife on your Waterways project, here you can find a mix of natural and urban habitat – there is also a Floating Forest Garden displaying wildlife friendly food growing techniques.
Gunnersbury Triangle - An oasis of wildlife right next to Chiswick Park tube station, Gunnersbury Triangle features sheltered birch and willow woodlands with an attractive pond, marsh and meadow habitats. The reserve celebrated its 30th birthday in 2015, having been saved from development by a vigorous campaign run by local people.
While on site, you can explore the nature trail, listen out for birds, look out for the tunnels of field voles, or keep an eye out for interesting insects and amphibians. Some species you may spot include the speckled wood and orange tip butterfly, green and greater spotted woodpecker, common newt, toad and frog, wood mouse and sparrowhawk. If you do spot any of these or other species, please submit your wildlife sightings to Greenspace Information for Greater London (GiGL) to help build a picture of London's nature!
Woodberry Wetlands is based on the site of the East Reservoir, originally constructed in 1833 and closed to public access ever since. The site has since developed into a hidden wildlife haven, home to birds such as reed bunting, song thrush, kingfisher and the occasional bittern, and provides valuable foraging and roosting habitat for bats.
Woodberry Wetlands will offer an opportunity for people to enjoy nature in the heart of east London, with carefully designed boardwalks and a visitor centre providing public access whilst minimising disturbance to wildlife.
Sydenham Hill Wood - A great place to see woodpeckers, rare insects, bats, and fungi. Sydenham Hill Wood is one of the few remaining traces of the Great North Wood which once stretched across south east London from Deptford to Selhurst. The site has a unique mixture of ancient woodland and Victorian ornamental garden plants (try and spot the monkey puzzle tree!), along with recent woodland too.
The wood is home to over 200 species of trees and flowering plants including wild garlic, early dog violet and bugle. A multitude of fungi, rare insects, birds and elusive woodland mammals are also present. Visit in spring and autumn to see the woods at their very best.
Crane Park Island - This wildlife haven has an explosive past, having grown up on the deserted site of the old Hounslow Gunpowder Mills. There are various habitat types here to explore such as woodland, scrub and reedbed.
Crane Park Island is now a beautiful nature reserve where you could be lucky enough to spot a majestic kingfisher or the threatened water vole. The clear waters of the River Crane gurgle through reed beds and dragonflies and damselflies bedazzle the eyes. Visit in spring or summer to see the site at its best.
Wiltshire Wildlife Trust
Hagbourne Copse - This pocket of woodland provides a breathing space for wildlife in west Swindon and a peaceful place where workers can take a lunchtime stroll. In April and May you can enjoy a stunning display of native bluebells.
In summer look for red campion, herb bennet, devil's-bit scabious and greater knapweed along the southern path, as well as butterflies such as the purple hairstreak, peacock, brimstone, red admiral and comma. Autumn is the best time to see fungi - 22 species sprout from trunks, branches and the ground, among them common puffball. In winter you may be lucky enough to see redwings hunting for berries and worms.
Conigre Mead was a field of rough grass until bought by local people who set about digging ponds, clearing scrub and planting trees and wildflowers. It was given to us as a nature reserve in 1989 and is now a lovely mix of ponds, wildflower-rich grassland and shrubs. Easily accessible with good, level paths, you can walk around the meadow, and sit overlooking the Bristol Avon.
On sunny days watch the courtship displays of emperor dragonfly, red-eyed and common blue damselfly and the rare white-legged damselfly. In spring and summer the meadow is a pink-and-white patchwork of ragged robin and ox-eye daisy, red campion and meadowsweet. Keep an eye out for butterflies such as the orange tip and brimstone – one of the earliest to come out in spring.
Rushey Platt is a welcome wild space in busy Swindon. It is a remnant of the lush wetland marsh that used to cover much of south Swindon before land drainage made this type of habitat uncommon in Wiltshire. Now, sandwiched between the River Ray, Wilts and Berks Canal and the former Old Town railway line, it a vital area for wildlife.
Wetland plants thrive in the rich peat soil, including marsh thistle, fragrant water mint, poisonous bittersweet and greater bird's-foot trefoil. In the summer dragonflies like the broad-bodied chaser and the fearsome emperor prey on butterflies and other flying insects. Reed bunting, common snipe and little grebe, along with other more common waterfowl, populate the area. Rustling in the scrub are great spotted woodpecker, jay, finches and crows. listen out for the ‘plop’ of the water vole as it dives into the canal, and be careful not to step on a handsome slow worm basking in the sun!
The Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs & Northants
Bradlaugh Fields is a flower-rich limestone grassland reserve in the middle of Northampton. In summertime typical grassland plants are found here including yellow-rattle, knapweeds, lady's bedstraw, red bartsia and bird's-foot trefoil. At dawn or dusk, foxes and badgers are commonly spotted around the larger Bradlaugh Fields complex. A fragment of ancient hedgerow borders the Scrub Field and dates back to the Middle Ages (13th to 15th centuries) and quite possibly Anglo-Saxon times.
Woodston Ponds - is a wetland on the banks of the River Nene, Peterborough. On the west side is a reedbed home to birds such as reed warbler, reed bunting, as well as great crested newts and water beetles.
There’s a circular boardwalk (pushchair/wheelchair friendly) and raised viewing platform where kingfisher, whitethroats and willow warblers are often seen. On the east side is a small lake where herons can be regularly seen patrolling the edges, while the open water is used by many species of duck. It is great in summer for dragonflies and damselflies, especially banded demoiselles.
Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust
King's Meads - One of the largest untouched water meadows in Hertfordshire; 265 different species of wildflower have been recorded here along with 119 bird species. In winter, flooded areas attract ducks, gulls and waders and this is also a key site for wintering stonechats. In summer, seven species of warbler breed here, in addition to good populations of reed bunting, meadow pipit and skylark.
Cassiobury Park is a wildlife haven close to the heart of a bustling town. The wet habitats found on the reserve were once shallow watercress beds, fed with water from the river through a series of ditches. These have developed into marshland and open pools, surrounded by wet woodland of alder and willow, providing valuable cover and nesting sites for birds. There are also areas of grassland where birds such as goldfinches and greenfinches feed on the seed heads of thistles and teasels. Water rail, lesser spotted woodpeckers and siskins are typical birds here.
Long Deans - A picturesque valley of pasture and old parkland near Hemel Hempstead with magnificent oak, beech, ash and wild cherry trees. Long Deans Nature Reserve is noted for its grassland floral communities, butterflies, birds and other invertebrates. The site is home to UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priority species - common linnet, common bullfinch and song thrush, and is also noted for veteran trees, which provide habitat for fungi, invertebrates, hole-nesting birds and bats.
Norfolk Wildlife Trust
Thorpe Marshes - Bordering the River Yare, Thorpe Marshes is Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s first truly urban site, located on the eastern fringe of Norwich. A large area of open water hosts a variety of water birds, particularly in winter, including great crested grebe, pochard, cormorant, grey heron, gadwall and tufted duck, including rarer visitors, such as the little egret, while the surrounding scrub is home to reed buntings and a few Cetti’s warblers.
Flower-rich marshes criss-crossed with dykes are home to many dragonfly and damselfly species, including the rare Norfolk hawker and the even larger emperor dragonfly, and several species of common butterfly can also be seen. More surprisingly, given its proximity to Norwich city centre, a number of mammals have been recorded on the reserve including Chinese water deer, and its smaller relative the muntjac. Foxes have been seen, as well as brown hare, hedgehog, stoat and weasel, and excitingly, the rare water vole occurs in small numbers.
Suffolk Wildlife Trust
Gunton Meadow is part of a small network of wildlife rich habitats in north Lowestoft. A mix of species-rich grassland, with five species of orchid and a host of other wildflowers flourishing under a reinstated regime of annual hay cutting, it is an excellent example of just how rich these boulder clay meadows can be. Excellent ponds support a large population of great crested newts, which are a brilliant find if you venture on the reserve.
Hutchison's Meadow is an interesting flower-rich grassland that is a mix of spring-fed wet grassland and drier grassland associated with sand and gravels. The meadow was kindly donated to Suffolk Wildlife Trust by Sir Peter and lady Hutchinson.
The wet grassland includes species such as ragged-robin, common fleabane, square-stalked St John's-wort and then there is also a superb colony of southern marsh orchid. The drier parts of the meadow support typical meadow species such as sweet-vernal grass, red clover, yellow rattle, meadow and bulbous buttercups.
Framlingham Mere - With its surrounding wet meadows and ancient castle backdrop, the stunningly beautiful Mere at Framlingham is considered by many to be the best view in inland Suffolk. The reserve is best known for its sedge beds – a rare habitat in Suffolk – and stream of migrating birds. There is a wonderful show of massed marsh marigolds, delicate ragged-robin and lady’s smock in spring and if water levels aren’t too high, birds like green and common sandpiper and snipe can sometimes be seen here.
The Wildlife Trust for South and West Wales
Ystradfawr Nature Reserve is in the heart of Ystradgynlais, a former mining town at the head of the Swansea Valley, South Wales. Once an industrial landscape with three separate collieries, it has been left to nature for the past 60 years. Wet woodland and marshy grassland have developed and it's now thriving with wildlife. It is one of the best areas in Wales for the rare marsh fritillary butterfly - look out for flying adults in June.
The spring and summer wildflower displays here are stunning. The rhos pasture has purple flowering devil's bit scabious, as well as the species- rich wildflower meadows having magnificent displays of ragged robin and angelica. Grass-snakes, slow-worms and common lizards can be seen basking in the sunshine. The wet woodland is inhabited by many woodland birds and a good site to hear the well-known call of the visiting cuckoo.
Bog Meadows Nature Reserve - An oasis for wildlife and people, Bog Meadows Nature Reserve is situated in the heart of Belfast city, composed of a mosaic of reedbeds, meadows, ponds, woodland, streams and hedgerows. There are over 3km of ‘access for all’ paths with interpretive signage.
During the summer months, look out for sedge, willow and grasshopper-warblers, also sand martins and swallows. In the autumn, a variety of waders such as black tailed godwit 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. In 2004, it was awarded the UNESCO award for Urban Wildlife Excellence.
The Miley, Dundee - Part of a disused railway within walking distance of Dundee city centre, The Miley was once nothing more than a mile-long rubbish tip. Local volunteers, trainees and school children helped to breathe new life into this reserve by removing rubbish and planting trees, shrubs and wildflowers. The path offers a relaxing stroll, particularly in the summer when the reserve is full of birdsong and the wildflowers are alive with butterflies. Look out for bumblebees and peacock butterflies that can be seen flying between the bluebells, red campion and oxeye daisy. Birds such as the long-tailed tit, blackbird, and chaffinch can be seen – and heard – during the summer months. You should also listen out for the song of goldfinches who use their large beaks to extract seeds from the thistle, birch and alder found along the Miley.
Cumbernauld Glen, Cumbernauld - An ancient woodland within the Cumbernauld Living Landscape partnership project. The Friends of Cumbernauld Glen, a community-based conservation group, assists in the Glen’s management and advises the Trust on project decisions to do with this reserve. Cumbernauld Glen is used by walkers, cyclists and horse riders. There is also the reserve’s Mountain Bike Trail (the Glen Mile) and a 16th century dovecot. The Glen is home to mature oaks, as well as scots pine and rowan. Wildflowers such as snowdrops in spring and bluebells in summer can be seen growing alongside the path. These wildflower meadows have attracted butterflies like the small pearl-bordered fritillary, large and small whites, the small tortoiseshell and even garden tiger moths. You also have a good chance of seeing divers such as kingfishers or other woodland birds like woodpeckers or crossbills. You may even spot a deer or two!
Luggiebank Wood, Cumbernauld – Located just behind the train station at Greenfaulds in Cumbernauld, Luggiebank wood is a diverse woodland that runs alongside Luggie Water. Luggiebank is part of the Cumbernauld Living Landscape partnership project. Local volunteers and schoolchildren help with the conservation of the woodland while enjoying the peaceful journey through Cumbernauld’s smallest wildlife reserve. Trees like alder, birch and rowan provide shade for the bluebells and orange fox-and-cubs beneath them. Along the water’s edge and near the waterfall you have the chance to see kingfishers, otters and even water voles. Birds such as grasshopper warblers, chiff chaffs, buzzards and owls can also be seen or heard in the woodland.
Jupiter Urban Wildlife Centre, Grangemouth – This visitor centre in Grangemouth is an excellent example of how wasteland can be transformed into an urban green space that provides a rich habitat and haven for wildlife. Jupiter contains woodland, wetland and meadows, as well as the rubbish garden where old items are re-purposed to aid wildlife. The visitor centre also runs events throughout the year to help introduce children to wildlife including pond dipping and minibeast hunting. A range of insects including butterflies, dragonflies, ladybirds and more can be discovered hiding in the wildflower meadows and woodlands. Pond dippers can investigate the frogs and toads living in Jupiter’s waterways. Plants such as marsh marigolds, cuckoo flowers and scarlet elf cup fungus add splashes of colour to brighten anyone’s day.
Possil Marsh, outskirts of Glasgow – To the North of Glasgow, Possil Marsh is a freshwater loch surrounded by marsh, swamp and fen, with areas of willow scrub and grassland. As one of Scotland’s first nature resreves, Possil Marsh has been recognised for its importance as a staging post during the spring and autumn migration of warblers and waterfowl. Breeding birds on the reserve include reed buntings, moorhens, snipe and the secretive water rail. The loch is also home to several unusual and locally rare plants. These include at least six types of orchid and marsh cinquefoil. Such diverse plant life attracts a range of insects, spiders, moths, snails and leeches. You may also see evidence of some of the mammals that live on the marsh such as voles, rabbits, otters and foxes.
Bawsinch & Duddingston, Edinburgh – Edinburgh’s only natural freshwater loch can be found just 2 miles from the city centre. The land around Duddingston loch includes areas of mixed woodland, scrub, grassland and reedbeds. Otters and water voles have been seen swimming along the shore, particularly in winter. Duddingston is an important site for breeding and wintering wildfowl. There is also a Heronry with breeding herons. Other birds spotted on the loch include kingfishers, wrens, swallows, kestrels and song thrush. The southern shore (Bawsinch nature reserve) is not accessible without prior arrangement. There are occasionally guided walks through Bawsinch available as bookable events through the Scottish Wildlife Trust.
Montrose Basin, Montrose – Just one mile from Montrose, the Montrose Basin visitor centre is an enclosed estuary of the river South Esk that is home to over 80,000 migratory birds. The centre offers a variety of opportunities to experience nature in new and exciting ways. Telescopes and binoculars are set up and ready to use. There are interactive toys and games including microscopes and puzzles for children. The centre also runs regular wildlife events such as guided walks and activities for children.The tidal basin is an important roosting and feeding area for a variety of migrant birds, and is internationally important for breeding eiders, wintering waders and wildfowl. It attracts up to 80,000 pink-footed geese in winter. Terns, oystercatchers and spoonbills can also be seen. Kingfishers are also known to stay in the area in late summer after the breeding season – you may be able to catch sight of one diving for fish!
Fountainbleau Ladypark, Dumfries – Within walking distance of Dumfries, Fountainbleau Ladypark is a wetland habitat dominated by birchwood trees. If you stray off the path the ground is treacherously boggy, but a duckboard walkway has been provided to keep visitors dry and the plant life safe.The reserve is a haven for birds, including woodpeckers, willow tit, willow warbler and teal, which visit during winter. Other breeding birds include reed buntings, sedge warblers and kestrels, which occupy a nest box created for their benefit. You may be able to spot herons hunting for frogs in the early morning.
Shewalton Sandpits, Irvine – Just over a mile from the Irvine town centre, you can find the Shewalton Sandpits. These sand banks, ponds, woodland and riverbanks are a haven for all kinds of wildlife from plants to reptiles. Shewalton Sandpits is one of the Irvine Greenspaces, which provide a resource to local communities that can be accessed by walking or cycling. Quiet, grassy paths lead around the ponds to the riverbank. Uncommon plants such as clubmoss and sundew can be found in the damp and rocky parts of this reserve. The presence of bladderwort, a carnivorous aquatic plant, indicates that the water in the ponds is very clean. Butterflies like the small blue, small heath and grayling have all been spotted at the Sandpits, particularly on sunny days. You can also expect to see birds such as willow warblers, swallows and reed buntings. The watery conditions in the sandpits mean that amphibians and reptiles such as toads, frogs and even lizards have been seen basking in the sun and hunting for spiders.
What to look for
Pack your binoculars and explore the wilds on your doorstep! There are a huge variety of species that have learned to live alongside us in the hidden corners of our urban habitats. A city park reveals crows, magpies and squirrels daily, and hedgehogs are never far away after dark. Foxes emerge from their dens in the early hours and can be seen scavenging by night. Even deer can be spotted fleetingly in a leafy park or suburban garden. Look out too for signs of peregrine falcons, who often use high buildings as vantage points and to nest. Remains of pigeons and other birds are often a sign of their presence.
If you can't get to these places
If you leave bird feeders in your garden or outdoor space - even an apartment balcony - they are likely to attract blue and great tits, chaffinches, goldfinches, and nuthatches, bringing a splash of colour to your urban view. You may also be able to attract hedgehogs into your garden!
More wildlife experiences
From seeing colourful wildflowers to spotting magnificent birds of prey, we can help you get closer to wildlife across the UK.