Slimbridge, GL2 7BT | (01453) 891900
This #WildfowlWednesday we head to our North America exhibit to see our Barrow's goldeneye. Males have a black,whit… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
From birdwatchers to families, there is so much to discover all year round at the award-winning day out venue Slimbridge Wetland Centre – with a number of exciting immersive experiences launching as part of The Slimbridge 2020 project.
Home to the world’s largest collection of swans, geese and ducks, as well as all six species of flamingo, Slimbridge Wetland Centre offers visitors of all ages the chance to enjoy amazing wildlife up-close.
Slimbridge Wetland Centre is one of nine centres across the UK that form part of the Wildfowl & Wetland Trust, founded by naturalist and artist, Sir Peter Scott, with Slimbridge being the first of the centres to be established in 1946.
The reserve is 325 hectares, encompassing grasslands to the shores of the Severn Estuary, and is a haven for wildlife – with over 200 species of birds, including a vast number of Bewick’s swans in the winter.
Slimbridge offers a fun day out with events scheduled throughout the year. There’s also the chance to try out the bird hides and observation tower, discover the wetlands by canoe safari or on a 4×4 wild safari and dine in the Kingfisher Kitchen restaurant. Little ones, meanwhile, will love splashing about in Welly Boot Land, feeding the geese and handling frogs in Toad Hall.
Saturday 22 to Sunday 23 February 2020
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A day out at Slimbridge Wetland Centre near Stroud wasn’t quite the trip down memory lane we had expected – providing more to see and do than we could have ever envisaged. And while having children isn’t necessarily required, the little ones will love it too.
Like many a Gloucestershire resident, there wasn’t a single SoGlos.com member who didn’t have a childhood memory of being taken to Slimbridge Wetland Centre as an excitable nipper. While the years may have seen us grow a few feet in height, with an uncharacteristically bright sun in the sky as we jumped in the car bound for a day trip to the attraction near Stroud, a nostalgic feeling of youthful anticipation returned to what could usually be described as a cynical bunch of grown-ups.
‘Shouldn’t we have borrowed a kid from somewhere?’, one of the team remarked, perhaps a little self-conscious that the mums and dads queuing up to enter Slimbridge had buggy-bound excuses for their frivolous fun day out. We needn’t have worried though, once we were through the modern glass concourse – complete with one-legged flamingo sculptures courtesy of local school children – there were smiles plastered across the faces of visitors of all ages, whether they had wide-eyed, mischievous youngsters in tow or not.
Scratching our heads with a map in our hands the arguments over where to start were quickly put to a stop when we pin-pointed the location of the Canoe Safari. Met by an enthusiastic volunteer who raved about the years she has spent at Slimbridge, we bought a big paper bag of grain and were shown the way – past an assortment of beaked-beauties – to the Fisherman’s Hut and the start of the safari. Unsurprisingly, there was a bit of a queue for the centre’s latest attraction, and while we could have written our names down and returned when there was a free slot, our impatience to get on the open water saw us standing in line.
After a brief safety talk – when were told not to stand-up, or jump and down in the boat! – £3 per canoe (which fits two adults and two small children aged four and above) was handed over, life jackets were strapped on and we were armed with wooden oars, before being helped to clamber into the open-topped canoe by a smiling, wader-clad staff member thigh-high in the water. Ignoring warnings that if we dropped our cameras over the side they’d be gone forever, we were off.
The rowing – and working as a team – took a little getting used to, but we soon kidded that we could have given Steve Redgrave a run for his money, as we sculled peacefully past reeds filled with wildlife which occasionally poked their heads out on the tranquil trail. Lines of fluffy ducklings following their mum caused ubiquitous ahhhs, nervous moorhens bobbed across the green water, and the bag of grain came in handy for feeding a family of geese. Ornithologists we, unfortunately, are not or we’d be naming plenty more feathered species spotted as we floated along trying not to crash into the banks. As well as occasionally meeting with – and bumping into – other amateur canoeists, as much as we kept our eyes peeled, the grass snake that had been spotted by another boat that afternoon proved elusive.
Wishing we had slapped on some sun screen, after an arm-aching hour of paddling, we grabbed a well-deserved ice-cream from the outdoor café before it was on to a whistle-stop tour of the rest of the centre, which included: hopping over stepping stones to see the first batch of pink flamingos – including Carlos and Fernando, the famous same sex pair; popping by to see the celebrity chicks from the televised Crane School; and on to Close Encounters – where the rest of the grain was gobbled up by an array of greedy geese and ducks at our feet, as we weren’t as brave as the kids who hand-fed them.
The raucous residents of the smelly flamingo house made themselves heard from a fair distance away, perhaps as Slimbridge is home to all six species of the pink bird they thought they had a lot to shout about; then it was up past the swans gliding gracefully on the lake; and back to the visitor centre, where day trippers were comparing their digital snaps over calorific fresh cakes and cups of tea.
If you didn’t know, Slimbridge Wetland Centre was the vision of naturalist Sir Peter Scott and is now the headquarters of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, not to mention home to the world’s largest collection of swans, ducks, flamingos and geese. Dubbed ‘the birthplace of modern conservation,’ we found ourselves spoilt for choice for beautiful eye-catching birds to see and snap our cameras away at – with rare and endangered species from around the globe being protected and bred on our doorstep.
While it’s true that serious bird watchers and children are both well-catered for – the kids in particular get an outdoor play area, the interactive Toad Hall exhibit, and the brand new Welly Boot Land about to open in July 2008, all to themselves – fitting into neither category there was still a more than a day’s worth of things to see and do at Slimbridge Wetlands Centre.
The reserve, beyond the fox-proof fence, covers over 325 hectares in itself, so a Land Rover safari is top of our list of to dos next time, with a climb to the top of Sloane Tower, a visit to the tropical bird house, and a stint in a hide also on there. What is for certain is that, while Slimbridge Wetland Centre is almost unrecognisable from our visits as children, we won’t be waiting another 20 years for our return trip.
To find out more about Slimbridge Wetland Centre, call (01453) 891900, visit wwt.org.uk or email email@example.com. And don't miss SoGlos.com's Slimbridge Wetland Centre photo gallery, taken during the team’s visit.
By Michelle Fyrne
Sunday 29 June 2008
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