With many families holidaying at home this year, visitors can get a taste of the exotic at WWT Wetland Centres across the UK this summer - whether it’s marvelling at WWT Llanelli’s spectacular Caribbean flamingos, hand-feeding a Hawaiian goose at WWT Slimbridge, hearing a Latin American Southern Screamer at WWT Martin Mere or encountering the Australian black swan at WWT Washington.
This summer, children and adults alike can cool down and stroll by lakes, lagoons, and streams at nine Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) centres as they get close to rare wildlife and enjoy ‘big-sky’ wetland landscapes. As well as looking after wildlife from around the world in their collections, WWT centres also include nature-rich wild wetland reserves where home-grown species, such as kingfishers, water voles and otters thrive. These can be spotted close up from summer walkways, hides and observatory towers dotted around the sites.
Highlights and new experiences at wetland centres throughout the summer holidays include:
- Slimbridge Wetland Centre, Gloucestershire: a must this summer is a visit to the brand-new, huge Waterscapes Aviary. Opened in July, the aviary is full of beautiful UK wetland birds that families can get really close to, including elusive bearded reedlings, elegant avocets, egrets, spoonbills and many more. Visitors can immerse themselves in this magical wetland world and watch ducks diving underwater in a clear-sided tank, wader birds dabbling for food, dragonflies flitting amongst the ponds and butterflies floating past. The open-air Living Wetlands Theatre next door, also opened in July, lets families relax as birds fly close over their heads while discovering all about them.
- London Wetland Centre, Barnes: the stars this summer are giant LEGO® brick animals placed around the wetlands amongst their real-life cousins. Animals on the trail include a huge brick otter, flamingo and kingfisher, and less well known species such as the Spoon-billed sandpiper, Red-breasted goose and Short-eared owl.
- Martin Mere Wetland Centre, Lancashire: there’s an exciting new summer addition this year to the Weird or Wonderful aviary - South American Inca terns who certainly fit the bill with their Dali-style white moustaches and miaowing calls. Giant rubber ducks are also hiding around the centre throughout the holidays. Families can pick up a trail card to track these down, identify their names and win a prize.
- Arundel Wetland Centre, West Sussex: a highlight this summer is the recently opened Coastal Creek Aviary and Pelican Cove. The new aviary is a walk-through experience with wading avocets, two waterfalls and sea ducks swimming underwater in a huge clear-sided tank. Pelican Cove hosts Dalmatian pelicans with wings spanning up to three metres. A trail card full of self-led Wetland Explorer activities is free for families to explore.
- Washington Wetland Centre, Tyne and Wear: highlights this summer include an adventure-packed timetable of Wetland Explorer activities throughout the holidays. These include den building, animal tracking and duck navigation amongst many other fun things to do. Families can fill in a Wetlands Explorers logbook to record their wild adventures.
- Llanelli Wetland Centre, Carmarthenshire, South Wales: holiday highlights include wild den building in Wiggly Wood, canoe safaris to see wetland scenery from a different angle and blowing off steam in the tunnels at Water Vole City.
- Castle Espie Wetland Centre, County Down, Northern Ireland: summer activities include meditation sessions and birdwatching mornings. Biologists-in-the-making, meanwhile, can give pond-dipping a go during the regular summertime Wetland Explorers events.
- Caerlaverock Wetland Centre, Dumfriesshire, Scotland: during the holidays families can get close to singing skylarks and fluffy cygnets while admiring outdoor art - Geoff Forest’s animal-shaped ‘Wild Steel’ sculptures are on display until August 28th.
- Welney Wetland Centre, Norfolk: this summer families can see young cuckoos preparing for their first migration south and elegant cranes returning to the reserve. Listen out for the bugling calls of these large birds, at the Lady Fen Walk, which reopens in August.
WWT centres have something for everyone, with a variety of wetland themed adventure playgrounds and wild play areas, some of which involve water. All centres have cafes, shops and shady places to rest and take in the stunning views. Grain to hand feed birds, canoe and 4x4 safaris are also available.
Jane Ramshaw, WWT’s Head of Operations and Performance said:
Our nine WWT Wetland Centres are ideal places for families to relax and feel a sense adventure over the summer holidays. They are very large watery’ nature reserves with amazing wildlife from around the world as well as home-grown natural superstars. They’re a fantastic day out for young and old who want to connect with nature. With lots of new exhibits and holiday activities our centres offer something new for all the family this summer. They are also well set up to cope with the British summer with shady spots near water if it’s hot, and indoor hides and tall observatory towers to spot wildlife from if it’s wet.
To guarantee a visit and manage the number of people at our centres, we are asking people to book. People are welcome to just arrive on the day and where our centres have capacity this will be fine.
Find your nearest WWT Wetland Centre and book tickets