Nothing suggests spring to me more than seeing downy ducklings on a lake and one of our favourite places to go at this time of year is slimbridge Wetland centre near Gloucester. Click here to find out more I love to wander along the well made trails or try to spot new arrivals from one of the hides.
Sir Peter Scott
Sir Peter Scott who established the Slimbridge Wetland centre was the son of the Antarctic explorer Robert Scott who lost his life while trying to be the first man to reach the south pole. Like many men of his generation and class Peter was keen on shooting game in his youth. However after fighting in the second world war he had seen enough bloodshed and decided instead to conserve wildlife. In 1946 he bought a large estate on the banks of the Severn estuary in the village of Slimbridge and set aside the marshy land as a sanctuary for water birds.
A few random facts. Peter Scott was named after Peter Pan (J.M. Barrie was one of his godfathers). He won an Olympic medal for sailing and he designed the panda logo for the WWF.
He also became a keen and talented painter of wildlife and built himself a house overlooking a lake with a large picture window where he could watch ducks and geese on the lake.
Visiting Slimbridge wetland centre
The wetland centre at Slimbridge is now open to the public . The charity has pulled off the difficult trick of being able to carry out internationally recognised scientific and conservation work while still providing fun activities for children. There are over 100 acres of streams, ponds and lakes to explore and photograph. Some birds like the colonies of flamingos are permanent residents others are winter or summer migrants.
For adults there are hides where you can undertake serious birdwatching and an art gallery where you can see a collection of wildlife paintings including some by Sir Peter Scott himself. Local artists also often exhibit their work. Volunteer guides lead tours round the site and there are posters and information boards to help with bird identification.
The website always gives advice about which feathered visitors to look out for and what talks and activities are planned.
Slimbridge is also a wonderful place to take your children or grandchildren.
A firm favourite is welly boot land where young children can put on their wellington boots and paddle in small streams and puddles and pretend to be ducks. For older children there are canoe safaris and places to go pond dipping . There is also an adventure playground with a nearby coffee shop. The staff encourage visitors to buy bags of duck food to feed the birds. Be sure to check to see the times for activities such as otter feeding or duckery talks. If it is wet there is an indoor soft play area and art and craft activities.
As well as birds Slimbridge wetland centre is home to a family of otters and also a small collection of amphibians and reptiles.
The website has details of admission prices. Tickets are discounted if bought online and admission is free for WWT members. There is ample free parking but Slimbridge has no bus or rail service. It is well signposted from junction 13 or 14 of the M5.
Slimbridge has a very good restaurant with huge picture windows overlooking a lake where you can watch the birds as you eat and a large souvenir shop. They are also happy for you to bring a picnic. You should allow four or five hours for a visit.
Slimbridge Wetland Trust received a £4,000,000 grant from the national lottery and they are planning to open several exciting new attractions. The newest is a replica of the Arctic hut used by Sir Peter Scott to study geese in the tundra.
Have you been to Slimbridge? Please feel free to add your own tips in the comments. I would love to hear what you think.
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Corona virus update
Slimbridge wetland centre had to close in March like most other ticketed visitor attractions. The good news is that they have just announced that they will be reopening on June 10th. The restaurant, play areas and other indoor attractions will remain closed but they will have toilets and a take away coffee bar. Visitor numbers will be limited and you need to book tickets in advance. The situation is likely to change so to find the latest information or book tickets visit their website