You will find out about all the exciting stuff going on with the RSPB in the east of the UK. We cover our sites in the following counties: Norfolk, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, and some of our great Lincolnshire ones. So if you are if you have never heard of the Strumpshaws and Snettishams or Stour Estuary or Sutton Fens here is you chance.
If a walk in the wilderness is what you're looking for this winter, the Wallasea Island Wild Coast project will give you just that.
Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project is a collaboration with Crossrail to combat the threats from climate change and coastal flooding by recreating the ancient wetland landscape of mudflats and saltmarsh, lagoons and pasture. With 101 pairs of breeding avocets this year, RSPB Wallasea Island is on track to support the largest number of breeding avocets on any site in the UK, with potential for new colonists like black-winged stilts and the return of breeding Kentish plovers. This is the RSPB at its best – giving nature a home at a grand scale, and you are invited to come explore.
Photo: Andy Hay
Although development is set to continue until 2025, the naturally regenerating marshland has already brought in a vast number of wintering wildlife and two new circular walks have opened, allowing you to see the progression of this ambitious project for yourself. Listen out for the whistle of the wigeons, the low 'bark' of the brent geese or the mournful whistle of the golden plovers, as well as the thousands of waterfowl creating a winter spectacle.
1. Allfleets Marsh Trail (3 km) - here you can walk the full length of the northern seawall. This raised footpath offers excellent panoramic views across the entire project.
2. Jubilee Marsh Trail - here you have the choice of a shorter 1.5 km circular walk which gives you excellent views of our lagoons, or you can strike out on a longer 4.5 km walk which takes you on a loop around the grazing marsh and back to the car park.
Or join in on the Mince Pie Special with a New Years Eve walk and an included mince pie and glass of mulled wine - booking is essential!
We already have many waders on our new lagoons plus large numbers of raptors hunting the voles through the grassland. Come in the late afternoon to see the hunting owls and you might even see a hare!
Once completed, the scheme will create a varied wetland landscape with an array of nationally and internationally important wildlife, and more than 15 km of new and improved access routes and visitor facilities. Keep coming back to see how much it changes each time and to see the different wildlife beginning to call this reserve home!
This truly is a wild coast experience that you will enjoy. If all that walking leaves you peckish though, the nearest refreshments are at the Essex Marina Bar and Canewdon village, 3.5 miles (5.5 km) away, which has local shops and a pub.
For more walks along the beautiful Essex coastline, visit Essex Walks.
A firm favourite with families and wildlife enthusiasts alike, RSPB Strumpshaw Fen nestled in the broads and part of the Mid-Yare National Nature Reserve has an array of fascinating wildlife and plenty of activities for everyone to enjoy.
Walk around the reedbeds, woodlands and meadows, look out for shy wetland species including the resident bitterns and bearded tits, or the distinctive blue flash of a kingfisher hunting. If you're really lucky you may see otters hunting in the many pools and rivers and Chinese water deer walking around during dusk.
Photo: Wikipedia commons
There are two circular walks, which can be combined to make a longer circuit route:
1. The Fen trail - 2.3 miles (3.7 km)
2. The Woodland trail - 1.6 miles (2.6 km)
3. Circuit trail - 3 miles (4.8 km)
There are three hides along the fen offering spectacular views of the reedbeds, housing many different duck species during the winter, including teals, gadwalls and shovelers. There is also a wheelchair-accessible viewing point at the main entrance, where one particular kingfisher can be spotted quite regularly. The start of winter has seen hundreds to thousands of starlings roosting in the reeds which has attracted predators including marsh harriers and the rare hen harrier.
Photo: Ben Andrew
RSPB Strumpshaw Fen has teamed up with Sport England to create Active in Nature, encouraging outdoor sporting activities in nature reserves. There are currently a range of Nordic walks that you can sign up to. There are also a range of guided walks for birdwatching beginners and experienced alike. Many sections of the nature trails can get wet and muddy during the winter so wear suitable footwear!
Please note that visiting Strumpshaw Fen requires crossing a railway line at the entrance. Please watch children and look carefully to ensure no trains are coming. Feel free to use the phone to check with the signal operator that no trains are coming if you have a large group or mobility difficulties.
If you're looking for more winter walks in the Norfolk broads, then perhaps visit nearby RSPB Buckenham Marshes or try Norfolk Broads Direct for more ideas.
Are you a ‘tidy it to within an inch of its life and then I won’t have to think about it again until spring’, or a ‘leave it completely alone and never venture into it except to walk down the path to the car’ type of person when it comes to your garden in the winter? Hopefully most of us are somewhere in between, doing a bit for wildlife and storing up our rewards as gardeners for next season too. There’s always a little more we can do though. We all know that our garden creatures need shelter and food during the cold months, but good wildlife gardens don’t need to be completely messy, overgrown wildernesses; the key is sensitive management. This is what we try to put into practice at RSPB Flatford Wildlife Garden, and doing the same in your garden will be a boon to all the wild creatures that live there.
To help you along, here is a handful of simple things you can do – or not do – to help turn your garden into a wildlife rich habitat this winter. For more inspiration and practical ways you can give nature a home in your garden visit www.rspb.org.uk/myplan
Photo credit: Andy Hay
Fallen leaves are valuable in the garden. They can provide an insulating layer on borders and decompose to improve the structure of the soil beneath them, but don’t leave too thick and heavy a wet blanket of them over your bee-friendly perennials, encouraging rot. Gently rake off the surplus and heap them in a pile in a corner somewhere. A frog or two might overwinter among them and pay you back next year by helping to control the slug population.
Photo credit: Ben Andrew
Cut it out
Other helpers in your garden, like aphid-eating insects, will be more likely to get safely through the winter if you’ve left them some hollow plant stems to shelter inside. It’s a real treat to watch a red stream of ladybirds emerging from all sorts of hidey holes in the garden on the warmer days of spring. Even better when you know that they will be on the look-out for their first aphid meal! The seven-spot ladybird can eat 5000 aphids during its lifetime, so it’s definitely worth looking after them in the winter.
Photo credit: Jodie Randall
Pile it up
If you didn’t get round to putting together a log pile during the fleeting autumn, it can still be done and will start to quietly decompose ready to support next season’s beetles, more of the gardeners’ friends. You could even incorporate it into a shady flower border and surround it with native variety yellow primroses and Pulmonaria (lungwort) – both great for early bees and a joy to see opening in the spring. Pulmonaria, in particular, is a real favourite of the bee that wins the prize for the best name: the hairy footed flower bee, a solitary bee, even though it looks like a bumblebee, which is usually around from early spring until late June.
Photo credit: David Tipling
If one of your winter jobs is to clear out the shed, be careful not to disturb overwintering peacock and small tortoiseshell butterflies which like to hide away in corners. Similarly, toads and newts sometimes choose to overwinter in greenhouses or under pots, so keep an eye out for them too and try to leave them in peace. Bird nest boxes are often used as roosting sites on cold winter nights, so it’s important to clear out any remaining nesting material that might be harbouring parasites.
Photo credit: Eleanor Bentall
The garden might look like it’s sleeping now, but rest assured that its heart is still beating.
For more related articles follow the links below:
List of activities to follow in order to give nature home in your garden could be found here: www.rspb.org.uk/myplan
Flatford Wildlife Garden – information about events, star species, seasonal highlights, facilities, accessibility and photos could be found here: www.rspb.org.uk/flatford
How to build a leaf- mould cage? For 6 easy steps to follow, click here.
How to build a log pile in your garden? For 7 easy steps to follow, click here.
How to construct a nest box? For 7 easy steps to follow, click here.
To see our range of nest boxes and other products for your garden, visit our online shop: http://shopping.rspb.org.uk
A list of the available RSPB member packages could be found here: www.rspb.org.uk/join