The UK offers some absolutely great wildlife viewing experiences. That may surprise folk from bigger, less populated countries (of which there are many). In some ways it is a wonder that there are still spaces for wildlife among all the people, and that is a tribute to the many individuals and organisations who work to keep it that way.
So here, to celebrate the arrival of the Great British Spring, is my personal, somewhat provocative, and completely provisional, list of ten top places to go to see wildlife in the UK. Some are places you can just wander into free of charge, some are run by voluntary conservation bodies who rely on income from visitors to keep going. All are worth paying to see, especially if that helps ensure their future.
No one will agree with me on this list. Indeed, I will probably not agree with me tomorrow. there are many other possible top tens from these most excellent islands. Do tell me yours.
- Flocks of wintering geese November – February– my dearest love and vital in conservation terms. There are many to choose from but provisionally first place goes the pink footed geese of Norfolk,
especially when on my brother’s farm.
- …but, oh so closely followed by the barnacle geese in Dumfrieshire at WWT Caerlaverock and thereabouts.
- Wild Daffodils in Cumbria in March – a breakthrough of spring that inspired Wordsworth, me, and countless others
- Kingley Vale NNR in Surrey at any time of year for its timeless ancient yew trees and the unequivocal sense that Spirit of Place is not just a metaphor
- Bluebell woods in May – for instance on the Chilterns AONB, especially when the beech trees are coming into leaf above them
- Breeding auks and other seabirds – one of the things the UK does best (and most importantly). There are so many places to choose from here – Skomer, Orkney, Shetland, Anglesey – but for me the Farne Islands (managed by the National Trust) are still up there as the top experience.
- Heather moorland in August – and I am going to upset all my Scottish friends by nominating my local patch in the Peak District National Park just because they are so much part of my late summer.
- RSPB Bempton cliffs in September– where the gannets glide by alongside you (there are great auk nesting sites there too but my memory of Bempton is the grace and ease of gannets.)
- Otters – probably on the west coast of Scotland but anywhere really to celebrate that (as of last year) they are now back in every county, one of the UK’s great conservation success stories.
- Badgers – simply because they are wonderful and any opportunity to watch them should be seized wholeheartedly. For me, just because of the personal connections, Pewsey Downs NNR, Wiltshire will always be THE place
All pictures thanks to Peter Phillipson. For more go to Peter’s Flickr stream. Follow Peter @ TellTalePeter on Twitter.