Natural England
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England’s most amazing wild spaces line up for a summer of family fun and adventure

Celebrate the summer holidays with Natural England’s special programme of family days out on National Nature Reserves.

Discover butterflies, lizards, fossils, seals and even otters. Take a picnic, learn to make a bird feeder or go on a bog safari. These are just some of the adventures on offer at as Natural England rolls out its summer programme of family days out at National Nature Reserves.

National Nature Reserves (NNRs) represent many of the finest wildlife and geological sites in the country, providing unique environments where many of England’s most extraordinary wild plants and animals flourish - commonplace species rubbing shoulders with national rarities. To celebrate these amazing places and the 60th anniversary of the Act that created them, Natural England has put together a packed summer events programme for people of all ages. From music festivals to nature rambles, NNRs have something for everyone.

Poul Christensen, Acting Chair of Natural England, said: “Oases for all sorts of wildlife, National Nature Reserves are wonderful places to visit at any time of the year, either on a casual trip or on one of our many organised events.

“With surveys showing that children are increasingly being denied the opportunity to explore outdoors, we hope that Natural England’s calendar of outdoor adventures will help to inspire the environmentalists of the future; giving young people and families a wider appreciation of nature, offering fun and enjoyment for all, and enabling more people to experience the sheer health-giving pleasure of being free to explore outdoors”.

Notes to Editors:

“Cotton wool kids”
Research from Natural England shows that woodlands, countryside and parks have become out of bounds to a generation of ‘cotton wool kids’, with fewer than ten per cent playing there or being allowed to do so on their own. The research also shows that nature-based activities, such as pond dipping, climbing trees and playing conkers are enjoyed by children when they can take part and that 81 per cent of children wanted more freedom to play outdoors. See Natural England's news story from 2 April 2009.

National Nature Reserves
From The Lizard in Cornwall to Lindisfarne in Northumberland, England’s National Nature Reserves represent many of the finest wildlife and geological sites in the country. There are currently 222 NNRs in England (and one Marine Nature Reserve - Lundy Island),145 of which are directly managed by Natural England.

Visit the Natural England website for a complete list of all National Nature Reserves or contact the Natural England Enquiry Service on 0845 600 3078

Events listings:

North East

England Castle Eden Dene National Nature Reserve, nr Durham
The largest area of semi-natural woodland in north-east England, renowned for yew trees. The tangled landscape is a survivor of the wildwood that once covered most of Britain. Natural England helps it stay as near natural as possible.

Celebrating Our Coast:
1 August Find out about the secrets of the Durham Coast and why this area is so special. An extravaganza of environmental stalls, activities and displays. A great family day out. For more details call 0191 5860004.

Summer Festival:
17 – 21 August Struggling for something to do over the holidays? A week of FREE family friendly events, including craft activities for the children and guided walks around many of our beautiful National Nature Reserves. See local press nearer the time or call Joe Davies on 0191 5860004.

Bat Night:
23 August As part of National Bat Week, come and join the Dene staff and bat expert Tina Wiffin for a fascinating talk and a nocturnal ramble around Castle Eden Dene NNR in search of bats. For more details call 0191 5860004.

Guided walks:
Every Thursday Every Thursday there is a guided walk around the reserve. You will need to wear sturdy footwear and be relatively fit as there are some steep gradients in the Dene. Why not come along and meet other people in your community? For more details call 0191 5860004.

Moor House-Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve, Middleton-in-Teesdale, Durham
Remote, dramatic and exhilarating, the landscape of the Pennines forms the backbone of England, and this reserve gives you the chance to see some of its most spectacular geological formations, waterfalls and panoramic views.

A rocky adventure:
15 August, 10.30am – 1.00pm A rocky adventure for families at Cow Green. Rocks, fossils, minerals and maybe even a volcano! Jill Essam, Harehope Quarry Project, will lead the way. Suitable for children over 5 years of age. 3 miles. Meet: Cow Green car park. Booking essential. Tel: 01833 622 374.

Creatures of the night:
29 August, 7.30pm – 10.30pm Discover the wonders of these night-time flyers with the aid of bat detectors and moth traps. Beginning with a short talk at the visitor centre to set the scene. Bring a torch. Meet: Bowlees car park. Booking essential. Tel: 01833 622 374.

Lovely lichens!
29 August, 10.30am – 4pm Discover the mysterious world of lichens on this walk over the River Tees to Holwick Scars and then on to the juniper woods, with Natural England lichen specialist Mike Sutcliffe. Learn about these fascinating organisms, how they live, how to identify them and what they can tell us. 5 miles. Bring a hand lens if you own one. Meet: Bowlees car park. Booking essential. Tel: 01833 622 374.

Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve, nr Bamburgh, Northumberland
Tidal mudflats, saltmarshes and dunes combine to create a place which is home to fascinating plants and attracts bird visitors from thousands of miles away. The Reserve protects a long stretch of coast, including the dunes of Lindisfarne (also known as Holy Island). The island can only be reached at low tide across a long causeway. Before crossing it is essential to check the safe crossing times on the causeway's notice board or on Northumberland County Council's website. Berwick Tourist Information (Tel: 01289 330733) has details of the tides and bus service to the island. A 5 km nature trail allows the visitor to discover the Island's world of flowers, geese and waders on some of the finest dunes, saltmarshes and mudflats.

A 3-mile nature trail allows the visitor to discover the Island's world of flowers, geese and waders on some of the finest dunes, saltmarshes and mudflats. For more information about the reserve or guided walks, please contact the reserve base on: 01289 381 470.

South East England

Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve, Oxfordshire
Aston Rowant NNR sits on the steep west-facing scarp of the Chilterns. It is made up of flower-rich chalk grassland with beech woodland and juniper scrub. A number of scarce plants can be seen here, including Chiltern gentian and a wide variety of orchids. The reserve's diverse habitats support a variety of bird life and Aston Rowant is renowned as one of the best places in England to see the awe-inspiring red kite.

Sounds Like Summer:
25 July, 1-6pm Come and enjoy an exciting mix of music inspired by nature. Relax and enjoy the views as you listen to professional musicians and community groups perform on the main stage. Make your own natural instrument to play along with the music or join our African Drumming workshop. Explore the reserve on a musical tour with the mysterious Green Man. Try a range of fun wildlife activities with your local Wildlife Trust and the Forestry Commission. Wildlife walks with Natural England. Range of food stalls available. £1 adults, children FREE.

Meet at Aston Rowant Nature Reserve, opposite Cowleaze Wood car park. Free coaches from Oxford, call Sue Funge on 01865 776691.

The Sounds like Summer event at Aston Rowant is being run in partnership with the Chilterns Conservation Board. For further information or to perform at this event please call Jenny Crook on 01844 351833 or Cathy Rose on 01844 355 506.

Kingley Vale National Nature Reserve, nr Chichester
The reserve contains one of the finest yew forests in western Europe, including a grove of ancient trees which are among the oldest living things in Britain. The reserve is one of the most important archaeological sites in southern England and has 14 scheduled ancient monuments, including Bronze Age burial mounds at the top of Bow Hill. From here, there are stunning panoramic views.

On any sunny day, you can see brimstone, orange tip, red admiral, small tortoiseshell, painted lady, peacock, common blue and holly blue butterflies. You may see green woodpeckers, buzzards and even a red kite soaring above the yew forest, or fallow deer, browsing among the trees.

There’s a Nature Trail to follow. An illustrated fact sheet, quiz and map pdf document are available.

‘Welcome to the Wildside!’ Kent
Natural England and The Heritage Lottery Fund have joined forces to deliver an exciting new project called ‘Welcome to the Wildside!’ in Kent. ‘Welcome to the Wildside!’ is very much about welcoming everyone to enjoy and experience three very different National Nature Reserves (NNRs) in Kent; Stodmarsh NNR which is just outside Canterbury; and Wye NNR and Ham Street Woods NNR that are located near Ashford. The project's aim is to put people back in touch with nature. A series of events are taking place this summer:

Ham Street Woods National Nature Reserve, near Ashford, Kent
The woods are part of Orlestone Forest, a fragmented area of woodland that is the remnant of a continuous oak forest that once covered the Weald. The trees are oaks, downy and silver birches, and hornbeam. Many breeding birds can be seen on the reserve, most characteristic of woodlands and the woods support a large number of rare invertebrates, most notably species living on dead-wood and butterflies. The site is also of archaeological interest and contains many well preserved earthworks including a medieval ditch and bank system and the remains of a staggered medieval dam.

Moth evening:
31 July Take a look at the different moths caught in traps with a local moth specialist. Learn some interesting facts on why the moths enjoy the conditions found on the reserve. No dogs. Booking essential, contact Emma Griffiths. Tel: 0300 060 4765/ 07824 835441. Email:

Marvellous Moths:
5 August Children’s event. Learn all about the wonderful world of moths on the reserve and then make a moth to take home with you. Dogs on lead. Suitable for 5+. Booking essential, contact Emma Griffiths. Tel: 0300 060 4765/ 07824 835441. Email:

Wye National Nature Reserve, near Ashford, Kent
The reserve is renowned for its views over the Romney Marsh and Weald, and out to the Channel coast. The site is also widely known for landscape features such as the Devil's Kneading Trough a dry, steep-sided valley formed near the end of the last ice age. The site's chalk grassland is famous for its orchids, 21 species having been recorded at the site including lady orchid, fly orchid and the rare late and early spider orchid and man orchid.

Flower Fun:
12 August Children’s event. Discover the wildflowers of Wye NNR and the wonderful wildlife they attract. Then join in art and craft fun. Dogs on lead. Suitable for ages 5+. Booking essential, contact Emma Griffiths. Tel: 0300 060 4765/ 07824 835441. Email:

Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve, near Canterbury, Kent
Stodmarsh NNR covers a square mile of internationally-important reedbeds, fens, ditches, wet grassland and open water, which provide an ideal habitat for breeding and wintering birds, invertebrates and rare plants. This site is especially important for bittern, marsh harriers and the shining ramshorn snail, which are rare across Europe; as well as water voles, which are rare in England.

Bird Craft: 19 August Children’s event. Enjoy a gentle walk on the reserve looking at why the site is good for birds and then make a bird out of wood to take home with you. Dogs on lead. Suitable for ages 5+. Booking essential, contact Emma Griffiths.Tel: 0300 060 4765/ 07824 835441. Email:

Find out more about the ‘Welcome to the Wildside!’ project.

South West England

Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve, Somerset Shapwick Heath NNR is a major wetland reserve forming a large part of the Avalon Marshes. It is home to otters and waterfowl – even bitterns. The fen areas support rich plant and insect communities, including the hairy dragonfly. Its meadows are rich in wild flowers such as yellow flag iris, great water dock and purple loosestrife. The rare lesser silver diving beetle lives in the wet woodland.

Wild Day Out:
19 July Experience the wonders of the Avalon Marshes in Somerset. Come and join Natural England and the RSPB for competitions, quizzes and activities to suit children of all ages. No need to book. Meet at Peat Moors Centre car park.

Otters at Shapwick Heath:
23 August Learn about these rare and elusive residents of the Avalon Marshes. With expert guidance from the Somerset Otter Group you will get to know more about these special animals and perhaps catch a glimpse from one of our wildlife hides. Booking essential. Call Natural England on 0300 060 2570

The Lizard National Nature Reserve, Cornwall
The Lizard is made up of numerous isolated sites and has two main habitat types: coastal grasslands & heaths and inland heaths. The Lizard is noted for its rich flora with 18 rare plant species growing on its coastal grassland. The steep cliffs providing nesting sites for ravens, peregrine falcons and several species of gulls. Much of the coastline of The Lizard peninsula can be accessed on foot via the South West Coastal Path.

Walking on the Lizard peninsula:
Summer family challenge Tuesdays and Thursdays from Tuesday 28 July to Thursday 3 September, with Natural England and walkitcornwall. Two walks twice a day at 10.30 am and 2.00pm. The family challenge? To recognise more celebrities, pop stars and sports people than flowers, trees, birds and insects. There is a small charge. For details, please call 01326 240 808 or visit

Happidrome Three:
July-September 2009 For those of you interested in art, Happidrome Three brings together artists and academic researchers in a series of events and exhibitions at the former RAF Dry Tree site at Goonhilly Downs, on the Lizard peninsular in Cornwall. Working in partnership with Natural England, Happidrome is an artist-led initiative which invites responses to the site, its history, ecology and physical setting from those it works with. Each artist has chosen to explore a unique aspect of the location; indigenous birds, ghost stories about the Downs, thousand year old boundary walks or the sites association with early radar systems. The work is contemporary, eclectic and engaging. For further information including dates and times of exhibitions visit the Happidrome website.

East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve
A wonderful National Nature Reserve which includes three adjacent reserves – Yarner Wood, Trendlebere Down and the Bovey Valley Woodlands near the town of Bovey Tracey. You can walk along a magical boulder-strewn valley in the Bovey Valley or follow an excellent walking trail through an example of western oakwood of international importance in Yarner Wood. The rare Dormouse and Pied Flycatchers (which are summer visitors) live here. Trendlebere Down, an area of nationally rare lowland heathland, provides further diversity. All are well worth a visit.

West Midlands

The Stiperstones National Nature Reserve, Shrewsbury, Shropshire
Heather lowlands and wild unspoilt uplands where you can see common lizards and frogs, brown hares; curlews, red grouse, skylarks, meadow pipits, stonechats, buzzards, pied flycatchers and wood warblers. Grayling and green hairstreak butterflies and emperor moths may also be found here.

Myths and legends:
23 July, 10am -12pm Journey through a land populated by mythical birds and the ghost of Wild Edric. Bring a picnic to enjoy on the heath after the walk. Meet: The Knolls car park. Booking essential. Tel: 0300 060 0583

Wildlife fun day:
13 August 10am – 1pm A fun-filled day of games and activities for children, introducing the wildlife of the Stiperstones. Bring a picnic. Meet: The Knolls car park. Booking essential. Tel: 0300 060 0583

Stomp the Stiperstones:
22 August 10am – 2pm A led walk along the full 7 miles of The Stiperstones from Black Rhadley to Habberley. Meet: The Bog car park. Booking essential. Tel: 0300 060 0583

Fenn's, Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses National Nature Reserve
Fenn’s, Whixall, Bettisfield, Wem & Cadney Mosses Site of Special Scientific Interest, straddling the English/Welsh border near Whitchurch, is of international importance for wildlife and lowland mosses.

Bogs are brilliant:
26 July, 2pm Gain an insight into managing the wildlife of the Mosses and learn how bogs can help with climate change, as part of International Bog Day.

‘Mad about the Mosses’ Children’s Summer Holiday Activity Days (suitable for children aged 5+):
All about Birds: 5 August, 10am -1pm Learn how to identify birds on the Mosses. Make your own ID key, bird home and feeder to take home.

Bog Safari:
12 August, 10am -1pm Explore the plants and animals on the Mosses, with your very own bird feeder. Male a wildlife home and dragonfly model to take home.

Ditch Dipping:
19 August, 10am -1pm Search for creatures in the deepest depths of the Mosses Ditches.

Treasure Trail:
26 August, 10am -1pm Follow the family eco trail and win prizes!

‘Creatures of the Night’:
14 August, 8pm A guided tour of the Mosses to see and hear the creatures that come out at night. Meet: Bettisfield Old Railway Station. Bring insect repellent. All events are free but must be booked in advance. Tel: 0300 060 0583.

The Mosses Trails
The three interlinking circular trails ranging from 2 km to 4 km long which can be combined to create longer walks of up to 7 km. The routes, marked by a series of arrowed posts, are easy to walk. Start from Morris’s Bridge NNR car park in Whixhall. Follow the brown signs.

Visit the Fenn's, Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses National Nature Reserve webpage for more details.

East Midlands

Derbyshire Dales National Nature Reserve, between Buxton and Matlock
Lathkill Dale has its river with many dippers, spectacular views, fine woods and a great display of wild flowers. Great for photographing dippers and geology trails.

A summer evening in Cressbrook Dale:
18 July, 6pm – 9pm Follow our guides into the dale in the early evening, coming back out along a candle-lit path. A great chance to spy some of Cressbrook’s more reclusive residents, such as bats, foxes and badgers, while enjoying the dusk chorus. A 3-mile walk over some rocky paths and rough ground. Booking essential. Please call 0300 060 2228. (Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm).

Human influence and archaeology:
8 August, 10am – 1pm On this journey into the western end of Lathkill Dale, our guides show that even the most important countryside for wildlife has been changed by human hands. A 3-mile walk with some narrow paths and steep slopes. Bring a drink and a snack. Booking essential. Please call 0300 060 2228. (Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm).

Bat and moth evening, Lathkill Dale:
22 August, 7pm – 9pm Join our guides and experts to find out where these fascinating nocturnal creatures live, what they eat and how they hunt. A 2-mile walk with some rough surfaces and narrow paths. No dogs. Booking essential. Please call 0300 060 2228. (Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm).

East of England

Holkham National Nature Reserve, North Norfolk Coast
Holkham National Nature Reserve is an 11 mile long coastal strip, stretching from Burnham Norton to Blakeney. Its beaches, marshes and dunes are famous for attracting bird life. Its breeding bird population includes marsh harriers, avocets and bearded tits. Grey and common seals live here as does the rare natterjack toad.

The reserve is on Route 1 of the Sustrans National Cycle Network and on the route of Peddars Way & Norfolk Coast Path National Trail. Also recommended is Salthouse, Norfolk, which has a good circular walk with fine views of the coast.

Suffolk Coast National Nature Reserve at Walberswick
Reedbeds, hay meadows, grazing marshes, a variety of woodlands, heather and grass heathlands, shingle, saline lagoons, intertidal estuary and saltings, are some of the habitats to be found at Walberswick.

Resident wildlife includes otters and natterjack toads. Over 280 bird species have been recorded including bitterns, marsh harriers, bearded reedlings, woodlarks and nightjars. There are rare solitary bees and wasps, ant-lions, and over 100 species of cranefly (daddy-long-legs). Around 500 species of butterflies and moths live in Walberswick including the silver-studded blue and white admiral.

There will be a weekly guided walks starting at 10 am, each Saturday to end of August. Meet at the Visitor centre in Walberswick village. The walks will alternate weekly between beach and shingle, and the reedbeds of the Blyth Estuary and Sandlings heaths. Each walk will take between 1 to 2.5 hours. Booking essential. Tel: 01502 676171.

Yorkshire and Humberside

Humberhead Peatlands National Nature Reserve, South Yorkshire
The moors are remnants of wetland that occupied the floodplain of the Humberhead Levels thousands of years ago. Comprising Thorne, Goole, and Crowle Moors, as well as Hatfield Moor, it represents the largest area of raised bog wilderness in lowland Britain.

Paint a landscape more than 5,000 years old:
28 July, 10am Create a scene of how Hatfield Moors would have looked all those years ago and how they might look in the future. Materials provided, bring an apron or old clothes Free. Booking essential. Tel: 0300 060 1863

Family walk incorporating a children’s activity:
11 August, 2pm A short walk on Hatfield Moors with an activity along the route. Free. Booking essential. Tel: 0300 060 1863

Dragon (fly) spotting on Hatfield Moors:
18 August, 2pm Dragonflies are plentiful this month. Bring the kids along for a study and spotting walk. ID charts supplied. Free. Booking essential. Tel: 0300 060 1863

Family walk incorporating a children’s activity:
1 September, 2pm A short walk on Hatfield Moors with an activity along the route. Free. Booking essential. Tel: 0300 060 1863

London 2012 Open Weekend, 24 – 26 July

London 2012 Open Weekend marks the countdown to the London Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012 and will help to shine a light on National Nature Reserves as some of the wildlife gems of England. Some reserves will have butterflies performing aerial ballets; others will have birds providing stunning performances. In yet others, it’s the land and rocks themselves which are on show.

With three years to go to the Olympic Games, Natural England are working closely with the London 2012 teams to secure more connections to the natural environment at the venues for Games Time and for the Legacy. The London 2012 Open Weekend, part of the Cultural Olympiad, is a chance for people to experience how creative and inspiring the natural environment is. For more information on The London 2012 Open Weekend, please contact the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games on 0203 2012 100 or visit the London 2012 website.

For information about individual events, contact the numbers provided above.

For further information about National Nature Reserves contact: The National Press Office on 0845 603 9953, out of hours 07970 098005.

For further information about Natural England please visit:

The State of the State