On the Saturday before Mother’s Day we opted to do something a bit different to our usual wandering about in the countryside and visited Brockholes, a relatively young nature reserve in Lancashire. Brockholes, which is built on a former quarry, opened its doors to the public in April 2011. It features lakes, wetlands and woodlands, all designed to attract a number of different species of wildlife to the site, to make it their home. There is also a network of trails, with hides scattered throughout the site to allow visitors a place to wander round to watch and experience nature and wildlife throughout the different seasons. At the centre of it all is a floating visitor centre, which, rather than standing out like a sore thumb, is constructed from wood and other sustainable materials and reminds me a little of a longhouse settlement. It’s a fantastic place.
It took us a little longer to get there than it should have done – my ancient satnav delivering us to a housing estate about five miles away, but once we arrived, our adventure began. We were directed to a parking space and after enquiring about how we pay, we found that Brockholes doesn’t charge an entrance fee. Instead, you pay for parking, with your registration plate being photographed when you arrive and the time and fee is calculated when you leave.
Out first port of call was the visitor centre. There was a Crafty Vintage event taking place with stalls and live music which added to a very buzzy atmosphere on this sunny day. We didn’t visit the stalls, instead opting to have a look around the activity centre, which Rowan really enjoyed investigating. There were examples of nests and eggs, buttons you could press to hear different types of bird song and different types of rocks to examine with friendly members of staff were on hand to answer any questions. We decided we were going to do the Mother’s Day Nature Trail, so after picking up a map and pencil, we headed on our way around the reserve.
The first part of our trails took us along a boardwalk in amongst the reed beds where we could look across the lake at the birds or into the water to see what we could see.
Willow screens provided places to peer through and it was here we found the first of the wooden sculptures we would come across during our visit. Each sculpture was accompanied by some facts about the animal which we used to answer questions on our nature trail.
Our trails then took us to the Lookout, a large hide where people can sit and watch the wading birds and other wildlife.
It was at this point I wished we’d brought binoculars, but even without them, we managed to spot swans, ducks and a cheeky (wooden) otter peering back in at us through the reeds.
There were ten animals to find on the nature trail, each with a question to answer. Rowan was really interested and I had to keep testing him on what he had learnt on the way round. I think my favourite of his answers was his description of how a Bittern feeds its chicks regurgitated food (cue sick noises) and he still tells me now that a female deer is a doe and that Great Crested Grebe chicks are stripy and carried on their mummy’s backs.
At one point on the trail, we came across a willow screen with peepholes. Looking through we saw a number of bird tables with sparrows and chaffinches eating seed and ducks resting in the sunshine. It was nice to be able to quietly watch them this close without scaring them away.
Following our map round the trail, we managed to find the answers to all the clues, learning a little bit more about wildlife as we went along.
We were also treated to lovely views over the River Ribble, where if you are lucky, you might spot a kingfisher. The last section of the path led us to sculptures of five of the characters from Wind in the Willows, which Rowan was really excited to find.
Nature trail complete, we returned to the visitor centre to have our answers checked and collect our prize.
After something to eat in the café we headed over to the children’s play area. We’d passed this fabulous wooden adventure playground whilst wandering round the nature trail – it would have been wrong to go home without paying it a visit.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Brockholes and completing the nature trail meant we were both learning things as we wandered round, which just adds to the interest. Most of the trails are well made making it really accessible for pushchairs or wheelchairs and there are always lots of events going on, details of which can be found here. Nature tots on a Friday is certainly something we will be coming back for.