World Wildlife Day takes place on 3rd March and with England’s countryside and coast home to some of the world’s most amazing animals you don’t need to go far or put on virtual reality goggles to have a close encounter. To mark the occasion we’ve rounded up a handful of our most fascinating wildlife, locations and experiences to inspire and plan your next wild(life) escape away…..
Visitors are advised to always check individual websites and government guidance for the latest information. National restrictions are currently in place. Check out www.visitengland.com for the latest guidance.
See the Seals, Whales and Sharks as they bask along England’s coastline
Donna Nook Seals, Lincolnshire -
Britain is home to around 40% of the world’s population of seals, and one of the best places to see them is at Lincolnshire’s Donna Nook National Nature Reserve, covering more than 10 kilometres of coast between Grainthorpe Haven and Saltfleet and home to around 3,000 grey seals.. The best time to witness them is in November and December when the seals give birth to their pups. The designated viewing areas at the foot of the sand dunes offer the perfect vantage point to spot the fluffy white pups from a safe distance.
Seal spotting boat tour along Blakeney Point, Norfolk –
Blakeney Point, a nature reserve run by the National Trust, is home to Common and Grey seals with over 3,000 pups born each year. Take a Beans Boat trip and get the chance to watch the seals in their natural habitat. On seeing the seals you will land on Blakeney Point, a popular breeding ground for migrant birds like sandwich and arctic terns.
Boats run 7 days a week April - October inclusive, also throughout the winter. Trip times vary with tides
Pricing from Adult: £13.00, Children: £7.00 (14 & under)
At least seven species of dolphin swim the waters around the UK, England’s south coast is home to the white-beaked dolphins that put on a show, performing their flips, jumps and dives, and getting friendly with the local boats.
Join St Ives Boat Services on their Four Seasons pleasure boat, the tour gives you the chance to get as up close as possible to pods of Common and Bottlenose dolphins and very often, they’ll accompany you as you make your way along the coast!
Pricing from Adult: £15.00, Children: £10.00, Children under 16 years go free (Off-peak only, max 2)
Once known for its whaling fleet, Whitby is now thankfully becoming famous for its whale watching. In summer Minke Whales appear, following the Mackerel shoals. These fantastic mammals are the most regularly seen large cetacean along the coast and Harbour Porpoise can be seen throughout the year and on most whale watching trips. Bottle-nosed and White-beaked Dolphins are also now being seen every year on the coast in increasing numbers.
Cornwall is England’s unofficial shark capital with the waters home to an array of shark species, from the smooth hammerhead, one of the most beautiful shark species, the blue shark and gentle giant of British sharks the basking shark. Hop on a Padstow Sealife Safari RIB to travel along 25 miles of stunning Cornish coast exploring the marine life inhabiting the waters and coastline as well as countless seabirds. August and September are the best months to capture the beauty of the basking shark as they enjoy the sun and stunning Cornish waters.
Puffins (or as the locals like to call them ‘Tommy Noddy’) gather in their tens of thousands on Northumberland’s Farne Islands between April and July to breed and nest. A full day trip on one of Billy Shiel’s Boats will allow you the chance to appreciate the wonder of these beautiful species and their comical gait. Sailing along Inner Farne and Staple Island you’ll not only get the chance to see the Puffins as they nest and search for food but over 20 other species of breeding seabirds, including Guillemots, Razorbills and Eider Ducks.
The centre will transform the way visitors engage with the natural and cultural heritage of the reserve, with an exciting and innovative programme of activities, education, training and conservation projects.
The 1,110 acre reserve is one of the most biodiverse places in Britain with 4,200 plant and animal species recorded, including over 200 rare or endangered birds and mammals. It is also home to a range of historic buildings, among them Henry VIII’s Camber Castle and the Mary Stanford Lifeboat House.
An independent nature reserve, working family farm and a SSSI Special Protected Area for birds and Ramsar (wetland of world importance). The reserve based on an island spans 3,300 acres and home to a huge number of rare and endangered species and particularly important for breeding wadering birds and over-wintering birds.
Elmley is England’s only natural nature reserve you can stay the night in, with farmhouse available for exclusive hire, bell tents and boutique hunts, offering exclusive experiences and guaranteeing the chance disconnect and reconnect with nature.
Pricing from: £85.00 per night (shepherd’s hut, sleeps two)
To the countryside, forests and estates for a spot of dry land wildlife watching…
Deer Watching in Cheshire
Lyme Park’s not only home of Pride and Prejudice but an array of wildlife from migrating Scandinavian birds to fairytale-like fungus, with its star players being it’s resident red deer. Deer have been at Lyme Park for over 600 years and continue to play a pivotal role on the estate. Designated walks take you around the grounds where you’ll almost guaranteed to see a deer or two wandering about or grazing
While we’re accustomed to seeing grey squirrels almost everywhere, our native red squirrels are a pretty rare sight. Pushed out of the country by the introduction of American grey squirrels, there are only a few places left in England where these rusty-red squirrels can survive. Visit Formby, Merseyside and take the designated National Trust Red Squirrel Walking Trail where you’ll catch a glimpse of them feasting on hazelnuts and pine cones.
Home to 24 species, Wicken Fen is one of the best places in the country to see dragonflies. On warm, sunny days, huge numbers make an appearance, performing awe-inspiring aerobatics and flying along the waterways and ditches. The nature reserve even has a Dragonfly Centre, complete with colourful displays and two dipping ponds, as well as knowledgeable experts on hand to find out more about these marvellous invertebrate.
As you wander through the woodlands of Forest of Dean make sure to look out for wild boar. These once common species were hunted to extinction around 300 years ago but now, thanks to both accidental and deliberate releases, they have made a return to the forest. Though they are pretty elusive, which can make them tricky to spot, there are a few clues that’ll tell you if any are nearby, including their hooved footprints and trees coated in mud (they enjoy a good old scratch against the bark).
The Garden of England is soon to introduce Bison to its woodlands, as a way to promote stronger habitats. Known as ecosystem engineers, the Bison will help to change the environment through natural behaviours – like eating bark and creating dust baths – to help restore wildlife to the Blean Wood area. Once they’re settled in, you’ll be able to see the bison from Blean Woods’s public footpaths as well as from raised viewing points.
Beavers, like many animals, were missing from the English landscape for a long time. In an effort to reintroduce them, the National Trust launched a project to release pairs into the Black Down Estate in the South Downs. Living along the stream, it’s hoped that the beavers will create ponds, dams and rivulets, turning the area into a perfect habitat for birds, amphibians and an array of invertebrates.
One of the largest rewilding projects in lowland Britain, Knepp Safaris gives you the chance to get up close to wild ponies, cattle, deer and pigs as they roam freely around 3,500 acres in Sussex. Offering vehicle-based safaris, guided walking tours as well as Dusk and Dawn tour of the landscape to marvel at the splendour of the thousands of birds, mammals, butterflies, beetles, reptiles, plants and fungi in a setting that feels as wild and dynamic as the African bush. There’s also the chance to stay in one of the treehouses, shepherd’s huts, tents or yurts, or the option to pitch your own in our exclusive Wildland campsite.
Pricing from Adult: £40.00 (dusk walk, April - May).
Overnights start from £245.00 (midweek, low season), Treehouse from £415.00 (midweek, low season)
Just north-west of Great Yarmouth, explore Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens where, through their conservation work, you can see a special collection of rare Asian animals including tigers, Amur leopards, reptiles and primates. The tiger walk gets you right up into the trees and really close to the big cats. Inspired by the first David Attenborough TV programme and the early writings of Gerald Durrell, the founder Ken Thrigby had chosen to work in Asia as a way of learning more about the wonderful wildlife of that region.
Situated in the picturesque village of Eynsford, Kent is the home to the UK’s largest bird of prey centre with over 50 species. You can come up close to these beautiful birds as you learn more about their environment and the conservation efforts that are in place. Daily flying displays allow you to watch in awe as these magnificent birds’ glide, swoop and dive overhead.
As well as being home to these stunning birds, the wildlife sanctuary has grown to look after many other species of animal, including meerkats, otters, goats, and reptiles to name just a few. Want to get even closer? Then why not take part in some of Eagle Heights’ experiences and animal encounters. Tickets are for a 2 hour timeslot on selected days and include admission to Eagle Heights and one display including a selection of animals.
New Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve opens Leopard Creek, Kent
Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve will open Leopard Creek, the 600-acre Kent wildlife reserve’s 14th accommodation to date. Situated in the heart of the reserve amidst glorious gardens and with staggering vistas of the surrounding coastline, the luxury accommodation will also give guests up-close views of the resident wildlife – two rare Amur leopards and a pair of white rhinos! Featuring a choice of accommodation, guests can choose from two charming cub huts for couples, three elegant cabins (suitable for families of two adults and two children) or two stylish luxury wigwams with space for four adults).
Visitors are advised to always check individual websites for the latest information, as events and openings are subject to change. National restrictions are currently in place and attractions are closed. Check out www.visitengland.com for the latest guidance.
For more inspiration check out visitengland.com/escape and follow @visitengland on social channels #VisitEngland #EscapeTheEveryday