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Seven of the best places to discover nature in the UK this winter

During winter, Britain’s countryside is transformed into a wonderland of frozen lakes, frosted hills, mountains and snowy forests. Wrap up warm and it can be one of the most rewarding and festive times of the year to be out on a nature trail. The North of England is home to a rich array of creatures and here’s our guide for where to find them.

There’s no need to venture abroad for awe-inspiring glimpses of the natural world when there’s so much to see close to home. With this in mind, travel experts from LuggageHero have revealed the top locations in the North of England to discover hidden wildlife.*

So grab your boots, pick a winter walk near you and hit the trail.

  1. Fallow deer at Dunham Massey 

Dunham Massey is a beautiful area of National Trust parkland which is home to a herd of roaming fallow deer. Introduced to Britain over 1,000 years ago, fallow deer have lived in our woodlands for centuries and today they are the most common deer in England. 

The park’s much loved deer have been residents on the estate since it was built in 1748, and they are free to roam around the parkland for visitors to see. With over 300 acres of beautiful ancient woodland to explore there are plenty of stunning views to admire while getting a breath of fresh air. 

Location: Altrincham, Greater Manchester, WA14 4SJ

  1. Red Squirrel Reserve, Formby

The perfect way to blow out those winter cobwebs is by taking a walk through the Red Squirrel Reserve, where you can enjoy the breathtaking sea views of the Formby coastline. 

Red squirrels are one of the UK’s most endangered species and are thriving in several places thanks to careful conservation and habitat management from the National Trust. 

The Red Squirrel Reserve, in Formby, is a great spot for squirrel watching, they come out first thing in the morning to eat – so keep your eyes peeled for the feeders in the trees. 

Location: Victoria Road, Freshfield, Formby, Merseyside, L37 1LJ.

  1. Water voles at Malham Tarn 

Malham Tarn in the Yorkshire Dales forms part of the National Nature Reserve and is home to several rare species, some of which are remnants from the last ice age. In 2016, over a hundred water voles were reintroduced to the Malham Tarn, this is the highest water vole reintroduction project ever carried out in Britain. 

The water vole is Britain’s fastest declining wild mammal with almost 90% of the species disappearing from rivers and streams where they once lived. 

During your brisk winter stroll, head down to the streams in the high Yorkshire Dales to see if you can spot any water voles in their habitat. Our tip for spotting them is to keep very still and silent, as they are a shy creature. 

Location: Watersinks car park, Malham Tarn, Settle, North Yorkshire, BD24.

Photo by Ian Cylkowski on Unsplash
  1. Otters at Staveley 

Take an early morning walk through the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Staveley Nature Reserve, which is the perfect spot for all the family, and especially those with limited mobility.

The wetland site provides the ideal otter habitat, and there are often regular sightings of the carnivorous mammal and serval orchid species among the highlights.  

It’s also home to more than 230 plant species and a range of birds, including a locally rare short-eared owl and jack snipe.

Location: Minskip Road, Staveley, North Yorkshire, HG5 9LD.

5. Seals at the Northumberland Coast

Britain is home to 36% of the world’s population of Grey Atlantic Seals and the Northumberland coast is one of Europe’s most popular areas for the marine mammals. 

The Farne Islands is one of the best places to see grey seals during the winter period when they come ashore to give birth to their offspring. 

During December the beach can get very busy, so we highly recommend visiting the seals outside school holidays and weekends. 

To ensure the safety of the seals, please keep your dog well controlled. 

Location: Rollesby, Norfolk, NR29 5EB.

Photo by Amy Asher on Unsplash

6. Tawny owl at Boilton Wood

Boilton Wood Local Nature Reserve in Preston is made of woodland, grassland and wetland habitat. Each habitat features a range of wildlife including kingfisher and heron and is home to an array of bird species including the tawny owl.

Tawny owls live in parks and woodland areas where there are plenty of small mammals, frogs, insects and worms to eat. The Tawny owl has classic features, with a rounded head, large dark eyes, brown-grey feathers, rounded wings and a hooked beak. 

Location: Boilton Wood, Grizedale Crescent, Preston, PR2 6HD

Main pic by by Hans Veth on Unsplash 

7. Birds at Seaforth Nature Reserve 

Located at the mouth of the River Mersey in Liverpool, Seaforth is a major roosting site for a variety of waders, seabirds, ducks and small birds.

During the winter months, Seaforth is the perfect location to watch an array of birds in their natural habitat. The lagoons and reedbed host good numbers of teal, pochard, tufted duck, goldeneye and the incredibly rare scaup. 

Head to Seaforth bright and early to catch the birdlife in action. Between sunrise and mid-morning is often the time when birds are most active. 

Location: Liverpool,  Merseyside L21 1JD

Tufted duck by Amee Fairbank-Brown on Unsplash

*Please ensure you check local rules and regulations before you travel – more information on this can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/local-covid-alert-levels-what-you-need-to-kn

Diane Cooke
Diane Cooke is a three times award-winning journalist who has worked for UK national/regional newspapers, magazines and websites.

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