RSPB Minsmere, Suffolk, England - July 2010, a photo by SaffyH - Uploading Portugal Photo's on Flickr.
Say it with a photograph!
Minsmere offers families and keen birdwatchers a great day out. Nature trails take you through a variety of habitats to excellent birdwatching hides. In spring, you can watch avocets and marsh harriers, or hear booming bitterns. On the beach, a special area is cordoned off to protect nesting little terns. In autumn and winter, many wading birds and swans, ducks and geese visit the reserve. There is a visitor centre where you can find out more about the wildlife, browse in the shop or enjoy a meal in the tearoom. There are events all year and family explorer backpacks and trail booklets are available.
The reserve is open daily during daylight hours. Visitor centre open daily: 9 am - 5 pm (closes 4 pm from 1 November - 31 January). Shop open: 10 am - 5 pm (closes 4 pm from 1 November to 31 January). Tearoom open: 10 am - 4.30 pm (closes 4 pm from 1 November to 31 January); last orders 15 minutes before closing. Hot food served 11.30 am - 2.30 pm. Reserve and visitor centre closed 25 and 26 December.
RSPB members free. Non members: adults £5, children £1.50, concessions £3, family £10.
If you are new to birdwatching...
There is an extensive programme of guided walks, many of them aimed at beginners. Our guides may be on hand at other times to help visitors in the hides. The birdwatching hides provide excellent opportunities to see birds at close range throughout the year.
Information for families
There are Wildlife Explorer back packs that can be borrowed, free of charge (deposit required). These include an activity booklet, binoculars, bug box, identification charts and books, colouring pencils and much more. There are also free seasonal Discovery Trail guides for families. During the school holidays there are several family activites on the events programme.
Information for dog owners
We are sorry, but no dogs are allowed on the nature trails or in hides, except assistance dogs. There are a limited number of shaded car parking places available for dog owners on a first come, first served basis - please ask at reception on arrival. Dogs are allowed around the visitor centre and car park only. Dogs cannot be taken on guided walks. Dogs are, however, welcome on public rights of way that cross the reserve, including a five mile circuit around the reserve perimeter, but these are not accessible from the main car park. Dogs are also welcome on Open Access land on Westleton Heath, if kept on a lead. A leaflet of walks at Westleton Heath is available from reception.
Our star species are some of the most interesting birds you may see on your visit to the reserve.
The famous scrape hosts a large colony of avocets and these can be seen at close quarters from the hides overlooking this impressive man-made wetland from early spring to autumn.
Bearded tits can be seen flitting over the reeds as you walk along the North Wall, the path along the west side of the scrape and from Island Mere and Bittern Hides all year-round.
Minsmere holds a sizeable proportion of the UK population of bitterns. Visit in spring to hear them 'booming' or summer to watch the parents making feeding flights. Bittern Hide and Island Mere Hide offer a great chance of a sighting.
The extensive reedbeds play host to several breeding marsh harriers. The elevated Island Mere and Bittern Hides will reward you with excellent views. They can now be seen here throughout the year.
Nightingales can be heard singing in the deciduous woodland in spring. Their performance is best early in the morning or in the evenings - but they do of course sing through the night!
Each season brings a different experience at our nature reserves. In spring, the air is filled with birdsong as they compete to establish territories and attract a mate. In summer, look out for young birds making their first venture into the outside world. Autumn brings large movements of migrating birds - some heading south to a warmer climate, others seeking refuge in the UK from the cold Arctic winter. In winter, look out for large flocks of birds gathering to feed, or flying at dusk to form large roosts to keep warm.
Avocets return to breed on the Scrape - about 100 pairs nest annually. From mid-April see returning common terns, while wildfowl start to leave in March, and migrant wading birds pass through. Look for marsh harriers displaying over the reedbeds. Minsmere is the best place in Britain to hear booming bitterns. Listen for nightingales singing in the scrub from mid-April, and listen for various other warblers around the reserve. Look for Dartford warblers on the heath, and listen for great spotted woodpeckers drumming. Sand martins return to nest outside the tearoom. Bluebells are in flower in May. Adders emerge from hibernation.
Look for young avocets, common terns and gulls on the Scrape. The first spotted redshanks, ruffs and other wading birds return from late June. Little terns nest in a specially fenced area on the beach. Young marsh harriers will be flying from late June. Bitterns are easier to see on feeding flights. Look for family parties of bearded tits in the reedbeds. Listen for nightjars and look for glow-worms on the heath at dusk in June and July. Dragonflies and butterflies are easy to see, and the former may attract hunting hobbies. Rare flowers include yellow-horned poppy and sea kale on the beach and marsh mallow around the Scrape. Heather is in full flower on the heath. This is the best time of year to see water voles.
Migrant wading birds continue to pass through, including curlew sandpipers, little stints and ruffs. Winter wildfowl return, with teal numbers increasing rapidly. Brent geese move south from late September. The first Bewick's swans arrive in late October. Large starling flocks gather to roost in the reedbeds. Swallows and house martins flock together before departing. Look for bearded tits on calm mornings. The red deer will be rutting on the heath in October. Redwings and fieldfares return and will be feeding on hawthorn berries. Look out for rarities.
Several hundred wigeons, teals and lapwings will be joined by other wildfowl and wading birds on the Scrape. Look for Bewick's swans and goldeneyes on Island Mere, and white-fronted geese on the Levels. Look for hunting hen and marsh harriers, barn and short-eared owls and peregrines. There's a chance seeing of otters on Island Mere. Look for tit and finch flocks in the woods. Great spotted woodpeckers start drumming on mild days. Red-throated divers and great crested grebes gather offshore. The former can sometimes be well out to sea.
•Car park : Large car park on site. No overnight parking. Parking for two coaches by advance booking only. Bicycle racks outside visitor centre.
•Group bookings accepted
•Guided walks available
•Good for walking
Seven birdwatching hides and a public viewing platform. Four hides and the viewing platform overlook the Scrape. Three of these hides are wheelchair accessible. Two hides overlook the reedbed. One of these is on stilts and accessed via steps. The final hide is in the woodland, and accessed via steps.
Two circular trails, each about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) long, from the visitor centre. Allow about two hours for each trail. The circuit of the Scrape takes you through scrub, reedbeds, and along the beach. North, West and South Hides and the North Wall viewing platform are fully accessible to pushchairs and wheelchairs, but East Hide and the public viewing platform are accessed via the beach. The Island Mere circuit takes you through woodland and reedbeds. This route is not wheelchair accessible, although access to Island Mere Hide is possible by parking in a small layby (blue badge holders only) and walking about 300 m to the hide. This path is accessible for wheelchairs with difficulty, except after wet weather.
The tearoom also sells light meals.
Large selection of books, optics, outdoor clothing, bird food and gifts.
The shop stocks:
•Binoculars and telescopes
Minsmere is an exciting place for young people to learn. We offer a varied programme of educational visits led by experienced field teachers. All activities are linked to the National Curriculum and are fully risk-assessed. Activities for Key Stages 1 and 2 include bird adaptations, food chains, birdwatching, minibeast safari, pond dipping and seaside habitat. Programmes can be tailored to suit particular requirements. Educational visits cost £3 per pupil for a half-day visit (10 am-12.30 pm) or £4 per pupil for a full day (10 am-2.30 pm), and accompanying adults are free. Special programmes can be arranged for secondary schools, including behind the scenes tours with an RSPB warden to look at how the reserve is managed. For further details and booking arrangements, please contact the visitor centre.
The car park is accessed via an entrance from Westleton (brown tourist signs from A12). The entrance road is 2 km (1.5 miles) and has several 'sleeping policemen'. The car park is surfaced with rolled limestone and is rough in places. There are six allocated parking spaces on the right. An 80 m sloping path on rolled gravel leads from the allocated parking bays to the visitor centre. Wheelchair users can be dropped off and collected from outside the visitor centre, although caution is needed as delivery vehicles and pedestrians use this area.
Access to visitor centre
An 80 m sloping path on rolled gravel leads from the allocated parking bays to the visitor centre. Alternatively, there are steps from the nearest parking bays, which are 30 m from the visitor centre.
The visitor centre is accessed via double doors into a reception area, which has information and displays about the reserve and is staffed by friendly RSPB volunteers. Chairs are available in the reception area.
Access to the shop is via double doors from reception. Space is limited in places within the shop, light levels are poor in some areas, and some goods are on high shelves. Please ask the staff for assistance if required.
The tearoom is accessed via double doors from the shop. Space is limited within the tearoom, making it difficult to manoeuvre a wheelchair. Staff are available to help if required. Additional seating is available outside, including two tables that are fully accessible to wheelchair users. There is a bird feeding station outside the tearoom.
Access from the tearoom to the nature trails is via a short series of steps, or back through the shop and down a gentle ramp.
There are unisex adapted toilets and baby changing facilities within the main toilet block and in the shop. The main toilet block is open at all times.
Access to the hides and nature trails
Some nature trails and hides are accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs, and work is continuing to upgrade many of the surfaces. Recent flooding has caused deterioration in the surface of some paths, making wheelchair access more difficult. We are working to improve these routes. There are regular benches on many parts of the trails.
The path from the visitor centre to North Hide is 320 m with a mixture of surfaces including tarmac, boardwalk, rolled gravel and 'natural' surface. This route is level apart from one gentle ramp.There are two benches. North Hide is wheelchair accessible.
North Hide to the beach viewpoint is 660 m of rolled gravel and is fully wheelchair accessible. There are two benches, plus two at the viewpoint.The path from this viewpoint to the sluice, via East Hide and the Public Viewpoint is 965 m along sand and shingle through the dunes so is inaccessible to wheelchair users. There are steps into both East Hide and the Public Viewpoint.
The path from the Visitor Centre to West Hide is 405 m of tarmac and rolled gravel on a level surface. This route is fully wheelchair accessible, although can be muddy after heavy rain. There is one bench on route. South Hide is a further 415 m along this path, with one bench on this section. West and South Hides are both wheelchair accessible via a dog-leg concrete ramp. The path continues to the Sluice (490 m), where there is a bench. This section is a gravel surface, which is accessible with difficulty.
The Visitor Centre to Bittern Hide is 485 m, with a mixture of rolled gravel and a natural surface. There are two benches. There is a slope down to Bittern Hide, which is accessible only via steps.
The path from Bittern Hide to Island Mere is 675 m on a natural surface, including a steep incline, making access for wheelchair users inadvisable. There are two benches.
Island Mere is accessible for wheelchair users from a lay-by opposite Scotts Hall Holiday Cottage. This path is 325 m on rolled gravel, with a gentle incline on boardwalk to the hide. The hide has wheelchair accessible viewing slots, but restricted visibility at times.
Scotts Hall Cottage to the Visitor Centre is 975 m on tarmac, along the reserve entrance road. This includes a steep slope. Canopy Hide, which is 600 m from the Visitor Centre, is accessible only via wooden steps.
A Batricar is available to borrow, free of charge. This is popular, so advance booking is highly recommended, by telephoning 01728 648281. A Remploy wheelchair is also available for loan. These can be used during the visitor centre opening hours. Visitors are welcome to use their own wheelchair and mobility vehicles.
Guided walks for wheelchair users
We regret that many guided walks are unsuitable for wheelchair users as they take in sections of the beach or hides that are accessible only via steps. However, we will try to cater for requests for guided walks, if booked in advance, through our Hire-a-guide programme. Please phone 01728 648281 for details.