If you’ve been inspired by Bill Oddie or Chris Packham on one of the BBC’s seasonal Watch programmes, grab your binoculars and head to the Welney Wetland Centre. Spread over a thousand acres providing a habitat for vast flocks of birds – which can be viewed from a heated observatory, no less – the site is a paradise for “twitchers” of all ages.
Welney offers wildlife viewing all year round, but no time is more dramatic than the winter arrival of up to nine thousand swans migrating from the north – watching them being fed, especially after dusk, when they’re illuminated by floodlights, makes for an unforgettable sight. At other times of year there are numerous spring and autumn waders to spot, such as yellow wagtails, little winged plovers and curlew sandpipers, as well as a profusion of butterflies and dragonflies in summer. There are also some gorgeous walks along the Ouse Washes to be enjoyed, affording spectacular Fenland views beneath the endless East Anglian sky.
Disabled visitors can be dropped off at the front entrance, or park fifty yards beyond in one of the four disabled bays (unsigned) on the left-hand side of the gravel-surfaced car park. From here, there’s level tarmac access to the visitor centre, where a lift takes you up to the café, shop and the bridge that crosses the river to the reserve and the main observatory, which has low-level viewing windows and an induction loop. Outside, a tarmac path leads to four accessible bird hides, also with low viewing windows (a further hide is not wheelchair accessible). The dragonfly ponds and one of the pond-dipping stations are wheelchair accessible, though the grassy path of the Summer Walk is not suitable for wheelchairs. Two wheelchairs and two powered scooters, best reserved in advance, can be borrowed from the visitor centre. There are no toilets in the reserve but the visitor centre has disabled toilets on the ground and first floors.
Food & drink: The Wigeon Café offers a good choice of hot and cold drinks, snacks and light meals, enhanced by wonderful Fenland views.