You may imagine that wetland centres are frequented solely by fanatical ornithologists brandishing binoculars and talking about obscure species, but in fact, the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust works hard to ensure its habitats are fun places for everyone to visit.
Situated beside the Severn Estuary, Slimbridge Wetland Centre is the jewel in the crown of the nine WWT locations in Britain. Visitors are free to roam in the same wetland area as many of the birds, and can get very close indeed – feeding of some species is allowed, using bird food available on site. Other species, including flamingoes, are in outdoor open enclosures. In the visitor centre there is an excellent daily talk on frogs and toads, and back outside, there are also beavers, otters, voles, shrews and harvest mice to see. Small children won’t be able to resist splashing around in the neatly designed Welly Boot Land wet play area – remember to bring a change of clothes! The pond dipping area is also great for kids wanting to discover mini aquatic beasties. Canoes are also available for hire if you want a duck’s-eye-view of the reed beds.
There is a large car park, with plenty of disabled spaces, next to the visitor centre and entrance. A long ramp leads up to the reception area where you can get a map and advice on what to see. All the paths are tarmac, hard gravel or boardwalks, while routes around the different areas of the grounds vary from a quarter of a mile to a full mile. To take in the whole centre, you’ll need to travel around three miles in total. There are many accessible hides but, due to some fairly steep ramps and uneven boardwalks, unstable walkers or wheelchair users may want to bring a companion to assist at some points. Wheelchair users may also need gloves, as the birds wandering freely around can cause a lot of mess on the paths – plenty of hand sanitiser is provided throughout the site. You can book manual wheelchairs and powered scooters in advance. There are disabled toilets in the visitor centre and in the grounds. Assistance dogs are welcome, but advance warning is required because of the wildlife on site.
Food & drink: The visitor centre has a large, spacious restaurant serving good-quality hot and cold food, including homemade bread, soup and biscuits. It has moveable tables and chairs and great views over the wetlands area through huge glass windows.