Winter wildlife walks

Winter wildlife walks

Posted 15th Nov 2016

Enjoy a winter stroll and take in wonderful wildlife settings at a National Trust site

Teign Valley, Newton Abbot

Perhaps the most famous walk on Dartmoor, this wildlife trail takes you past the imposing bulk of Castle Drogo - the last castle to be built in England - along the breathtaking Hunters Path high above the River Teign. Local wildlife includes buzzards, dippers, grey wagtails and deer.

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset

At almost 400ft deep and three miles long, Cheddar Gorge is England's largest gorge. There's a rich variety of wildlife and plant life to be spotted on this exhilarating four-mile circular walk. Look out for peregrine falcons, Soay sheep, jackdaws, buzzards and ravens.

Image courtesy of ©National Trust Images Jim Elliott

Newtown National Nature Reserve, Isle of Wight 

This largely flat, gentle four-mile walk will take you through the varied habitats of the island’s only National Nature Reserve, encompassing beautiful stretches of salt marsh, estuary and woodland, with an optional visit to East Bird Hide. Look out for Brent geese, little egrets, pretty belted Galloway cattle and even prettier red squirrels.

Watlington Hill, Oxfordshire 

The National Trust’s Watlington Hill is a great place to see The Chilterns’ famous red kites, as well as far-reaching views over the Oxfordshire countryside. The red kite was hunted to extinction in England at the end of the nineteenth century, but was reintroduced to Watlington in 1989. There are now more than 1,000 breeding pairs in the area. Take a walk around the hill to see these beautiful birds silhouetted against the sky, riding the thermals and diving for food.

Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire

From gentle strolls on the all-weather boardwalk around Sedge Fen, to longer walks exploring new wetland habitats, there are plenty of opportunities to spot amazing wildlife at Wicken Fen. Keep a look out over for hen and marsh harriers, short-eared owls and Wicken’s herds of Highland cattle and Konik ponies.

Image courtesy of ©National Trust Images / Justin Minns 

Ilam Park, Derbyshire

Discover the limestone countryside of the southern Peak District, famed for its wildlife and geology. Starting at the tranquil Victorian landscape and woodland of Ilam Park, this easy two and a half mile walk takes you into Dovedale, an iconic and spectacular gorge carved out by the river Dove. Wildlife to watch out for include grey wagtails and dippers.

Lyme Park, Cheshire

This route takes you off the beaten path to some of the lesser-explored areas of the estate. Along the way you’ll be treated to sweeping views over the Derbyshire hills and into Yorkshire. You may also encounter Lyme's herd of red deer, who often spend their time in the east of the park.

Marsden Moor, West Yorkshire 

Follow the heritage trail route over Wessenden valley on this circular eight-mile walk over open moorland, where the weather can change very quickly. The area is bursting with wildlife: see if you can spot mountain hares, curlews, golden plovers, stoats and much more. Wear sturdy walking boots, warm clothing and waterproofs for this four and a half hour walk.

Image courtesy of ©National Trust Images Robert Morris

Dinefwr, Carmarthenshire

Dinefwr’s historic parkland is famed for its abundance of wildlife and stunning valley views. During the winter months this walk is particularly good for spotting wetland birds such as teal, widgeon and tufted duck. Afterwards you can head to the tea rooms and cosy up beside a roaring fire with a drink and a slice of cake.

N.B. The Billiard Room tea room will be open on selected days in December – check website for details. Whole estate closed 24th & 25th December

Image courtesy of ©National Trust Images John Hammond

Castle Ward, County Down

With 21 miles of trails there is plenty of space for a festive wander at Castle Ward. Meander through atmospheric woodland and open farmland while enjoying the winter hues and views across Strangford Lough. Along the shore look out for common seals, wildfowl and wading birds and throughout the woodlands look out for pine martens, buzzards, herons and Irish hares.

Portstewart Strand, County Londonderry

Many walkers enjoy the two miles of magnificent golden sands at Portstewart Strand. Less people are aware of the way marked trail that meanders through 6,000 year old dunes to the river edge at the Bann Estuary. It’s a different world with the serenity of the estuary habitats for shelducks, lapwings and wintering wildfowl a wonderful contrast to the wind and waves of the open beach.

Lead image: ©National Trust / Justin Minns

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