My favourite nature reserve at Attenborough is a local treasure for wildlife and communities. Established in 1966 and opened by Sir David Attenborough, the reserve is an interconnected set of former gravel pits, now flooded, which provides plentiful habitats for wildlife, there are islands on some of the water filled gravel pits making great breeding ground. One side of the reserve is along-side the River Trent.
The nature reserve is a wonderful place to observe many bird species, especially if you bring a pair of binoculars and use one of the bird-watching hides on site. The reserve has been lucky to see some rare non-native species such as the recent spotting of a Slavonian Grebe on Coneries pond, near the nature centre. Slavonian grebes are one of the UK’s rarest nesting birds, they usually nest on just a few of the lochs in Northern Scotland.
The Nature Centre has a lovely gift shop and café where you will meet some friendly, helpful staff and you can even pick out a pair a binoculars and a guide to the nature reserve. There are guided tours, organized activities and information events too, lots to see and do, organized and run by The Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.
I think my favourite bird to spot here is the kingfisher, such vibrant greens and blues in its plumage and so fast in flight, easy to miss if you’re not vigilant. My best experience has to be watching a murmuration here it’s just mesmerizing to watch, kind of addictive too, murmurations are usually starlings flocking together around roosting time, they will come together from all directions forming a flock, disbanding, and rejoining again, they can form some beautiful shapes in the air as they find their final roosting destination as dusk descends.
This activity can only be seen after the breeding season has fully ended of course, and the best time to go and find a spot to watch from is when the light begins to fade until it becomes dark, and usually you’ll find people start to gather in places where they’ve been spotted murmurating recently. The staff at the Nature centre are knowledgeable in where the murmurations were last spotted to give you an idea of where to watch the evening display, but these are never guaranteed especially on dark cloudy evenings, and the location can invariably change. This is a social flocking behavior, creating order. The word murmuration is from the murmuring noises created by the large flock of birds beating their wings in synchronicity, forming groups and disbanding until they form a final group to roost together with before dark descends. A murmuration is like a ballet in flight, such a delight to see!
I have been visiting Attenborough Nature Reserve for as long as I can remember, I grew up very close to the reserve and some of my very earliest memories are of walking around the reserve and along the river Trent. The area has changed a lot since then, I remember the days when flooding was a local problem, there has since been a lot of work done on flood alleviation schemes to avoid flooding in Attenborough and Beeston Rylands. The gravel pits were still being worked back then too in some parts, I used to enjoy watching the giant gravel barges, especially while standing on one of the bridges that connect parts of the extensive reserve, watching a gravel barge go underneath the bridge was always a fun activity when I was growing up, simple childhood pleasures.
The River Trent has been one of my most enjoyable walking, and cycling locations, it’s a relaxing experience to be beside water. Wild otters have been spotted and photographed on the river Trent which is great news for wildlife here since they only like to settle in areas where the water is clean enough and the food is plentiful, fish makes up around 80% of their diet but they will eat insects, birds, frogs and small mammals too.
If visiting by car there is a large car park near the Nature Centre, a good place to start your adventure. A chance to get your barings, ask a member of staff where to find a good trail, where certain birds have been spotted or grab a bite to eat and coffee. There’s a well-stocked shop with nature in mind and for all ages. From here you can explore the trails, some long, some shorter but you’ll experience nature and hopefully fall in love with this place as I have.
The reserve can be reached on foot from Beeston Rylands, there is a lovely café beside the river Trent, the Riverside café, a nice spot to stop and take in the views of the river Trent over a hot drink and something to eat, maybe sit outside if it’s warm enough when you visit, that’s my favourite place to sit any time of the year and watch the river flowing by. There is a riverside bar too with views over the river, nice to watch a sunset from. The Marina shop is also a good place to stop on the way into the nature reserve, Ice- cream is my usual purchase from here.
As I type, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust is fund raising to buy Attenborough Nature Reserve to secure its future and its precious habitats for the future. The reserve is still owned by aggregates company Cemex UK. After negotiations with the company there is an opportunity to purchase and the target for funding needed to secure this precious habitat for wildlife and the community is £1million. If these funds can not be raised, the future is an uncertain one. Lifeline Appeal can be found here.
A quote from Sir David Attenborough:
“Attenborough Nature Reserve is a symbol of hope in a challenging world. It is a natural oasis at the edge of a big city, full of remarkable and beautiful birds and other wildlife. Please give as generously as you can to help us make sure this place is forever safe in the hands of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.”
Sir David Attenborough, President Emeritus, The Wildlife Trusts
It’s no wonder Attenborough has been my most memorable place, it has so much to offer, not only as an exceptional wildlife haven, but as Sir David Attenborough says, a natural oasis, and I couldn’t agree more. I can’t wait to return again for another adventure in my childhood haunt.