A visit to Slimbridge Wetlands Centre

This story first appeared in the Information Point newsletter Our World in 2013, when Mike Abram told The Information Point about visiting Slimbridge Wetlands Centre. 

Mike at Slimbridge Wetlands Centre.

Earlier this year Diane and Mike Abram visited the Slimbridge Wetlands Centre, a wetland reserve managed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. The centre sits halfway between Bristol and Gloucester on the estuary of the river Severn at Slimbridge and is one of nine wetland nature reserves located across the UK, each having its own unique natural habitat and wildlife. The centre boasts 325 hectares of protected wetlands and was the idea of Sir Peter Scott, also the founder of the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Inside the fox proof fence the reserve is home to a wealth of resident and migratory wildlife, it provides shelter and food for flocks of swans, geese and ducks in the winter and is an ideal breeding ground for waders in the summer months. At the reserve you can see rare birds from all over the world including hobby, kingfishers and redshank, as well as brown hares, dragonflies, wild otters, grass snakes and wild orchids. Below Diane and Mike write about their experience of the centre.

We visited Slimbridge Wetlands Centre earlier this year for the second time. As with our first visit, the centre left a very good impression on us, as it is very disabled friendly and as such, we wanted to share our experience with others.

Most importantly for us, as Mike’s mobility is now poor, the centre has a large number of buggies for its visitors, which we booked by telephone in advance of our visit. There is no charge for a buggy but there is a voluntary donation scheme with donations going towards the costs of maintaining and fixing them. Other attractions generally make a compulsory charge which is often much higher, so we were happy to leave a donation.

Being able to hire a buggy made pretty much the whole reserve accessible to us. There are boardwalks everywhere meaning a buggy user can get as close as anyone else to the wildlife at the centre including into the hides which have ramps leading into them. Being able to hire a buggy also takes a lot of stress out the day as there are no worries about falling or Mike being too heavy to support or push. We don’t have to worry about steps, stairs, slopes or explaining anything to anyone and are able to do the things we would have done before Mike’s mobility became impaired, so allowing him to re-gain his independence for a time. We are able to get around the centre, together as a couple, at a regular pace, which is great.

We enjoyed seeing birds from around the world with no barriers between them and us. We also saw wildlife in the ‘Back From the Brink’ exhibit, so called as the animals which are part of it have all come under threat at some point from factors like habitat destruction. The exhibit has beavers, otters, including otter cubs called Mini and Ha Ha (Di wanted to take these home with her), water voles, water shrews and harvest mice and is like going through a tunnel so making visitors feel as if they are in the same habitat as the small mammals that live there. We also went to the top of the Sloane Tower, which has a lift and provides the opportunity to see out over the reserve, the Cotswolds, the River Severn and the Forest of Dean.

In the summer the reserve runs Land Rover and Canoe Safaris and although we did neither, we know that the Land Rover has recently had a new lift installed into the trailer so that wheelchair users can enjoy this experience and we have been informed that the canoes are suitable for people with disabilities if they go with their carer and that reserve staff are always willing to help visitors too.

Overall we found the reserve to be very restful, like a walk through nature and probably the most accessible place we have ever visited.

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