Nature & Wildlife Tourism
Though this site only lists places in England we encourage you to explore the wildlife, nature and natural beauty of all of the UK.
Great Britain may be a small country but we pack a lot in to it. Wildlife, habitat and geology are closely linked and our islands have a wide mix to choose from, our coast can be of rugged steep volcanic rock, chalk, limestone or sandstone and change in a few miles to sweeping sandy bays, sand dunes, spits and mudflats. Inland can vary from flat reclaimed wetland and fen through rolling hills of farmed land, open moor, steep wooded hills and valleys to rugged exposed mountain and span from soft clays to the hardest Granit. This variety of geology and habitat encourages a diverse indigenous flora and fauna and because of our mild climate and position we are also a magnet for migrating birds, insects and sea creatures.
In winter we play host to birds from the Arctic, Northern Russia and Easter Europe, in summer we have birds returning from wintering in Africa and Sea Birds that spend the winter feeding at sea return to their British breading grounds as well as many marine creatures arriving to make the most of nutrient rich waters where the warm Atlantic currents meet colder waters
Spring and Summer visitors
These include Cuckoos, Flycatchers, Gannets, Hobbies, Martins, Manx Shearwaters, Nightjars, Nightingales, Ospreys, Puffins, Redstarts, Swallows from South Africa, Swifts from East Africa, Terns, Tree Pipits, Turtle Doves, Warblers, Wheatears, Whinchats, Yellow Wagtails - Black-tailed Godwit flocks that breed in Iceland descend on UK estuaries from late summer through to spring
These include Bewick's Swans from Siberia, Bramblings, Common Scoters, Fieldfares, Great Northern Divers, Red-necked Grebes, Redwings, Whooper Swans plus many Ducks Geese and other wading birds - and while our Blackcaps may head south for the winter we are seeing a smaller replacement winter population from southern Germany
The seas around our coast have coral reefs, sea grass meadows, deep water, shallows, sand banks and small rocky islands, such a wide variety of habitat encourages a wide variety of animals and birds
The UK is one of the world’s best places to see migrating as well as the indigenous birds, animals and marine creatures.
We are lucky to be positioned on the Atlantic Gulf Stream this gives us a mild winter climate and the sea currents bring nutrients to our shores which encourage marine life, with summer visitors including Whales, Basking Sharks, Sun Fish, Jellyfish and Giant Turtles to compliment our own Dolphins and Seals. We have over 30 different species of Shark in British waters and at least 21 species living in here all year round. Of the 83 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises at least 24 species have been recorded in British waters, with growing seal populations all around our shores. - Boat trips to visit bird island communities, Seal colonies or hot spots for Whales and Dolphins are found all around our coast.
On land there is also a diverse variety of habitat, high mountains, woodlands, heath and moor, pasture, coastal cliffs, wetlands, sand dunes and beaches, the UK also has some rare Temperate Rain Forest. We therefore have a wide range of flora and fauna and there are opportunities to see much of it on our Nature Reserves, but much of it is also surprisingly accessible in the countryside at large.
We have only one indigenous poisonous snake, the Adder, it is rare and even when seen it is more likely to scuttle off than strike. The only large wild animal that can be classed as dangerous is the Wild Boar, they are only found in a few places, are generally active at night and will only attack if they feel threatened, if you cross a field full of domestic cattle with calves and have a dog with you I think you are more likely to be attacked by them. Though I would also give plenty of room to the Red Deer herds, particularly the Stags in the Rutting Season
Some visitors are surprised to learn that we have some populations of horse roaming wild – Dartmoor Ponies, New Forest Ponies and Exmoor Ponies (the nearest breed we have to the original wild horses of Europe), there are large herds of Deer, with six species found in the UK, the indigenous Red Deer and Roe Deer, Fallow Deer were probably introduced by the Normans in the 11th century, while Reeves’ Muntjac, Chinese Water Deer and Sika Deer arrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Grey Squirrels are common originally from America they have replaced the native population of Red Squirrels in many areas but there are some pockets of protected Reds left on the Isle of Wight, Isle of Anglesey, Brownsea Island, in North West and North East England and in Scotland. Wild Boar can be found in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire and in an area on the Kent and East Sussex border, these tend to be active at night. Another common creature is the Badger, black-and-white striped European Badger, it is nocturnal and can be elusive but there are a number of places that offer Badger Watching at night, emerging from their setts at dusk it is fascinating to watch the interaction of a large family group.
In our Rivers
Freshwater Eels (elvers) arrive about 5 cm long migrate up rivers and take about 12 years and mature to 36 cm to 46 cm long. Salmon head back to the river where they were born and work their way up to spawn. Sea Trout also return to their natal river to spawn. The sight of large fish jumping up weirs and white water is something special and of course the Salmon is regarded as the finest fish by anglers.
AONB’s – Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty - outstanding landscape with distinctive character and natural beauty are protected and managed – 46 in the UK - 33 wholly in England (with one more that crosses the England / Wales border) www.landscapesforlife.org.uk
The National Trust – Protects historic buildings, estates and areas of land for the nation- safeguarding habitats for wildlife and providing access to countryside for recreation - www.nationaltrust.org.uk/nature-and-wildlife
National Parks – There are 15 National Parks in the UK – these are areas that have some protection and management but are not natural museums, the parks help to develop tourism, including outdoor activities, leisure and nature tourism. They protect the landscape and manage wildlife while trying to be ac accessible to the public as possible - www.nationalparks.uk/
As a nation of animal lovers it is not surprising that we have protected areas for this wildlife and in some cases they are colonies of rare and endangered species found nowhere else in the world.
National Nature Reserves – at the time of writing there are 224 National Nature Reserves in England details can be found on - www.gov.uk/government/collections/national-nature-reserves-in-england
Local Nature Reserves - Many Local Authorities and Councils also own and manage Local Nature Reserves, sometimes in partnership with other organisations, such as those above.
The tourist.me.uk website endeavours to cover the English mainland - you will find brief details of local National Parks, ANOB's and Wildlife Trusts on the Regional pages and the County pages include a Nature and Wildlife section that identifies animal attractions and popular or important nature related sites to visit
For visitors wishing to see our wildlife the following organisations may be of use
Atlantic Salmon Trust - www.atlanticsalmontrust.org
BIAZA - British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums - professional body representing over 100 of the best zoos and aquariums in Britain and Ireland. www.biaza.org.uk
BTO – British Trust for Ornithology – Information and has a reserve of its own - www.bto.org
Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust - www.whaledolphintrust.co.uk
MARINElife – www.marine-life.org.uk
ORCA - protects whales and dolphins in UK and European waters - www.orcaweb.org.uk
RSPB – Royal Society for the Protection of Birds – Information, own and manages nature reserves - www.rspb.org.uk
Sea Watch Foundation - www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk
Shark Trust - www.sharktrust.org
WDC, Whale and Dolphin Conservation - uk.whales.org
WWT - Wildfowl & Wetland Trust - conservation charity that saves wetlands and develops reserves for wetland birds and wildlife - www.wwt.org.uk
The Wild Trout Trust – www.wildtrout.org
Wildlife Trusts – there are 47 individual Wildlife Trusts in the UK, these own and manage their own reserves and manage conservation projects - www.wildlifetrusts.org/
Woodland Trust - woodland conservation charity, creating and restoring woodland, woodland ecosystems and wildlife http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/