Whilst we were staying on a narrow boat on Gloucester’s canals, we took a day trip to the Slimbridge Wetland Centre. It is one of the only places in the world where you can see all five species of flamingos. Having spent a month on Sardinia chasing these pesky creatures to little avail, I was in my element and as it happens so were the kids. Here’s why Slimbridge wetland centre makes a perfect day out for families of all ages.
What is Slimbridge Wetland Centre?
Slimbridge Wetland Centre was the first Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) to be opened back in 1946.
Slimbridge Wetland Centre cares for and studies ducks, geese and swans of the world and offers excellent opportunity for bird watchers and photography.
WWT Slimbridge covers 3 square kilometres of which 500,000 square metres has been landscaped and is open to the public.
What does it cost?
An adult costs £12.72 whilst a child is £7.27. For this you get an all day entrance with a map. You can purchase annual passes which is not a significant amount more and if we lived locally this is the type of place we’d visit regularly. If you’re a British tax payer, you can gift aid the tax.
We opted to purchase the guide book as it contains many of the bird species there and I wanted the kids to get an understanding of classification and how to research. It cost £3.50 and we still have it and use it (five months later).
TAKE CASH. Although entrance can be paid by bank card, the drink-stop cafes around the park only accept cash.
What area should you discover first?
With fifteen separate outdoor areas to discover we were busy that day! We started indoors with the frogs and discovered a new animal; the mudpuppy! Sometimes called waterdogs because of the noise they make. I didn’t get a photo as it likes to live in dark conditions and hide but it looks like an extra large newt with tuffty bits around its neck.
There are super poisonous frogs
We start by learning about the life cycle of a frog from egg to frog and I literally had to drag the kids away and promise them we’d return later.
Wellyboot land is just WOW
I didn’t bring a spare set of clothes, it’s not the sort of thing I have to prepare for with older kids, so we had to de-shoe and undress in the park. Not that the kids minded!
This park is brilliant for water play; jumping, splashing, making dams, floating… If I’d have let them, they would have spent hours here.
If you come, I’d recommend bringing a towel and possibly a change of clothes.
Let’s talk about the Flamingo zones
I couldn’t believe my luck!! The Andean flamingo, American flamingo, Lesser flamingo, Caribbean flamingo, James’ flamingo and the Greater flamingo all feature in a series of flamingo sections.
I’ll try not to bore you with too many photos of flamingos because I am fascinated by these creatures and took loads of photos.
Some of them make a lot of noise and we stood for ages watching them and trying to work out what they were saying.
There are other birds in the flamingo sections too….
Stop by noisy Swan Lake
The swan area is incredibly noisy but a great opportunity for kids to get up and close with birds. They can even feed them with specially purchased bird seed.
Watch out for the incredibly lively Bewick swans who will talk to you very loudly.
And the noise from the Geese of the world
Be prepared for noise in this section as all of the geese squabble loudly along the pathways. There are a lot of different types of geese to spot and you could spend ages looking them all up in the guide book.
Can you Canoe safari
In the end we didn’t do the canoe safari instead we took a drink break and watched the goslings forage on the grass. It was really nice to see the amount the of birds with chicks or sitting on nests there. It’s a good sign that they’re happy.
There’s also cute little door mice
The centre also has an otter pool and a section for these cute little door mice.
Stop by the Asia zone
If you’re looking for some slightly unusual looking birds this is where you should head!
Definitely visit the tropical house
Prepare to steam your way around the tropical house where a number of birds and fish live as well as flowering plants.
Take a short walk to the bird hides
At opposite ends of the park, a short walk away from the main site, are a number of hides and towers. We definitely knew that we wanted to try and spot a kingfisher but we also took a walk to the Martin Smith hide, the Robbie Garnett hide, the Steve Kirk hide and the Holden tower.
It’s difficult with kids to know how interested they’ll be in sitting still and spotting birds so I was pleasantly surprised when my three took a keen interest and managed to sit and spot. I really recommend taking binoculars and, if you can, cameras to keep them interested.
For their birthdays we purchased our younger two, waterproof/shockproof nikon point and shoots from eBay which were about £80-100 and they’ve been invaluable in maintaining their attention spans in tricky situations.
Can you spot a kingfisher?
It was actually our middle child who first spotted a Kingfisher. We watched it fly in and out of the bank and just as I lined up a shot two very noisy swans flew in and spooked it.
We were a little bit far away for me to be able to get a good shot but if you look closely you can just make out the orange and blue feathers just above the water.
Those elegant cranes
I’m not sure if the cranes are shy and easily spooked or if they were nesting but they were quite hard to spot. We eventually managed to see this little head poking over a fence.
What’s a rain garden?
Hopping over the tundra, we accidentally discovered an exquisite rain garden. This is wonderful for kids.
A rain garden is a planted hole that allows rainwater runoff from roofs, driveways, walkways, parking lots and compacted lawn areas, the opportunity to be absorbed. This reduces rain runoff by allowing stormwater to soak into the ground (as opposed to flowing into storm drains and surface waters which causes erosion, water pollution, flooding, and diminished groundwater).
The purpose of a rain garden is to improve water quality in nearby bodies of water and to ensure that rainwater becomes available for plants as groundwater rather than being sent through stormwater drains straight out to sea. It is estimated that rain gardens can cut down on the amount of pollution reaching creeks and streams by up to 30%.
And then it actually started to rain!
The clouds started to grow black and loom closer. So just before the centre closed we made a dash for the indoor frog area.
You’re never too old to be a frog
It seems as though you’re never too old to dress up as frogs and play ‘Guess Who’! We only just made it back here before closing time too as there’s just so much to see and do.
Can you eat plant-based at Slimbridge?
The main restaurant served two plant-based soups and a hummous & vegetable sandwich. It was relatively pricey as well.
There are two kiosks around the park that sell drinks but nothing plant-based to eat.
This is an area they could improve on.
Visit a WWT near you
We ranked our visit to WWT Slimbridge at 9.5 stars out of 10! We had a super day out, we learned loads, we walked miles, we got hands on with feeding the birds, we saw so many bird species it was untrue and best of all were the flamingos.
There are ten WWT centres throughout the UK, check out their site to see where your nearest one is.
Videos from our day at the Slimbridge Wetland Centre
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