Otmoor RSPB Reserve

Otmoor RSPB reserve is a combination of reedbeds and wet meadows about a mile from the village of Beckley, which is accessed from the B4027.  Once in the village just beyond the ‘Abingdon Arms’ PH take the dead end that leads into Otmoor Lane.  At the end of which is the reserve entrance and car park.  
There is a hide and two viewing screens on the reserve.
Birds - The reserve is particularly good for Warblers; Turtle Doves; raptors including Red Kites, Buzzards, Hobbies, Short-eared Owls, Marsh and Hen Harriers (the latter overwintering).  During the winter months there are large numbers of wildfowl and impressive starling murmurations (anything up to 30,000 birds) can be seen.
Other Nature - It is also an excellent site for a wide range of insects particularly damselflies; dragonflies (including the Hairy dragonfly);  butterflies, including Silver-washed fritillary, Black, Brown and Purple Hairstreaks.

Farmoor Resevoir

The reservoir is situated next to the River Thames approximately five miles to the west of Oxford City. Thames Water manage the site and the public entrance is via Gate 3 on the B4017, Cumnor Road.  NB there is a parking fee. 

A tarmac road runs around the perimeter and over the causeway.  In addition there is a four mile countryside walk that includes woodland, riverside meadows and wetland reserves, ‘Pinkhill’ and ‘Shrike’ Meadows.  There are hides at the wetland reserves and couple around the reservoir. 

It is particularly good for bird watching during the spring and autumn migration and is well known for attracting the occasional rare vagrant.  The Reservoir provides the opportunity to photograph birds relatively close-up,  mainly passage waders stopping off for a break.  Between August and mid-April there is also a large gull roost 

Bernwood Forest and Meadows

Bernwood Forest and Meadows is approximately eight miles northeast of Oxford. Shabbington Wood of Bernwood Forest is managed by the Forestry Commission. Bernwood Meadows is a BBOWT (Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust) reserve.

Entrances, along with the car parks, to both sites are accessed from the road between Stanton St John and Oakley and are situated either side of the Horton-cum-Studley junction.  Heading from Stanton St John the entrance for Bernwood Meadows is about  ¾ of a mile before the Horton-cum-Studley junction.  The entrance for Shabbington Wood is a further mile towards Oakley (about 400 yards beyond the junction).

Both sites provide ideal habitat for butterflies,  with Shabbington Wood recognised as one of the most important butterfly sites in the UK.

Brandon Marsh Nature Reserve

Brandon Marsh Nature Reserve situated alongside the River Severn near the village of Brandon. It is an SSSI managed by the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and comprises of ten main pools surrounded by wetland vegetation. There are also a couple of small woods adding to the diversity of the reserve.

The reserve is accessed from Brandon Lane, off the A45 just past the Tollbar End roundabout. Car parking is provided next to the Visitor Centre. There is an admission fee for non Wildlife Trust members.

The reserve is a good all round site for native plants, butterflies, dragonflies and birds. In respect of the latter, it is particularly good for over wintering wildfowl; warblers; & waders during the spring and autumn migration. The extensive reedbeds attract over-wintering bitterns.

Draycote Water

Draycote Water is a reservoir and country park close to the village of Dunchurch,  approximately six kilometres from Rugby.  The reservoir is managed by Severn Trent.

The entrance is accessed from the A426, Southam Road, which leads to a Pay & Display car park.
A combination of tarmaced road and pathway runs around the reservoir providing an enjoyable five mile walk.

Draycote Water is particularly good for over-wintering wildfowl,  with the Great Northern Diver, Slavonian & Black-necked Grebes,  and Smew being frequent visitors.  A large Gull roost forms from August continuing through the winter months. There is a hide in ‘Toft Bay’ which is situated close to a feeding station giving the opportunity for close-up views and photographs of the finch and tit family;  look out for Redpolls and Siskins during the winter months.  It is a good place for bird watching during the spring and autumn migration and quite often attracts rare vagrants. 

Watlington Hill

Watlington Hill is part of the Chilterns escarpment and owned by the National Trust.  There is a 1½ mile circular walk providing far reaching views at the top of the hill.

Directions -  approximately 5 miles south of junction 6, M40, take the road to Christmas Common off the B4009. 

It is a very good site to watch and photograph Red Kites  The grassland is kept well cropped by the local population of rabbits,  which along with the areas of scrub and surrounding woodland makes the site ideal habitat for butterflies. 

Port Meadow

Port Meadow lies to the Northwest of the City of Oxford and is both a SSSI and scheduled monument.  It is the largest area of Common land in Oxford covering in excess of 400 acres. The River Thames runs along its Western perimeter..

The entrance closest to the better bird watching areas is to the South and accessed via Walton Well Road or Aristotle Lane.  Being nearer to the centre of Oxford beware of very heavy commuter traffic during the week.  There is a car park at the end of Walton Well Road.  Alternatively for those who enjoy a good walk the Meadows can be accessed from the Northern entrance in Godstow, Wolvercote, situated on the outskirts of the City. 

There is unrestricted access to the whole site but please note Commoners still exercise their grazing rights. The winter floods attract large flocks of wildfowl and a good variety/number of waders. It is also a good site for migrating birds; gulls and terns.  For reasonable views a spotting scope is essential as the Meadow is quite a large open area offering very little in the way of cover.  

Dix Pit - Stanton Harcourt

Dix Pit, Stanton Harcourt is just over 4 miles from the village of Eynsham.  The Pit is part of the Lower Windrush Valley Complex. 

Directions - from the A40 Eynsham roundabout take the B4449 heading towards the villages of Sutton and Stanton Harcourt.  Continue on the B4449 past the village of Sutton and follow the directions to the Waste Disposal & Recycling Centre,  which is on the left.  After leaving the B4449 keep to the main Waste Disposal road that initially bears to the right.

As Dix Pit comes into view, on the left is a lay-by providing the initial viewing point.  A second viewing point is located at the end of the road on the left-hand side just beyond the entrance to the Waste Disposal Centre (the speed-humps between the two viewing points are on the severe side).

Due to its close proximity to active landfill areas it is very attractive to gulls particularly during the week when the tips are being worked.  It is also a good site for overwintering wildfowl. 

The road to the Waste Disposal Centre is not an official right of way and is only open to cars during the day.  There is limited parking at the second viewing area but please seek permission at the Centre’s office if you wish leave your car to explore the footpaths.  

Arne RSPB reserve

Arne RSPB reserve about 4 miles from the centre of Wareham.  It was established in 1965 and is part of the Purbeck heaths covering approximately 535 hectares.

Directions - heading south from Wareham over the causeway to Stoborough and via Nutcrack Lane follow the signposts to Arne and the car park is located at the beginning of the village.  

In addition to the open areas of heathland the reserve includes old oak woodland,  saltmarsh and open stretches of water across Poole harbour.  The reserve is a good place to see the Dartford Warbler.  Over the winter the saltmarsh areas / Middlebere Lake attracts a good variety of waders and wildfowl that can number in excess of 25,000 birds during January and Februrary. 

The reserve has a good diversity of flora and forna.  The numerous ponds around the reserve have attracted 23 species of dragonflies.  And in the summer the sandy clearings provide an ideal basking place for reptiles such as the Sand Lizard.

Durlston Country Park

Durlston Country Park is approx a mile from Swanage situated in the southeast of the Isle of Purbeck.

Directions - take the A351 from Wareham to Swanage, approximately 11 miles and follow the brown tourist signs. There is pay & display car park.

The Country Park was established in 1973 and is known as a birding hot spot particularly during the spring and autumn migration.  It is also a good site to see nesting seabirds.

Pagham Harbour

Pagham Harbour is six miles to the south of Chichester and two miles north-east of Selsey. The Reserve was created in 1964 and is considered an important site for wintering wildfowl and waders.

Directions - from Chichester’s A27 bypass take the B2145 to Selsey.  Continue on the B2145 and about ¾ of a mile south of Sidlesham village, on the left, is the reserve entrance and car park.  There are a number of trails around the reserve which are detailed in a leaflet available from the Visitor Centre.

Near to the reserve entrance is a hide overlooking ‘Ferry Pool’.  The harbour is ideal for passage waders.  In the Autumn following the trail along the western edge of the harbour there’s quite a good chance of seeing a rarity.

Rutland Water

Rutland Water is just to the west of Stamford. The Reserve is split into two:
  • the Lyndon Reserve along the south-west shoreline, &
  • the Egleton Reserve a further mile to the north.
Both can be accessed from the A6003 between Uppingham and Oakham.  The Lyndon Reserve lies between Manton and Edith Weston.  The Egleton Reserve is situated just south of Oakham,  accessed via the village of Egleton.  There is a Visitor Centre and car parking at both reserves,  the entrance fee covers both sites.  

Rutland Water was created in the 1970’s and is one of the largest man-made reservoirs in Europe.  It is recognised as an important wetland site where nature conservation covers approximately nine miles of the western shoreline.  As well as the vast open areas of water,  there are lagoons,  marshes,  reed beds, meadows and woodland.  Both resevers have a visitor centres and a number of hides.  

Rutland Water is well known for the large numbers of waterfowl over the winter months; & the Osprey reintroduction project.