Monitoring uncommon birds of prey, Norfolk
Babies won’t ever rapturously welcome the announcement of an exercise they’ve by no means completed earlier than. Particularly if it includes the dreaded phrase “stroll” – and positively not when temperatures are near freezing on a day of fixed rain.
Even I quail just a little once I telephone the customer centre at Hickling Broad they usually cheerily announce that the Raptor Roost Stroll – a guided twilight stroll seeking uncommon birds of prey – goes forward.
“It’s going to cease raining,” I misinform my mutinous kids on the drive to Hickling, a nationwide nature reserve well-suited to a moist day: it comprises the biggest reedbed in England and the biggest of the Norfolk Broads’ freshwater lakes. I attempt to distract the youngsters by creating nice curtains of brown water as I drive alongside the flooded roads.

The author’s kids watching cranes and marsh harriers at Hickling Broad. {Photograph}: Patrick Barkham
Our group of a dozen gathers on the customer centre and our chief, Richard, is cautious to not overhype our prospects. He’s completed an hour’s recce, his fingers are numb and he’s not seen any birds of prey. He explains we’ll stroll half a mile to Stubb Mill, a disused wind-pump, and look out for marsh harriers, hen harriers, barn owls and possibly even Britain’s tallest chook, the crane, which was as soon as extinct on this nation however final 12 months loved its finest breeding 12 months because the 17th century after flying again into this watery nook of japanese England.
With the sunshine fading, we squelch alongside a muddy observe. Amazingly, it has stopped raining. One among my seven-year-old twins runs forward, relishing the recent air after a day indoors, my five-year-old is busy testing my binoculars and the opposite twin continues to be moaning, however her puddle-sploshing is unquestionably a secret pleasure.
We pause and survey flooded meadows. A flock of lapwing swoop towards the wintery sky, a gray heron stands immobile on one leg and a Chinese language water deer jinks into the reeds. And within the distance, a marsh harrier.
We stay close by and are acquainted with marsh harriers however this huge, slender-winged chook is rarer than a golden eagle in Britain. It flies low over the reedbeds, into the wind, intentionally slowing its flight so it will possibly eyeball voles cowering within the reeds. I’ve a primary nature data however there’s at all times extra to be taught, and selecting up ideas from different fanatics, within the subject, is way the quickest and nicest technique to be taught.

A hen harrier spots its prey. {Photograph}: Raymond Hennessy/Alamy
Past the mill, we cease on a raised flood financial institution and practice binoculars on the marshes past. At nightfall in winter, as much as 100 marsh harriers roost for the night time in scrubby hawthorn dotted via these flatlands. We spy a buzzard and watch greater than a dozen marsh harriers. Then, with an eccentric croak, two cranes flop on to the marshes. They remind me of decorative peacocks as they strut via the undergrowth with nice majesty.
As if commanded by the cranes, the solar seems, turning the marshes golden, and the large skies pink as we return to the customer centre, numb with chilly however glowing; and in a a lot calmer, but additionally ebullient, frame of mind. At residence that night, all three kids fall sleep immediately, one other of the numerous advantages of a chilly, wild stroll.• Norfolk Wildlife Belief runs common guided walks at reserves together with Hickling and Cley subsequent the Sea, £3.50–£5pp, norfolkwildlifetrust.org.ukPatrick Barkham
The Gobbins Coastal Path, County Antrim

The Gobbins Cliff Path walkway. {Photograph}: Charles McQuillan/Getty Photos
Adventurous older youngsters will love the spectacular Gobbins Coastal Path, a guided hike alongside a steep, slender path hugging the cliff face at Islandmagee, County Antrim. The trail was inbuilt 1902, and this contemporary model opened in 2015. The strenuous 2½-hour path contains bridges, tunnels and caves, with seabirds nesting within the cliffs above and the ocean crashing towards the rocks not far under. Guides recount the historical past of the primary path’s building and inform tales of native smugglers; dolphins are generally noticed off the coast. There is no such thing as a age restrict, however there are strict top restrictions: kids have to be a minimum of 1.2 metres (4ft) tall and can’t be carried. Everybody should put on strolling boots and a security helmet – this isn’t a stroll within the park.• Grownup £15, youngster £12, open every day till Three Nov, thegobbinscliffpath.com
Nationwide Belief, nationwide

Souter Lighthouse, Tyne and Put on. {Photograph}: Alamy
The Nationwide Belief runs frequent family-friendly guided walks. At Chirk Citadel close to Wrexham, there’s a Winter Woodland Welly Stroll for half-term. Youngsters will be taught to establish timber from their buds, spot winter flowers and fungi, and have a go at “constructing their very own tree” (free, 19 and 27 Feb). Budding photographers can go on a Youngsters with Cameras stroll at Calke Abbey in Derbyshire. They’ll choose up loads of ideas and tips, and discover completely different views to seize (stroll free, admission grownup £15, youngster £7.50, 16 Feb and 6 July).
These with youthful kids can be a part of the “pramblers” at Souter Lighthouse in Tyne & Put on for weekly guided coastal walks on pushchair-friendly routes (free however e book forward, each Monday). And there’s a birdwatching stroll with a distinction within the coastal village of Ravenscar, North Yorkshire. Members document the birdsong they hear within the woods and on the cliffs, then learn to flip the sounds into spectograms – visible representations of the music (£60 for a full day, ages eight and above, 2 June).• Discover extra walks at nationaltrust.org.uk/strolling
Fossil and rockpools, Dorset

Golden Cap cliff pictured from Charmouth seashore. {Photograph}: John Henshall/Alamy
Charmouth Seaside on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast is among the finest locations within the UK to search out fossils. The Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre runs guided fossil walks, beginning with a 20-minute discuss earlier than heading out on to the seashore to hunt for specimens to take residence. There are every day walks throughout half-term (grownup £8, over-8s £4, charmouth.org, 17-24 Feb). The centre additionally runs Rockpool Rambles simply alongside the coast in Lyme Regis, the place ledges stuffed with marine life are uncovered at low tide. A warden factors out all of the vegetation and animals dwelling on the seashore – and youngsters love splashing within the water (grownup £4, youngster £3, subsequent ramble 7 April). Lastly, volunteers are welcome to assist hunt for nurdles – not legendary sea creatures however tiny plastic pellets which are dangerous to wildlife (subsequent hunt 17 March).
Wildlife walks, Glen Doll, the Cairngorms

{Photograph}: David Howell/Getty Photos
The rangers of Glen Doll, within the Cairngorms nationwide park, run common guided walks. For instance, Tracks ’n’ Trails teaches kids the right way to spot indicators of animal exercise, together with tracks and scats (droppings). Traces of pine martens, otters, deer and even wildcats might be discovered.
There are additionally six self-guided trails from the ranger base – employees are there most days to offer recommendation. One route follows the River South Esk, a habitat for wagtails and dippers; one other goes up into larch forest, the place pink deer roam; a 3rd reaches Corrie Payment, an enormous pure amphitheatre carved out by glaciers, the place golden eagles might be seen circling overhead. Skilled walkers can bag a Munro (a mountain over 3,000ft) – Glen Doll is a place to begin for hill walks to the peaks Driesh and Mayar.• Grownup £7.20, youngster £4.05, subsequent guided stroll 17 Feb, cairngorms.co.uk
Woodland Belief, nationwide

{Photograph}: Michael Heffernan
The Woodland Belief – the UK’s largest woodland conservation charity, which manages greater than 1,000 websites – runs guided walks and occasions all year long. Upcoming occasions embody a winter tree ID workshop on 23 February on the Smithills Property exterior Bolton (1pm, free); a round stroll exploring the environmental historical past of a Celtic rainforest in Coed Felinrhyd and Llennyrch, Gwynedd, with lichenologists on 17 March (9.30am, free, reserving suggested); and an opportunity to benefit from the daybreak refrain with an professional birder at Glasswater Wooden in Downpatrick, County Down, on 6 April (begins 5.30am, grownup £5, youngster £3).• woodlandtrusttickets.cloudvenue.co.uk
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