Places to go – Martin Mere

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I’ve been away for awhile but I have been working hard believe me!  Well, my Dad has!  He has been helping me to “do up” my backyard.  We’ve nearly finished so I will do a full post about it soon and share photos and advice.  Today I decided to suggest another place to visit – one of my favourites: WWT Martin Mere.

Martin Mere is a wetland nature reserve near Burscough in Lancashire, managed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.  I have had a soft spot for this place for a number of years now, because I volunteered with the wardens for a long time through my degree course, so it holds a lot of happy memories for me, regardless of being a great site with a lot to see!  So I was happy when my SO suggested we visited again and thought it was a great reason to get back working on my blog too.

It isn’t free to enter Martin Mere, and if I am honest it’s expensive at nearly £25 for the two of us.  However, if you become a member of the WWT in 30 days they will reimburse your entrance fee which is quite a saving on the overall cost for a year’s membership.

Martin Mere consists of both a “normal” nature reserve with hides and an enclosed area which they call the grounds and is home to nearly 100 species of exotic, rare or endangered birds and mammals, which is where we began our visit.

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As soon as we entered the grounds we were greeted by a gaggle of flamingos, ducks and opportunistic pigeons!  It was really nice walking through the grounds, seeing the huge variety of species and I imagine it would be a great place to take children, particularly if you buy some bird seed.  You’ll be surrounded!  Here are some of my favourite shots…

One of my favourites - Mr. Tufty!

One of my favourites – Mr. Tufty!

Mr. Pink Legs

Mr. Pink Legs

This poor little guy always seemed to miss out on the seed we threw...

This poor little guy always seemed to miss out on the seed we threw…

Shelduck and ducklings

Shelduck and ducklings

Our tribe of cupboard lovers after some food

Our tribe of cupboard lovers after some food

Martin Mere has some impressive wetland mammals on site too.  There’s a joyful family of Short Toe Asian Otters and more reclusive Beavers and they’re both pretty impressive I must say.  Here are some cute pics of the otters just to make you say aww!

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I had heard rumours that Martin Mere is currently home to a Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) which is a rather rare species I have wanted to see for a long time and we set off hunting for it.  Happily it is fenced off by a rope and a sign saying “Bee Orchid” near the impressive Harrier Hide so it didn’t take us long (I’m lying actually we didn’t see it for looking and it took about 15 minutes!).  I can happily tick it off in my Flora guide (is this normal?), it’s a beauty isn’t it!?

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Near the Beaver enclosure, Martin Mere has planted up an “Eco Garden” with herbs, vegetables and flowers, it’s a quieter part of the site but it was great spending some time photographing the bees enjoy the flowers, this blog is called Bee Kinder after all!

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Thanks for reading, Martin Mere is a great place with loads of things to do and see, they frequently hold classes, workshops and talks too.  Visit their website or facebook group to find out more, and pay them a visit if you’re able – it’s a great place!

P.S Have you seen this app? It allows you to submit your bee counts to Friends of the Earth and will provide vital info to those monitoring populations.  It’s a very practical way to contribute and I daresay it will help improve your ID skills to boot!  Download it here, or from Google Play or the AppStore. See you soon

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Sensory garden at Leighton Moss

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We decided to take a lovely bank holiday trip to one of my favourite places today? I’ve loved Leighton Moss since I was little so I always enjoy a visit, and I’d urge you all to visit it as soon as possible! Tempt unwilling friends and family with the promise of amazing tiffin – the cafe does delicious food.

The reserve is large with a number of hides and is home to some charismatic species, including the bittern, bearded tit and even otter. We really enjoyed walking around the sensory garden today and I noticed a few things to incorporate in my own backyard, so I thought I’d document them here. Having a sensory garden is something I’m aiming for, particularly as I’m planning to sit outside a lot this summer (if possible!) and want to enjoy my space as much as possible.

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The Five Senses…

Sight – The sensory garden had lots to see, and in one way that’s the easiest sense to cater to! Leighton Moss have done it right with a range of beautiful plants and herbs of various colours and form in bloom – including the gorgeous Perennial Cornflower pictured above and the pink rose below. Many of the herbs were flowering too, especially the mint which was full of purple pink flowers which bees were going mad for. Of course because of the flowers there were lots of insects to look at too; there were a number of damselflies gracefully alighting on leaves, hoverflies and plenty of busy bees collecting pollen. There were some plants yet to flower so I expect that the sensory garden has been set up so it is in flower for most of the year, which is something to aim for – particularly as you are helping bees by providing food sources all year around. There was also a massive bug hotel delightfully called Bugingham Palace! Here’s a damselfly on a furry sage leaf.

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Taste – Taste was well catered for too, as lots of the flowers were herbs, which can be used raw or cooked. It’s my plan to create a vertical herb garden using a trellis made from wood my dad has salvaged. Plus the advantage of herbs is that bees love ’em!

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Hear – At Leighton Moss you can hear a lot more sounds than in the average garden, specifically ducks quacking and the slightly obnoxious calls of black-headed gulls. However, we can replicate the buzz of bees and tweetings of garden birds of course! Another way to add sounds to your garden is to plant noisy plants e.g. bamboo, which makes a relaxing swooshing noise in the wind, or install a pond with a trickling fountain! Ponds are brilliant for wildlife too, perhaps I will post about that one time as I aim to create a very, very small pond in my very small back yard!

Feel – This might sound tenuous but the plants were all different textures, which you can stop and appreciate. One herb that adds a lovely texture to touch is sage with its furry, rabbit-ear-like leaves! There’s silky rose petals, furry bees (although I didn’t touch them!) but just make sure not to touch nettles!

Smell – At Leighton Moss the sensory garden smelt amazing! As well as rubbing the variety of herbs between your fingers, scent also came from the flowering plants, in particular these roses which had an intoxicating smell, which always reminds me of Turkish Delight.

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Have you any ideas of how to create a sensory garden that I haven’t mentioned? I’m looking for more ideas for my yard, so please comment below if you do!