What to do on an overcast half-term break day out? We gave WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre a try. High praise from these North Americans: although it poured rain on us twice while we were walking the extensive grounds, we didn’t give up and run back to the indoor centre until we were too cold to feel our fingers. Beautiful and peaceful on a rainy day, I can only imagine how gorgeous it would be under a warm sun.
Access to the site is typically English — wind your way through one-track lanes and through small villages until you think you are lost and then: there it is. Parking is free and there’s plenty of it, and the Centre is open year-round during daylight hours.
The main building holds exhibit and educational spaces, a gift shop, cafe, and an observation tower.
There was a display of paper-cut decorative art in the main hall. If only I had two hundred pounds to spare …
A pound for a bag of feed and you can give the birds a snack. Don’t bring your own bread — it’s not nutritious enough for the birds. These were the fattest pigeons I’ve ever seen.
Everyone knows the drill, and the mute swans take their share of the loot.
You can feed the birds leaning over a fence, or walk up to them and attempt feeding by hand (or by scattering the feed on the ground and running away, my six-year-old’s favorite strategy).
There are several play areas throughout the site, including “Welly Boot Land”. Expect to get wet here — either from playing in the water, or from the rain.
Half-term break included Halloween this year, so the Centre was spooked up for the kids. We followed a Halloween Trail with thematic clues throughout the park. (Cupcakes in the cafe for rewards, after.)
Did I mention that rain, yet? Pretty much the whole place was “Welly Boot Land” during out visit. That’s okay. It was fun to explore.
In between the main paths, grassy (or muddy or leafy) side paths lead to quiet streams or ponds. These trumpeter swans hooted and honked as they swan off.
Or flamingos. There are several groupings of flamingos here at the Centre, spread throughout the parklands.
Apparently, they like jack-o-lanterns.
A beautiful setting for a long, quiet walk.
Not bird or wetlands related, necessarily, but irresistible.
There are a beautiful variety of swans at the Centre. This is the smallest of the swan family, a Coroscoba.
Black necked swans as well.
These fronds waved well above our heads. Even on a half-term holiday, the grounds were not crowded (maybe because of that rain) and we found it very peaceful.
A dash inside the tropical house to wait out some rain, and we found a large above-ground koi pond full of assertive fish. It was like being surrounded by dozens of glowing, gorgeous, miniature sharks.
And another dash to a covered observation hut, looking over flamingo lagoon.
The Wetland Centre clearly belongs to the birds. As many wander the paths as stay beyond the fences. I’m kind of in love with this lovely drake. Don’t tell him hoisin duck is one of my favorite appetizers.
It was touch and go over this bridge. The geese put up a strong, hissing, defense, but eventually retreated in the face of three children and a very wet mother.
Crain brain. Some of the Halloween trail items may have gone a little far…
The award-winning rain garden. Check out the eco roof. I would totally build one of these in my backyard. Heck, make it a little bigger and install FIOS, and I’ll live there.
Back inside the Centre, we visited Toad Hall and the many small amphibious creatures therein.
Then a quiet stop in the cafe, with a unique view of one of the flamingo groups. Traveling in England Tip #463: English lunch officially ends at 1:30. So if you walk in to a cafe at 1:20 and it seems crowded, take a short walk. When you return at 1:31, it will be abandoned. Enjoy!
Before you go, don’t forget to take the lift (or walk) to the top of the observation tower. Look out over the paths you’ve walked.
And dream of the many more places there are still to go, here in this corner of Camelot.