Welney Wetlands

Our week of exploration ended with the longest trip yet: Welney Wetlands. We'd originally planned to visit Welney (and the nearby town of Ely) for a long weekend to celebrate my birthday this year, but obviously that had all been cancelled. Still, we're WWT members and Welney is within three hours drive comfortably, so it felt like a good time to at least see a bit of the area. Plus, whilst the WWT sites have now been open for a few weeks they're operating on a booked-slot basis to limit numbers and that means actually getting to our local London wetlands has been pretty much impossible. Finding out that Welney had available tickets was a huge win, so off we went.

I'm really glad we did so, and that we went at the end of the week. Not only did that mean that I'd had some time to learn how to use my new zoom lens properly but it also meant we had this whole day-trip, picnic-dinner vibe down, which helped a lot for such a long route. Still, it's a long way to go[1] and the centre only stays open until 4pm[2], so once we'd arrived and eaten a small picnic (the end of the quiche) for lunch, we only had about two hours to explore. That meant we stuck to the main area and just enjoyed ourselves visiting the various hides, a decision which proved extremely fortuitous when the heavens unexpectedly opened and waves of thunder-squalls rolled through. We luckily managed to miss all of the rain (well, I did, whilst Alison opted to go and run around in it 😁), though did get trapped in the car at the end of the visit eating our ice creams as a final washout battered down from above!

The centre itself is fantastic, with some really brilliant facilities. I definitely want to go back when it's opened properly and think the whole Ely trip is definitely still on. The main hide is extremely well set up too and had just a medley of life visible from it[3], and whilst we didn't see much from the first few exploratory wanderings we did get some great sightings across the day. We didn't even make it to the final hide as we were just getting so much out of our third choice – the Nelson Hide – where we saw marsh harrier hunting, a sparrowhawk fly by at speed, and had a lot of fun spotting reed warblers, sedge warblers, an adorable coot family, redshank, and all manner of dragonflies in the near reed beds (particularly when the heavens opened!). We also had a brilliant spot (Alison's – I walked right past it!) of a shrew (unsure of pygmy or common but leaning towards the former) on the path to the Reed Hide as well, plus enjoyed the immensely loud bellowing of the cows they keep on the wetlands for cropping and just caught a glimpse of two more harriers and some godwits as we were leaving.

From Welney, we decided to loop home via the viewpoints on Ivinghoe Beacon, an area we discovered last year whilst visiting Whipsnade Zoo. In the dusk golden hour, enjoying sticky sausages, potato salad, and Malaysian curry Pringles, whilst looking out over the rolling hills and chalk lion as red kites played in the thermals above our heads... it was a perfect ending to a cracking week[4] 😎

Spot List

All at Welney Wetlands unless otherwise stated.

  • Marsh Harrier
  • Sparrowhawk
  • Red Kite (Ivinghoe Beacon)
  • Kestrel (from car)
  • Whooper Swan
  • Mute Swan
  • Coot
  • Tufted Duck
  • Avocet
  • Black-tailed Godwit
  • Redshank
  • Pied Wagtail
  • Sedge Warbler (probably)
  • Reed Warbler
  • Pygmy Shrew
  • Four-Spotted Chaser (dragonfly)
  • Black-Tailed Skimmer (dragonfly)

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  • Our week of exploration ended with the longest trip yet: Welney Wetlands. We'd originally planned to visit Welney (and the nearby town of Ely) […]
  • People & Places
  • Natural World
  • Murray Adcock.
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