Martin Mere Wetlands Centre

First published in What's On by

Birdwatchers are not the only people who will enjoy a day at Martin Mere Wetland Centre.

Twitchers will be in heaven, of course, as they settle their binoculars across this vast landscape.

But children will also have fun exploring the network of ponds and seeing hundreds of waterbirds.

This reclaimed marsh near Ormskirk in Lancashire offers a surprisingly varied day out for families.

The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust has used many imaginative methods to keep visitors entertained.

In essence the centre is split into two parts: the zoo-like collection of ducks and other endangered species and the open-plan wetlands visited by many thousands of birds.

The captive breeds are split into different zones depending where in the world they come from, and offer an interesting alternative to our native mallards.

Visitors are able to buy food to throw to the waterfowl.

It's not just the different shapes and plumages that fascinate: watch carefully and there's lots to intrigue and captivate.

We saw one moorhen repeatedly picking up seeds to take in turn to members of a harem, without eating any himself.

Elsewhere a line of European ducks strutted along in a straight line charging into Fratton of big cooking the food.

As well as ducks there are swans, flamingos, ducklings and otters.

There are even beavers, who have their own stretch of wooded water to create a colony.

You'd be hard-pressed to actually see the beavers, however, but the dam they've created is impressive.

Part of the site has been given over to a canoe safari where you can hire boats to paddle around the waterways: no alligators, but fun nevertheless.

The other part of Martin Mere -- and by far the largest part -- are the wetlands reclaimed from fields and attracting dozens of migrating species.

There are numerous hides, with lots of information about the creatures you're likely to see at different times of the year.

My children soon grew bored in the hides, but there were adults who had spent hours a day, including some who return regularly.

One hide did keep us occupied for a long while -- overlooking a wooded glade and a couple of tables full of food, designed to replicate a back garden.

We counted at least a dozen types of garden birds ducking and diving around the tables.

In short: old-fashioned animal fun.

Duration: three to four hours.

Age suitability: great for young families and pre-teens.

Access: disabled parking, flat paved access to whole site.

Extras: gift shop, cafe, adventure playground.

Open: 9.30am-5.30pm.

Prices: adults £9.85, concessions £7.30 (over 65 years, full-time students, unemployed), child £4.80 (4-16 years), family £26.50 (2 adults & 2 children, 4-16 years), children (under 4 years) free; free for essential helpers assisting disabled visitors.

Getting there: off the A59 near Burscough, north of Ormskirk; signposted from M61, M58 and M6.

Parking: free car parking.

Website: www.wwt.org.uk/martinmere Phone: 01704 895181

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