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As if the light filtering through ancient Caledonian pines wasn’t enough, here are turkey-sized capercaillies, pine martens, red squirrels and the must-visit shrine of conservation: the Loch Garten ospreys. Blaeberry-carpeted woods overlooked by the snow-topped Cairngorms ring with the purring of crested tits and metallic calls of crossbills. Simply unmissable.
Gilfach is the best of Welsh wildlife distilled in one glorious and accessible reserve. Swift-flowing ottery streams where dippers and grey wagtails flirt course through old meadows bright with mountain pansies. Redstarts and pied flycatchers flit through oakwoods and dark green fritillaries speed across heathery moors as red kites glide like wraiths.
The wild and wonderful delights of Thomas Hardy’s heathland make this one of my favourite places. Here at the mouth of Poole Harbour are heather-lined paths where sand lizards and adders bask: all six British reptiles live here, along with insect-eating plants such as sundew and butterwort. Winter brings rare grebes to feed offshore.
An old oil refinery on the Thames estuary’s shores doesn’t sound like a wildlife haven, but the wildlife thinks differently. This glorious, post-industrial reserve hums with rare bees and other insects: it bristles with brownfield biodiversity and is an outstanding example of why we should value such places.
For hard-hat wearers, the Farne Islands provides the closest encounters of the bird kind you could wish for. In summer, puffins throng clifftops as razorbills and guillemots line the rock-ledges like back-and-white skittles. Once I helped a shag build its pathside nest. And those hats? Essential when walking through the Arctic tern colony.
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