Our Nature Reserve of the Year shortlist, nominated by nature writer Simon Barnes
BLAKENEY POINT, NORFOLK
Photo Credit: iStock Gordon Bell
Here is accessible nature, a place that opens the eyes of the nature-blind and deepens the instinctive nature-love that all children are born with. A trip to the seal colony is as easy as it is wonderful: an essential aspect of British life.
Photo credit: Kenfig
Here is an example of the perfectly incongruous nature reserve: one surrounded by human activity and somehow thriving. The dune system is seriously disorientating: in this untouched landscape you can lose yourself in wilderness and then find yourself in heavy industry of Port Talbot.
IPSLEY ALDERS, WORCESTERSHIRE
Photo credit: Ipsley Marsh Pool by Zoe Stevens
Here in the middle of Redditch, surrounded by the sort of houses from which Harry Potter was rescued, lies a semi-hidden and rather reckless expanse of wet woods and grassland. Again the context is the thing: wilderness where you least expect it, and where you most need it. I added firecrest to the reserve list, so there’s glory for you.
BASS ROCK, FIRTH OF FORTH
Photo credit: Mo Thomson
This place makes the list for the second year running. I’d never been there before and I discovered that it’s one of the most overwhelming wild places in the country. And so easy. To be in the company of 150,000 gannets is like joining the company of the angels.
CLEY MARSHES, NORFOLK
Photo Credit: iStock Mike Lane
Cley has always been good, but it just got a great deal better. Purchased in 1926 to be held as a bird-breeding sanctuary, it acquired a vast new area of wetland this year and it’s jumping with wildlife. You can see spoonbills from the café, or penetrate the reeds for more challenging stuff.