Slimbridge Wetland Centre is a great day out for grown ups and children alike; get up close to flamingos, otters, swans, geese and ducks as well as all manner of visiting birds on their migration. Just off the M5, near Stroud in Gloucestershire, it is incredibly easy to get to.
When you arrive at the visitor’s centre, pop over to the information desk and buy some grain to feed the birds. Next to this is the ‘Today at Slimbridge’ information board – it has all the activities that are happening throughout the day. TOP TIP: take a photo of the information board, so you don’t have to remember the times and you never miss an activity!
When we visited, we looked around outside first then ran out of time to go up the observation tower, so I would recommend visiting this first (it is in the same building at the information desk). Take the stairs or the lift to the top to get a 360 degree panoramic view of the site. There are also lots of other activities including Land Rover safaris and canoe safaris, but as we had four children under 6s with us, we chose to have a sedate wander instead.
We started on the wooden walkway that passes over the Swan Lake, and it is here that you get a taste of what’s to come. I was so surprised how many different species of bird you can see on the lakes, waddling around and flying overhead. The children were in their element trying to name them all.
We were all so excited when we got our first glimpse of the Andean flamingos, one of six different species at Slimbridge. We ended up spending ages just watching them stretching their long necks, dipping their beaks in the water for lunch and snoozing.
Next we went to explore the Tundra, North America and South America exhibits, where the children were thrilled to feed all the different birds with the seeds we bought earlier.
Round the next corner is your first glimpse of Flamingo Lagoon, home to the UK’s largest flock of flamingos! It is quite a sight.
Before taking a closer look, we headed to the otter pool to see the gorgeous family of North American river otters. They are unbelievably cute and we couldn’t help but sit awhile and watch Mother Flo and her twins Minnie and Ha Ha playing in the water. There are daily talks during their feeding sessions, just check the information board in the visitor centre for times.
We visited on a rather hot day and by now we needed to sit and cool down. Luckily for us, Welly Boot Land is just a short walk from the otters, so we went and had a paddle in the little streams of water and munched on some ice cream from the kiosk there.
Fully revived, we managed to tear the children away from Welly Boot Land and strolled over to the Flamingo Lagoon observatory. What an experience it was – you really feel like you are in an African wetland, being so close to the Greater Flamingos and surrounded by all the sounds (and smells!) of these incredible birds.
Our last stop were the Australia and Lesser flamingos exhibits, where we were particularly captivated by the black swans. We couldn’t help but have one last look at the otters before heading back to the Swan Lake and home.
Needless to say, we all had a brilliant day and I would definitely recommend it for families, nature enthusiasts and keen photographers.
Practical details about Slimbridge Wetland Centre
Child friendly? Definitely – remember to bring your wellies or swimming costumes (depending on the weather) for Welly Boot Land. Feeding the birds with their bag of grain was the highlight for my children, closely followed by Welly Boot Land, the otters and flamingos.
Dog friendly? Guide dogs or assistance dogs on duty with advance notice; please call (01453 891200) to let them know when you want to visit. All other dogs are not permitted within the grounds.
Accessible? Most indoor and outdoor areas are accessible to wheelchairs and scooters. You can pre-book electric scooters.