Cover image credit: Eleanor Bentall

This July, RSPB England’s Becca Smith is looking ahead to the wonderful nature days out that can be had this summer. Find your wildlife fix at one of the RSPB’s 220 reserves across the country and have a Big Wild Summer thanks to a whole host of activities both at our nature reserves and at home too.

Image: blue tit parents looking frazzled. Credit: @Holly_2602 (Twitter)

No-one wants to end up looking as frazzled as these parents come the end of the summer holidays, which is why here at the RSPB we’re here to help! Whether you’re in charge of the little (or not so little!) ones this summer, or you’re after a nature recharge close to home, we’ve chosen our top ten ways to get a little closer to nature this July…

1: Blow off steam

Our 220 nature reserves across the country have hundreds of miles of trails to explore. Take a stroll along cliff top paths or a meander through willow tunnels and secluded trails; there’s something for everyone.

While you’re there, why not pick up a special trail kit (just £3.50) at reserves such as Sherwood Forest, Nottingham and RSPB Pulborough Brooks, Sussex, or RSPB The Lodge, Bedfordshire and RSPB Fairhaven Lake, Lancashire, finding clues along the way to learn more about the wildlife that calls our reserves home.

Image: Children explore the canopy walkway at RSPB Coombes Valley, Staffordshire. Credit: Mel Brown

2: Explore on the go

While enjoying our network of trails, discover a variety of wild play areas and activities, suitable for all ages. If it’s den building at RSPB Middleton Lakes, Warwickshire that takes your fancy, climbing the tower at RSPB Old Moor, South Yorkshire, or you’re feeling brave enough to tackle the rope swings at RSPB Arne, Dorset there’s lots on offer for any outdoor enthusiast at an RSPB wild play area near you.

3: At the water’s edge

Discover the fascinating world of life under the ponds surface at a whole host of reserves including RSPB Leighton Moss, Lancashire and RSPB Frampton Marsh, Lincolnshire where pond dipping kits can be hired for just £3. Keep your eyes peeled for pond skaters and water boatmen flitting across the top of ponds and watch out for frogs and toads hiding at the water’s edge.

Image: Two children pond dipping. Credit: Helen Pugh

4: Make a splash

Come rain or shine, we’ll be sure to have our ever-popular welly splash pool at RSPB Saltholme, Middlesborough topped up. Don your waterproof footwear and get that feel good factor from having a good splash around, much like our feathered friends do at this time of year to cool off and maintain their beautiful plumage.

5: Take a minibeast safari

There’s a tiny but mighty world out there to explore – the world of minibeasts! Bug hunting is a popular activity at our reserves for anyone of any age, with the invertebrates on our nature reserves providing vital foodstuffs for birds and mammals alike. Pop along to reserves such as RSPB Sandwell Valley, West Midlands where our friendly staff are on hand to help you learn more, with hireable kits available for just £3.

Image: A family enjoys a guided walk at RSPB Titchwell Marsh, Norfolk. Credit: Rahul Thanki

6: What’s that warden up to?

From walks with a warden to getting stuck in, discover a host of family friendly events held at our reserves, such as at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen, Norfolk, RSPB Rainham Marshes, Esssex, and RSPB Ham Wall, Somerset. Learn more about the nature that calls our reserves home from our on-site experts – the very people who know our fantastic RSPB nature reserves best! Find all our Big Wild Summer events here - events.rspb.org.uk/bigwildsummer.

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7: Pocket money power

Want to put your pocket money to good use? Head to the RSPB’s on reserve shops, packed with games, books, toys and craft activities and help fund nature conservation while you shop.  Pick up activity packs to get stuck into learning more about nature from home, or grab some of our bird friendly coffee, chocolate or sweets for a tasty treat. What’s more, you can find all of our wildlife friendly gifts and more on our online shop too!

Image: RSPB Dart's Farm shop, Devon. Credit: Rosemary Despres

Wildlife on your doorstep

Nature is an adventure waiting to be had – even from your doorstep. Whether you have a garden, balcony, window box or local greenspace, get involved with giving nature a home this summer!

8: Wild challenge

Taking part in the RSPB’s free Wild Challenge activities from home promises fun for all the family. Ranging from bug hotels and bird boxes to drawing wildlife, log your family’s completed activities on the RSPB Wild Challenge website to collect bronze, silver and gold awards. With over 30 activities to choose from, each activity comes with helpful ideas and resources to help families on their wild adventure. Simply head to rspb.org.uk/wildchallenge.

Image: A woman fills her washing up bowl wildlife pond. Credit: David McHugh

9: Don your green fingers

Whether you fancy yourself as the next Monty Don or not, our Nature on Your Doorstep guides are suitable for everyone. With affordable, easy and relatively quick to do wildlife gardening tips, tricks and how to guides, there are ideas for all ages and abilities to get involved with, no matter the size of your greenspace.

As Shirley Sampson, RSPB gardener for RSPB Flatford Wildlife Garden, describes: “Looking after our greenspaces and having nature on our doorsteps can bring us valuable places to unwind and find solace. Summer sees a hive of activity in the natural world, and your garden, balcony or window box can act as a precious mini-nature reserve for the wildlife that needs it most.”

10: Got 15 minutes?

If you’ve got 15 minutes to spare this summer, why not take part in the Big Butterfly Count? Running from 16 July to 8 August, Butterfly Conservation are asking people across the country to record which butterflies visit their gardens in a 15 minute period in order to gain an insight into how our colourful garden visitors are faring. In preparation for your count, why not learn more about butterflies and how you can help them by reading our fascinating butterfly blog here?  

Image: Peacock butterfly. Credit: Matt Adam Williams

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