We have made a few changes to Minsmere in order to provide as safe an environment as possible for visitors, staff and our wildlife. You can view and save our map showing our restrictions and routes attached to the bottom of this blog.
We still have the existing accessible parking bays open in the car park – which are already spaced to allow room for wheelchairs. Please leave plenty of room between cars, ideally one car space. If the car park is full we will close the gates and put out signs on the access road, please visit another time if the signs are showing.
As you come down the ramp you will see that we have setup a one-way system for our toilet facilities. The ladies and gents are accessed down the steps at the small side gate of the visitor centre. The accessible toilet is accessed through the open large double gates and turning left. Signage and markers are in place to help people social distance as they queue.
To keep the facilities as safe as possible only one person or one household is allowed to use the toilets at one time, and doors into the gents and ladies will be left open to make it easier to know if someone is already in there. When you leave the facilities you must follow the directions down the ramp to the pond, from where you can access the trails or return to the car park using the lower path.
We know that visitors may not want to use the toilet facilities but we have made them available so that people can wash their hands thoroughly when entering or leaving the site, and to avoid people contaminating the reserve with waste. Toilets will open at 9am and close at 5pm.
We have opened the barrier at the bottom of the path for people to bypass the toilets to get straight on to the reserve.
Please do bring hand sanitiser with you and use it whenever you have touched gates or surfaces.
In terms of accessible trails, you can explore the Scrape trail along the North Wall or from the South belt crossroads to South Hide. However we do not recommend taking wheelchairs or mobility scooters onto the beach due to the deep sand and shingle, whilst the path beyond South Hide to the Sluice is very uneven or impassable by wheelchairs and mobility scooters.
The North Wall viewpoints include:
Pond – watch sand martins diving in and out of the sand bank (photo above), listen for reed warblers hidden on the edges of the pond, see 4-spotted chaser dragonflies, newts, water voles and water shrews in the water below you.
North Wall – Beewolf wasps and green-eyed flower bees burrowing in the footpath, look for stone curlew, wheatear, flocks of goldfinches and linnets, common and lesser whitethroats lurking in the bushes, shelduck, lapwing and red deer.
Sea viewpoint: look for bearded tits, bittern, marsh harrier in and over the reedbeds, common tern and otters fishing in the channel. Offshore look for the black fins of harbour porpoise (photo below), grey seals, gulls, gannets and sandwich terns feeding.
The Sluice trail viewpoints include:
South Belt Crossroads: good for finding great spotted and green woodpeckers calling and feeding high in the trees, as well as Treecreepers creeping around the lower tree trunks.
Reedbed Corner: we discovered dozens of 4-spot chasers (photo below) roosting here this week, lots of bearded tits ‘pinging’, marsh harriers overhead and occasional hobby swooping through.
South Hide/Pool: the famous pool where albatross and swamphen have been found, could you see something as rare? More usual sightings are waterfowl including mallard, tufted duck, little egret, coot and mute swans.
For the Whin Hill trail marked in red, the terrain from Bittern Hide to Whin Hill is impassable for wheelchairs, so we advise you turn around when you reach the direction post. Whin Hill viewpoint is accessed best by travelling along the access road from the car park, but we do not advise wheelchairs use the route downhill from Whin Hill viewpoint due to the uneven terrain. All of our hides are closed as is the northern woodland trail.
The route from the crossroads to Bittern Hide is excellent for woodland butterflies, such as speckled wood, white admiral and silver washed fritillary. Red deer and muntjac deer can be found on the edges of the path.
From the Whin Hill viewpoint you will be able to see a fantastic view over the reedbeds and Island Mere – the most notable things will be the cormorants drying their wings on the table posts, marsh harriers circling and up to a dozen hobbies over the woodland canopy. Green woodpeckers are common here, as are rabbits and predatory stoats.
The reeds have grown tall along the paths, and because warblers and other birds are nesting in them we are unable to cut them to allow better visibility into the pools or scrape. Our team have identified several key viewpoints listed above that are accessible to wheelchairs users and we will be trying to improve more viewing facilities, but for now our priority work is ensuring safety.
To all those unable to get to us, stay safe and visit us when the time is right, the wildlife will still be here. We will try to update some of the things we see on the site and do keep sending us questions and sharing what you see at home with us.
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