In the Solent we’re lucky to have 11 National Nature Reserves on our doorstep. There’s one on the Isle of Wight, nine in Hampshire and two in West Sussex.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the very first nature reserve being designated with the much-coveted title of National Nature Reserve way back in 1952. To celebrate this landmark, there’s a Festival of National Nature Reserves which kicks off in May with lots of events throughout the country over the next six months.
So what makes a National Nature Reserve extra special, compared with a run-of-the-mill nature reserve?
The prestigious designation is given by Natural England only to the very best wildlife sites in the country. It’s recognition of rare and precious areas which protect some of our country’s most important habitats, species and geology. Each National Nature Reserve bolsters research, education and recreation, and help us enjoy and engage with our natural heritage.
Why not plan a visit to one of the wonderful National Nature Reserves around the Solent area this summer?
Here’s some of the inspiring places in our area which showcase the very best of the country’s nature and are at the heart of 21st century conservation:
Titchfield Haven Nature Reserve is a beautiful wetland nature reserve right on the coast which is particularly good for spotting coastal birds such as dark-bellied brent geese in winter, along with avocet, teal, cormorant, curlew, ringed plovers and redshank.
Black-headed and Mediterranean gulls breed here with several species of terns arriving in the summer.
You can see all kinds of wildlife from of its eight viewing hides and there’s a great café on site too.
Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve
Newtown Harbour National Nature Reserve, Isle of Wight
Isle of Wight, PO30 4PA
This is a beautiful retreat with hay meadows, ancient woodlands with rare butterflies and red squirrels, busy with birds among its extensive mudflats and saltmarsh.
The walking trail will take you through the varied habitats of the Isle of Wight’s only National Nature Reserve. The walk takes in an old Town Hall, butterflies and insects in the summer meadows, and past migratory birds feeding and resting in the winter months.
One of the highest points in Hampshire with unbroken views of the surrounding countryside, it has a rich variety of flora and fauna.
Over 30 types of butterfly have been seen here including protected species such as Duke of Burgundy, chalkhill blue and silver-spotted skipper.
Butser Hill National Nature Reserve near Petersfield
A green woodpecker: one of the bird species found at Kingley Vale National Nature Reserve
This is a National Nature Reserve of over 360 acres with a main walk around the woodland and yew trees and up to the top of the hills. It’s known for its twisted and ancient yews and includes a grove of veteran trees which are among the oldest living things in Britain: several are at least 500 years old.
From the top there are views over Sussex and the south coast.
Look out for green woodpeckers, as well as red kites and buzzards. Breeding birds at Kingley Vale include the nightingale, grasshopper warbler, blackcap, marsh tit and green woodpecker.
There are 11 different species of orchid at the reserve including bee, common spotted, frog and fly orchids.