Peter Scott started what became the Slimbridge Wetland Centre at his home. Like Topsy, it grew, and the WWT is now a major conservation organisation. We – that is Biggles’ staff – had been meaning to visit for years but never quite got around to it. One of the reasons for travelling the length of the G&S Canal was that it passes within half a mile of the entrance.
Leaving our pleasant hidey-hole at Frampton on the Wednesday morning, we soon made our way through the delightfully named Splatt Bridge, and found somewhere to park at Slimbridge. And after evaluating the entrance fee, we joined the WWT, as it would be cheaper than to pay again on our way back. We’ll have to come back now!
The first thing we learnt, eating a sandwich at the outdoor seating by the café, is that the flamingo enclosures are smelly enough to put you off your food. They’ve all the flavours of flamingo at Slimbridge, and they all smell just as bad. Not sure if it’s the birds or the stuff they’re fed on. Can’t think why they put them next to the café!
Anyway, it was pretty hot, and it turned out that Fran’s outfit was inadvertently colour coordinated with the flamingos, although she did smell a lot better.
Also by the café seating was a young lady peering intently into a large telescope aimed at the flamingos, dressed in T-shirt, jeans and huge wool-lined Ugg boots, plugged into her iPod, and occasionally making a note on a clipboard. Bet she doesn’t get cold feet, I remarked to SWMBO.
Peter Scott was very taken by the nēnē, aka the Hawaiian Goose, which is the world’s rarest, and had virtually died out until Peter Scott started breeding them in captivity; they have subsequently been successfully reintroduced. Meanwhile, they’re certainly not rare in Slimbridge – they get under foot everywhere. The other WWT icon is the splendid Bewick Swan – every beak pattern is unique and can be used to identify the birds. Loads arrive for the winter, but this one is a captive resident.
Springtime, so chicks aplenty! Shelduck and Moorhen chicks reporting for duty.
Spot the goose.
Following years of breeding Common Cranes at Slimbridge and attempting to reintroducing them into the Somerset Levels, several now return voluntarily to Slimbridge during the summer. There was great excitement because one pair (not the ones above) had actually built a nest on one of the islands, and hatched a chick just a few days before we visited. They were polite enough to do this just a few yards from one of the hides, so everyone was sneaking off to grab a look. The chick is a bright ginger colour, and has been christened – with great inventiveness – Ginger. Some chicks get all the luck.
Anyway, several hours later, as we undertook a farewell cup of tea at the café, the young lady with the big telescope was still there, peering intently at the flamingos and listening to music. There were a lot more notes on her clipboard. And she’d taken her boots and socks off…