How to have a personal tour of a nature marvel

PUBLISHED: 13:17 15 March 2018

Warden Ben Lewis at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen Nature Reserve.

Warden Ben Lewis at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen Nature Reserve.

Archant Norfolk © 2014

What if you could have your own tailor-made tour of a Norfolk nature haven? Well you can, as Ben Lewis, warden at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen, explains.

Reed warbler: listen out for it at Strumpshaw.Reed warbler: listen out for it at Strumpshaw.

Ever dreamt of going on your own personalised guided walk out in nature? Or perhaps you’ve been stuck for a nature fanatic family member to share your passion with? Well,here at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen nature reserve we have the solution to your problems with our very own ‘rent-a-warden’ service.

As a warden at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen, I spend my time on the ground watching the reserve transition through the seasons – experiencing each and every sound and sight on offer. The rent a warden experience is an amazing chance to see a nature reserve through the eyes and ears of myself, and other wardens.

With the onset of spring, we are fast approaching the most exciting time of year for the rent-a-warden walks. Between April and late May the woodlands and reedbeds are alive with bird song. I’m sure many people will instantly recognise the incredible boom of the bittern or the far-carrying cry of the cuckoo, but learning the difference between a reed warbler and a sedge warbler are potential new skills you can learn. If you choose to join us for a personalised dawn chorus walk, we will help you to unpick the dawn chorus components and offer tips to remember the calls and songs for the future.

As the season progresses into summer a myriad of butterflies, including the magnificent swallowtail emerge along with squadrons of dragonflies. How often do we stop to think about the endless possibilities of species here on our doorstep? Learning to identify these species, and getting closer to them is incredibly rewarding, and can be achieved through personalising your rent-a-warden experience.

From late July to late March we can offer an additional bonus of being able to walk off-piste. Walking through the middle of the reedbed is an unforgettable experience, normally exclusive to the role of a warden, and certainly not one that our visitors get the chance to do regularly! Through this exclusive tour, we can share our knowledge of the delicate ecological balance of water levels, water quality, reed cutting and how it all helps certain plants, which in turn helps the rare swallowtail butterfly, one of the many complex biological links

on the reserve.

If you’re a history buff, we’re well equipped with the stories of how the reserve came to be: its past, its formation, why it is such a special place and how we need to manage the habitat to ensure it remains a fantastic place for wildlife - completing an all-round natural history lesson.

For me, rent-a-warden is a great opportunity to share my knowledge of the reserve with people who share my passion, explaining what we do as wardens at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen, the challenges we may face in the future, and best of all, I get to show you some of the fantastic wildlife that calls the reserve home. At the end of the walk, while having a hot/cold drink we can go through a checklist of species that we have seen for you to take home and remember your experience by.

Rent-a-warden walks can be tailored to individual’s desires, to change the way you look for wildlife and deepen your understanding of how nature reserves are managed to give nature a home.

There are many different title requests for these guided walks including; dawn chorus, bird/butterfly/dragonfly/plant/

moth identification, spring migrant bird finding, 70 bird species in four hours challenge, goose and wildfowl identification, dusk harrier roost walks, history and management walks as

well as more general walks

where we can see whatever shows itself to us.

You just need to book us out in advance, for a four-hour period to give a personalised tour for one to six people. The walks will take you through the woodland, riverbank and reedbeds at Strumpshaw Fen or the neighbouring wet grassland at Buckenham Marshes.

These experience makes a superb, quirky, gift for loved ones with an interest in wildlife or being out in the fresh air,

which can be remembered forever. We can supply a voucher if the walk is bought as a present so

that a gift can be presented on

the day too.

Still not sure? This is what Jane Livermore had to say after she rented a warden last April: “It was worth every penny and I can only recommend that other visitors take advantage of this fabulous learning opportunity!”

If you are interested in booking a warden for a walk please phone the office at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen on 01603 715191. The prices are £80 for 1-2 members with each additional member costing £20 or £100 for 1-2 non-members with each additional non-member costing £25.

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