It is a common perception that the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is just for the conservation of birds. The truth is that the RSPB also protects threatened wildlife and the goal is to have the towns, coast and countryside teeming with nature’s life.
At Minsmere, you can see the RSPB in action and at this specific site the RSPB specialises in protecting rare birds. One example of their success is that 30% of the UK’s breeding bitterns are found at Minsmere.
It’s a precise procedure, creating a natural environment. In the matter of the bitterns, special care is made to regulate water levels, keeping the reeds trimmed back so that the habitat will be more appealing to fish. Not only the bitterns benefit but so do the marsh harriers, otters, water voles, and bearded tits.
Cows keep the grass trimmed in the summer and in the spring it is mowed. Why? Because breeding lapwings need the grass short in the spring. The grass also needs to be damp for breeding waders and in the winter, wildfowl need some of the grassy areas flooded.
The Magic of Minsmere is a special walk where you can see some of the more than 5300 recorded species, history in action, and archaeological delights. This is a 3-hour walk, beginning at 10am on Tuesdays from now until January 27, 2015 and alternately on Saturdays and Sundays starting at 9:30am until February 28, 2015.
This time of the year rafts of ducks, typically teals and widgeons, gather on the Scrape and grazing marshes. However, there are also Bewick’s swans, smews and goldeneyes. On any given day there are hundreds of ducks in their finest plumage.
You don’t have to come only on Tuesdays or the weekend for the walk. Come anytime and see nature being restored and new life emerging. Start at the visitor centre, visit the café which offers the best of Suffolk food, walk along one of the nature trails that meander through the woodland, heathland and reedbeds.
There are hides where you can quietly watch the birdlife around you. Stroll to the beach area. It’s a way to return to a peaceful natural world as if you were time travelling into a bygone era.
You can get to Minsmere by bicycle from the railway stations at Darsham and Saxmundham. Avoid the B-roads if possible. Take the roadside cyclepath along the A12 from Darsham station to the turn for Darsham village and follow the lanes through Westleton.
From the Saxmundham station, go toward Eastbridge and follow the metalled road across the Minsmere river to the right turn to Scott’s Hall Farm. (Here’s a hint: Scott’s Hall Farm isn’t on the map so if you need a map, use Ordnance Survey Explorer maps 212 and 231.)
Of course, you can also take a bus and a demand-responsive bus will take you from the Leiston bus station from 7am to 7pm Monday to Saturday. Book a day ahead for the demand-responsive bus.
Or you can simply drive to Minsmere. From Broadland Sands Holiday Park take the A12 south and follow the signs to Westleton where you take the Dunwich road and then the first right. Go left at the crossroads, follow the reserve entrance track to Scotts Hall. The car park is another kilometre further along..
This time of the year the visitor centre and shop are open daily 9 am-4 pm and the café is open 10 am-3.30 pm from November-January. The car park, hides and countryside walks are open daily from dawn to dusk except for December 25 and 26.