Last weekend I was inspired to visit a local-to-me Nature Reserve thanks to a gift that arrived in the post from Marvellous Maps. The Great British Wildlife and Environment Map is the latest in a series of maps designed to inspire you to discover, get outside, and adventure close to home.
With the tagline “get smitten with Britain”, Marvellous Maps are designed to show you Britain’s best bits. Packaged and formatted as a traditional Ordnance Survey map might be, these fold out paper maps are a must-own for anyone who might want a day out or week-off idea or two sat on their bookshelf.
I regularly sing the praises of the series, often include them in my posts here on Splodz Blogz, have sent copies to friends, and regularly use my collection to instigate mini adventures when I have a free weekend at home. They are completely brilliant for road trip planning, helping me to string interesting places together or find stops on long journeys. And, as a bonus, they’re great to help learn a little bit more about this little island nation of ours.
I’ve had the original Great British Adventure Map since it was first published, and I think is a must-own for anyone living here in the UK. These days there are a whole bunch of titles – Place Names, Food and Drink, Music, Literature, Film and Television, Folklore and Superstition, and one aimed at kids called Map of Wonders.
This new Wildlife and Environment themed iteration, with over 1,500 locations to see, explore, and learn about.
Wildlife and Environment
This latest title is full to bursting of places in Great Britain that are wildlife and environment focused. There are nature reserves, wildlife-filled trails, the best places to see native species and habitats, conservation projects, ideas for nature-themed days out, and wildlife and environment focused festivals and events.
I was pleased to find that of the top 20 things to see in your lifetime, I have ticked a few of them off (have you seen Peregrines speed diving?), although there’s still some work to be done there. I didn’t know you could see glow worms here in Britain, so that’s gone right on my list!
There’s a fantastic looking road/rail/boat trip idea – the “ultimate journey around Britain’s top 50 wildlife and environment destinations and nearest bit of glorious Great British outdoors” – which would make one spectacular summer adventure.
The creators also use this map to highlight some of the big issues at the moment, and feature some great environment focused organisations, which is good to see.
Coombe Hill Meadows Nature Reserve
When I receive anything like this, the first thing I do is look for where the makers recommend close to my home. I’m based in Gloucestershire, the map had plenty of options within day-trip distance, but it was Coombe Hill Meadows that caught my eye. Time for a return visit.
Coombe Hill Canal and Meadows Nature Reserve is based around a disused canal. It’s the home of wetland birds, particularly waders and migrating waterfowl, and you can also see birds of prey, including hen harriers, peregrine falcons and goshawks. It’s also apparently the best place locally to see dragonflies, although clearly not in the mid-January.
The last time I visited this wildlife-relevant spot, which you can read about way back in Weekly Blog Episode 20), the (free) car park was heaving, and the short dragonfly walk, one of two way marked routes at the reserve, was busy with people enjoying some time outside. This time it was rather different; there was one other car and I saw one other person the whole time. I suspect it was because everyone else knew about the conditions! Actually, the one man I saw was wearing waders – I think he knew what I was about to experience!
Frozen Mud and Flooded Fields
The footpath, which runs both sides of the still-full disused canal, looked like a quagmire. But I gave it a shot anyway and, at least to start with, found the mud had frozen solid. It was not easy going, but it was walkable, and so I headed off into the reserve, intending to follow one of two routes the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust have waymarked. In fact, the whole place was frozen – my walk was a few days into a particularly cold spell, and there was frost everywhere, and most of the canal and any puddles were iced over.
But it was very soon like I was playing a game of ice versus mud roulette. I honestly couldn’t tell until I put my foot down whether I would find solid ground or a much-deeper-than-it-looks muddy puddle. And if it was a muddy puddle, was I going to slide off and onto my backside, or break it and end up with my boots full of sludge? I am forever grateful for having a good pair of boots on, although to save anyone asking the question, no, I didn’t have my gaiters on.
I’d chosen the “Curlew” route, a 3-ish-mile walk which should have taken me around the north meadows at the reserve, but this was totally flooded to the point of being a meadow-sized lake. I started off making my way across the first frozen flooded field, but soon realised that I would very quickly be knee deep in very cold water, so I headed back to the main tow path and followed the canal itself up to the bridge and down the other side.
When I reached the other end of my intended route, I was very pleased I changed my plan – I wouldn’t have been knee-deep, I’d have been swimming. Of course, this was utterly wonderful for the wading birds that call this reserve home. And means that people (and their dogs) would be leaving them alone for a little while. Add to that how utterly stunning the non-permanent lake looked, and it wasn’t all bad.
It was a great walk, a great place to spend One Hour Outside. Hopefully I will be similarly and continually inspired by this map over and over again in the coming weeks and months. Not a bad morning that was the result of receiving something in the post.
Win a Wildlife and Environment Map for Yourself
I am very happy to have teamed up with Marvellous Maps to give away a copy of the new Great British Wildlife and Environment Map to one of you. I’ve decided to do that giveaway over on my Instagram this time around – so head over to @Splodz to see how to enter.
If you don’t win, or you’re reading this later, you can buy your own copy of the Great British Wildlife and Environment Map from the Marvellous Maps website direct, or from Amazon, Waterstones, or Ordnance Survey. And you should, it’s great (look out for discounts when you buy two or more maps in the series).