Needingworth Nature Reserve hidden lakes

You'll be hard pressed to find a 3 mile walk with this variety of landscape, wildflowers and wildlife. One of the few places you'll hear the cat-like purring of a beautiful bird on the brink of extinction, the turtle dove. Also sure to hear a cuckoo in spring and early summer. There are more butterflies and dragonflies than you can count, blackberries to take home, quiet spots to meditate and snack and a picnic area with observation point that's perfect for a game of hide and seek with the kids.

Here's a chance to wander through the Ouse Fen, an attractive RSPB Nature Reserve nominated for the BBC's Countryfile Magazine 2013 'Britain's best nature reserve'. This is a great walk to take the kids for a sunny afternoon adventure.


This 3 miles (6,800 steps) walk takes you through an award winning wetland RSPB nature reserve. Quiet places to sit and rest, with a great picnic spot. Plenty of wildlife, grasses and wildflowers. Can be very muddy in winter from Start to Point 2. Cattle may be present at some points, but are safe to pass. The route is shown below on the Ordnance Survey map. You can also zoom in on a satellite view of the walk at Google Maps.


Starting point
Park in the reserve car park. The main part of the walk goes through land prepared by the Hanson-RSPB Wetland Project, converting sand and gravel quarries into a vast wetland nature reserve. This walk follows the reserve paths. Walking maps are available as you leave the car park or you can download one by clicking here.

Walk away from the car park along the path between two fields. After 200 yards the route turns right and is lined by trees. On the right is a bank full of wild flowers. When thistles are in flower, masses of bees and butterflies feed on their nectar, as shown below. Through the trees to the left is the first of the reserve's reed beds.


Point 1
After 400 yards take the path on the left. There's a stream on your right and lake on your left. Another 450 yards and you come to a crossroads in paths.

Turn left to head up a wide track. Very occasionally this section is used by huge Volvo trucks carrying sand and gravel. Even in summer, if there has been heavy rain they can churn up the track to be very muddy. Don't let that put you off the walk. It's rarely a problem from April to October.

Point 2
At the top of the track there is a gate barring further progress. A few yards before that keep an eye out for a turnstile on your right. Head through this to amble along a narrow footpath bordered on the left by trees and hedging, on your left the Reserve's hidden lakes, an image of which is shown at the top of this article.

All along this path in late spring and summer you'll hear the purring of turtle doves. Good luck if you see one. They perch high in the trees around the hidden lakes and are perfectly camouflaged. This area is also where you'll most likely hear a cuckoo, another bird in sharp decline. In August the path edges are populate by thousands of baby toads.

Half way along the footpath there's a bench to sit and ponder, overlooking one of the hidden lakes. A bit further is blackberry crumble heaven. You pass between huge banks of blackberries, with dozens of butterflies and dragonflies circling around your head.

The footpath brings you to a turnstile. Head through this to another towards your left, beyond which you follow the track to the right to skirt around the Hanson aggregate site.

Point 3
Just under 250 yards and you reach a turnstile on your right. Pass through and follow the track across a field which occasionally has cattle present.

At the far end is another turnstile. Beyond this the route passes through a wooded area, another location where grass edges are full of baby toads in August.

Point 4
The route turns right. Rare orchids grow in the dry soil immediately on your right in early summer, but are hard to spot.

After 350 yards take the track on your right heading into trees.


Point 5
A few yards brings you to the Reserve picnic area, shown above. In addition to two picnic benches there are observation seats to watch birdlife in the adjacent lake. The nearest point of the lake is a marshy area where wading birds can occasionally be seen. If you're accompanied by children, the area is great for a game of hide and seek amongst the trees. It's rare you'll find anyone else there.

To continue the walk, take the path that heads away from the observation seats. Around some trees there's a Reserve noticeboard detailing any future warden-accompanied walks. Head diagonally across the gravelly area  to rejoin the main Reserve path. A few yards to your right you'll return to the crossroads described under Point 1.

Point 6
At the crossroads, turn left and almost immediately right to head up the track with a stream on your right. Further along the track the hedge has been layered as shown below, a traditional form of maintenance where the tree trunks are almost severed and pushed over, encouraging growth from the base.

After 500 yards turn right to rejoin the path described under Starting Point. Retrace your steps to return to the start point.


Click the 'Print Friendly' button below to print out this walk to take with you. Or for more walks click the 'Return Home' button at the foot of this page. Did you enjoy the walk? Notice anything unusual? Why not add a comment below to tell fellow amblers what you liked about it?

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