Life on the wing

Blue skies and sunshine! We very quickly readied ourselves and left the cottage, off to Slimbridge (or Slym Bridge as it was once called) to visit the Wetland Centre.

Wetlands Centre, Slimbridge, Gloustershire

Created in 1946 by Sir Peter Scott, the Severn Wildfowl Trust (which eventually became the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust) is now 800 acres of wonderful bird loving land full of marsh and swamp and bog and lake and stream and…well, it’s generally wet. Having spent a goodly few hours wandering around, I make this one of my top ten sights EVER! I really loved it. And I HATE Birdworld. Can’t stand caged animals but am least fond of birds that cannot fly because of cages. And I always feel guilty because of poor Wedge and Morticia who were pecked to death by a magpie on our balcony at Eaton Street. This place is fantastic though. It’s a Western Plains Zoo for birds.

Of course, there’s always a down side and with this place it’s easily the restaurant. According to Mirinda, the doughnuts tasted like bread dough, I vouch for the blandness of the caramel shortbread and we both think the lamb casserole, with rock cake dumplings, was one of the worst meals we’ve ever had. It took a lot of salt to make it taste of anything…and then it tasted of salt. I would have thought a casserole would be easy to make flavoursome but, apparently, not here. And, amazingly, it cost twice as much as the Wetherspoons ham and eggs yesterday while lacking any of the taste. But enough of the food, and I use that word very loosely, and back to the wonderful wetlands. Needless to say I’ve sent them an email complaining.

The guide book gives an estimate of 5-6 hours for the whole place but we managed most of it in about three and only missed a few bits. Of course, we had to dodge the showers that fell every now and then, marvelling at the way the drops just fell from the duck’s backs. Fortunately we generally managed to be in close proximity to small shelters and hides when the rains came so remained basically dry.

Australian section, Wetlands Centre, Slimbridge, Gloucestershire

The majority of the wetlands is divided into country zones. We were amazed that Australia had shrunk so much and the absence of any Kookaburras, though they probably wouldn’t have much liked the weather. Ok, ok, I know kookaburras are not wetland birds! Though there is a kingfisher hide, specifically for watching kingfishers, which is basically what a kookaburra is. Though something tells me a kookaburra would probably eat an English kingfisher – I remember the one that teased poor Brad while eyeing him up as a possible meal. There were lots of black swans, though! And grey cygnets that could easily have been white swans.

There were so many amazing looking birds that it’s difficult to pick a favourite though Mirinda was rather keen on the weird looking eiderduck and I was rather partial to the flamingos, of which there were six types! Though they did make me want to play croquet. The lovely porcelain-like red-breasted goose was also a firm favourite with us both.

Greylag goose, Wetlands Centre, Slimbridge, Gloucestershire

Interestingly, most of them looked like ducks but were actually geese of one sort or another. Sadly we missed the talking otters, which were at 11am but we did manage to see some swimming. And a lovely little bank vole, sitting in his hole, watching the world through his tiny little beady eyes. He seems to have very big lungs as he spent a very long time underwater.

We spent a delightful visit and left, between showers, stopping briefly at the wonderfully tall towered St John the Evangelist’s church in Slimbridge, which has some wonderful corbels, one of which is supposed to be Queen Elizabeth I. Well, not the actual corbel. I don’t think the Tudor queen was actually just a small stone head. I mean a representation of her.

We then drove through some showers until we arrived back at the cottage. Watching the weather, it seems tomorrow will be wet and windy. We are thinking of driving out of the county to somewhere it’s not raining. I think that’s probably anywhere but the Severn Valley!

Chelsea beat Porto at home in the Champion’s League while Man U lost at Old Trafford because they fielded a team of children. Ha! I know why Ferguson does this – it gives the inexperienced kids a game against top competition when the result doesn’t really matter and it gives the overpaid ‘stars’ a rest – but it just means they’ll wind up losing. Arsenal do this as well. Can’t be that satisfying for the fans.

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