With some beautiful but endangered animals in Britain, nature-spotting holidays are always popular. So, if you’re planning a family trip and you want to see the best of British flora and fauna, here’s our woodland wildlife and nature spotting guide.
Woodland wildlife and nature spotting guide
While the more dangerous and exotic animals on planet earth don’t naturally reside in the UK, that doesn’t mean you have to head to Africa or Australia to spot some rarely-seen wildlife. Get away from the smog of UK cities and you’ll find plenty of beautiful woodland, where wild animals live in peace alongside lush vegetation.
Regardless of age, nature-spotting holidays are always popular with Brits. So, if you’re planning a family trip and you want to see the best of British flora and fauna, here’s our woodland wildlife and nature spotting guide.
The UK’s National Parks
Let’s kick off with the first to be recognised as a National Park back in 1951 – the Peak District. Woodland forms around eight per cent of the Peak National Park, and you’ll find a range of rare plants including the spring sandworts, alpine pennycress, and the mountain pansy. The mountain hare and the vulnerable willow tit are just a couple of the rare species found here.
Over in the Lake District, a well-known native to the woodlands is the cute red squirrel. The Lake District is one of the few places in the country this creature can be spotted in the wild. Meanwhile, Cumbria’s otter population has been thriving in recent years, not to mention the 200-plus species of birds.
Derwent Reservoir, Peak District
Arguably one of the best places to spot wildlife, particularly rare mammals, is Snowdonia in Wales. Almost a fifth of its entire area is protected by law, giving animals like otters, polecats, and feral goats the chance to live in conservation. Rare birds include the raven, osprey, peregrine, merlin, and the red kite.
Then there’s Dartmoor in south Devon, with its sprawling, undisturbed moorland making it ideal for wildlife. Roaming the fields and trudging through the woods, you’ll be able to spot Dartmoor ponies, rabbits, foxes, weasels and deer, to name just a few animals; however, speculation about the existence of large wild cats – such as cougars – remains just that! The skies also boast some rare woodland birds that you won’t find all over the UK, such as the pied flycatcher, the redstart, and the wood warbler.
Up in Scotland, you’re spoilt for wildlife and nature. The planted conifer forests in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park provide not only pretty woodland, but also an abundance of delicate butterflies, long-eared owls, and pine marten living in the trees. Keep an eye on the sky and you’ll likely spot a golden eagle, too.
If it’s grand old trees you’d like to observe, head to the New Forest in Hampshire and you’ll find the highest concentration of ancient vegetation in Western Europe – including 800-year-old oaks and yew trees believed to be more than 1,000 years old. There’s also beautiful and uncommon plant species such as bird’s foot trefoil, bracken, and gorse.
If you visit the New Forest woodlands at night, be prepared for winged creatures; there are 13 different types of bat in the New Forest, including rare breeds like the barbastelle and Berchstein’s bat. The UK’s three snake breeds also live here, so keep an eye out for the adder’s famous zig-zag back.
There are 15 National Parks in England, Wales and Scotland, and many more nature reserves and each boasts extraordinary wildlife and nature. So wherever you are in the UK, you’re sure to be near something special.
An adder in the New Forest, photo by Pete Carpenter
The UK’s most endangered species
So far we’ve pointed out some areas which possess plentiful wildlife, but what about the really rare? There are several highly endangered species living on the British Isles, and so if you want a chance of spotting them, you really need to know where to look.
The clue is in the name with the Scottish wildcat (also known as the European wildcat). Found north of the Central Belt, male Scottish wildcats are 25 per cent bigger than domestic cats and are far from the friendly kitties we’re used to in our homes. It’s not a feral cat – it’s truly wild, in the same way a tiger or leopard is. In fact, they’re rarer than tigers, with only a few hundred left in the wild, so you’ll be very lucky to spot one.
The population of water voles in the UK has declined dramatically over the past 20 years, making it another of our most endangered species. It was once common, but the introduction of the mink (predominantly for its fur) has had a drastic impact on water vole colonies.
When you’re on your woodland walks, you’ll find water voles in the banks of waterways; head to Nottinghamshire, where the Wildlife Trust preserves their habitats and even runs an ‘Adopt a Water Vole’ scheme.
We’ve already mentioned the red squirrel, which you can find in the Lake District, but as its numbers are falling in Great Britain we urge you to go and observe them while you still can. The North American grey squirrel introduced ‘squirrel pox’ to the population, and as such the UK’s native red squirrel has been tragically dying from it.
One spiky animal you might not expect to be in the top ten endangered species list is the beloved hedgehog. Instead of heading out to find them, though, why not encourage them to visit your garden? Here are some top tips for attracting hedgehogs.