RSPB Fairburn Ings near Castleford in West Yorkshire, England - July 2011
About Fairburn Ings
With pond dipping, regular fun events and walks to help you get away from it all, RSPB Fairburn Ings is the ideal place for adults and children to find out more about wildlife.
The three main trails take you through a variety of habitats allowing stunning views of birds such as willow tits and tree sparrows in the woodland, and lapwings, snipe and redshanks in the wet grassland. In winter Fairburn hosts an array of swans, ducks and geese on the main lake, so there is something to see whatever the season.
There is a visitor centre selling hot drinks and a wide range of RSPB products from books and children's toys to birdcare products. The visitor centre, family trail and Lin Dike trail are accessible to wheelchairs and pushchairs
The car park is open from 9 am-5 pm every day except Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The visitor centre is open 9 am-5 pm daily from February to October, and 9 am-4 pm from November-January.
Entrance to the reserve is free but parking costs £2 for non-members (the first 30 minutes is free). Parking is free for members and disabled badge holders.
If you are new to birdwatching...
There are regular events aimed at beginners, not just about birdwatching but also other wildlife like moths and bats, depending on the time of year. We run guided walks around the reserve with RSPB experts, and there will always be someone in the visitor centre who can help you with your wildlife queries. Binoculars can be hired for £2.50 plus a security deposit such as your car keys or a credit card. You can pick up a reserve map in the visitor centre, and our staff and volunteers will be available to help.
Information for families
There are many activities organised for families and children, including family fun days and special children's events throughout the year. Please contact the visitor centre for details. Children will enjoy the Discovery Trail.
Information for dog owners
Dogs are welcome at the reserve and we have facilities such as a dog parking area and a dog bowl. Please keep your dog on a lead while on the trails. Only assistance dogs can be brought into the visitor centre.
Our star species are some of the most interesting birds you may see on your visit to the reserve.
The cheerful song of the chiffchaff is a sign that spring has arrived at Fairburn Ings. Look for them in the trees and bushes around the lakes, even in winter, when one or two see through the cold months here.
Late summer and early autumn are excellent times to see small numbers of this migrant wader feeding on the wader scrapes and shallow 'flashes' at the west end of the reserve. The first birds return from their Scandinavian breeding grounds in late June.
Stay alert for the sight of an electric-blue bullet speeding past over the lakes and pools. Kingfishers are a year-round attraction at Fairburn Ings. In spring and summer, watch out for adults carrying fish back to their nests in their beaks.
Little ringed plover
Little ringed plovers nest on islands in the water here and stop off to feed on migration in spring and early autumn. You may have to look very carefully to pick out these remarkably well-camouflaged birds among the shingle.
Listen for the monotonous song of this aptly named warbler coming from stands of reeds around the reserve. Look carefully and you may spot one clinging to the reed stems with its feet as it sings.
Each season brings a different experience at our nature reserves. In spring, the air is filled with birdsong as they compete to establish territories and attract a mate. In summer, look out for young birds making their first venture into the outside world. Autumn brings large movements of migrating birds - some heading south to a warmer climate, others seeking refuge in the UK from the cold Arctic winter. In winter, look out for large flocks of birds gathering to feed, or flying at dusk to form large roosts to keep warm.
Kingfishers are easy to see as they make their flights along their breeding territories. Frogs and toads arrive to breed in their thousands. Reed and sedge warblers return and can be heard singing constantly. Little ringed plovers and garganeys arrive to breed.
See broods of different types of ducklings, including gadwalls and pochards. The nesting islands are a mass of activity as common tern and black-headed gull chicks hatch. Iridescent dragonflies bask on the boardwalks and handrails and the grasslands are alive with the bright colours of flowers and butterflies.
Thousands of wading birds pass through Fairburn Ings on their migration, such as green sandpipers and black-tailed godwits. Large numbers of fieldfares and redwings gorge themselves on berries in preparation for winter.
Goldeneyes, smews and goosanders can be seen displaying and pairing up. Large flocks of wigeons graze on the wet grassland. Flocks of wintering waders take to the skies when a peregrine appears on the lookout for a meal.
•Car park : Main car park is surfaced with well-rolled gravel and tarmac with dedicated disabled parking bays.
•Group bookings accepted
•Guided walks available
•Good for walking
There are five hides, a viewing platform and two pond dipping platforms.
There are two public trails (one pushchair accessible), boardwalk (wheelchair/pushchair accessible), views from causeway. There is also a 'Discovery Trail' for children to enjoy.
The shop stocks:
•Binoculars and telescopes
Education visits to Fairburn Ings offer an exciting opportunity for your pupils to explore nature through the first-hand study of birds, other animals and plants. Led by professional RSPB field teachers, the programmes are safe, hands-on, thought-provoking and fun. Fairburn Ings is an oasis for wildlife in the Aire valley. With thousands of ducks and geese in the winter, and dragonflies, terns and swallows in the summer, there is something exciting to see every day of the year. With two large classrooms, a boardwalk, and large bird-viewing and pond-dipping platforms, Fairburn Ings is a marvellous place to bring your class for an unforgettable experience of nature. All the programmes are risk assessed, linked to the National Curriculum, and focus particularly on science and geography. A visit to Fairburn Ings will increase your pupils' knowledge of the environment through experiential learning and help them understand the value of wildlife and natural places.
Main car park is surfaced with well-rolled gravel and tarmac with dedicated disabled parking bays.
Access to visitor centre
The visitor centre is 70 m from the car park, accessed via a crushed limestone path. There is a ramp into the visitor centre.
Binoculars can be hired for £2.50 plus a security deposit such as your car keys or a credit card. You can pick up a reserve map in the visitor centre, and our staff and volunteers will be available to help.
Male and female toilets, and an adapted unisex toilet with baby-changing facilities.
Two tables which are accessible to wheelchairs.
The shop is located in the visitor centre and is accessible to wheelchairs.
Classroom/exhibition area with views of bird-feeding station is accessible at weekends, unless being used for an event or meeting.
Access to trails
There are 250 m of boardwalk with passing places.
Hides and viewpoints
There are two viewing screens close to the visitor centre, and from the car park a wheelchair-accessible viewing platform overlooking main lake.
How to get here
The closest train station is Castleford, three miles away.
Buses run - infrequently - to Fairburn and Ledstone villages.
Leave the A1 at junction 42 for the A63, and follow signs for Fairburn village on the A1246. Once in the village turn right at Wagon and Horses public house. At the T-junction turn right, and the visitor centre is 1.5 miles on the left.
Our work here
Fairburn Ings protects a complex of wetland habitats created by subsidence in a former coal mining area.
They include open water, wet grassland, reedbed and wet woodland. Other habitats, including dry grassland, deciduous woodland and lagoons, have been restored on the former coal spoil heaps.
The reserve is important for waterfowl and waders, farmland birds and other wildlife. The RSPB is working to maintain and enhance biodiversity, while developing the reserve as a local centre for nature conservation and environmental education.
Wet grassland on the reserve supports breeding waders such as lapwings, redshanks, snipe and curlews, and is important for breeding and wintering wildfowl - especially gadwalls. We are managing this habitat by grazing it with cattle and maintaining the high water levels.
We plan to restore more grassland by cropping for hay and cutting back scrub.
Making water work
Our freshwater system holds breeding wildfowl, water voles and other wildlife.
We are coppicing willows to enhance the fen vegetation around open water areas. We are also maintaining islands and rafts used by water birds, including breeding common terns.
We are expanding the reedbed for the benefit of birds such as breeding reed buntings and wintering bitterns, as well as harvest mice and invertebrates.
We are working with our partners to manage the restored coal tip. Measures include mowing and grazing the dry grassland to help breeding skylarks, grey partridges and lapwings; improving the shingle around lagoons for breeding little ringed plovers, ringed plovers and lapwings; and enhancing the farmland areas for passerines such as tree sparrows and linnets.
We are also improving water control, introducing fencing, conducting patrols, and monitoring plants and invertebrates.
The reserve attracts up to 100,000 visitors per year. Its popularity helps us get across key conservation messages to the public and demonstrate best practice management to target audiences.
We are working to develop our excellent visitor facilities, maintain good relations with the local community and increase our advisory potential. Our programme of lifelong learning includes environmental education for visiting schools. We are also continuing to develop our voluntary wardening scheme.