Like most people, I knew that Sir Peter Scott was a celebrated conservationist, who founded the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and chose Slimbridge as their base. However, I didn't realise just how remarkable his life was, I wasn't aware of all his other many wonderful talents and achievements, or the fact he counted royalty and other high profile people as personal friends.
I learnt all about his incredible life a few days ago, when I was kindly invited to an VIP tour of his home in the grounds of WWT Slimbridge in Gloucestershire. I don't know what qualified me as a VIP, but I excitedly accepted the invite, especially as part of the tour included seeing the exclusive new on-site accommodation, Bewick's Lodge, which overlooks Sir Peter's beloved Rushy Lake. You can literally birdwatch from your bed, if you're feeling lazy!
The Tour was expertly led by Fran, and the groups are only small, up to 6 people, so there was plenty of opportunity to ask questions. What struck me most was the stunning bird artwork in every room of the house, all painted by Sir Peter himself. (There's one of his many talents!) The kitchen was simple yet striking, hardly changed at all from the 1950s! It's truly a step back in time, there's even an original post-it note still stuck to the larder door!
By far my favourite room though was Sir Peter's study, with a quite remarkable personal library at one end of the room, in a bookcase that reached to the ceiling. Again, his artwork decorates all the other available walls and surfaces, and one impressive piece still stands on an easel besides the wonderful huge viewing window overlooking Rushy Pen.
After being treated to a delicious lunch in the impressive on site cafe, the tour made it's way outside to the new Estuary Tower Hide, overlooking the banks of the River Severn and the wet grassy marshland so favoured by wild geese flocks such as Barnacle Geese and White Fronted Geese. The views from the open top are stunning, although on this particular day, the exposed platform was bitterly cold!
After the tour, my other half and I were welcome to stay in the grounds until closing time, so I took the opportunity to take photos of the many birds, despite the poor light and biting wind. This was a great decision, as we were treated to our best ever views of the usually very shy and elusive Water Rail from the Willow Hide!
There is no extra charge for the tour, it comes in the overall admission fee, but you have to pre-book the tour in advance, and they do ask for voluntary donation, which goes towards the upkeep of the museum.
I highly recommend the tour, it's even more fascinating that I thought it would be, I have a whole new respect for Sir Peter Scott and everyone working at the centre, past and present. They all do wonderful work looking after wildfowl, all over the world, preserving their habitats, creating important new ones, and educating people on how to manage the wetland environment.
You can book the tour here;
Here are all the photos of wild birds taken during my visit to Slimbridge;
Above - Water Rail.
Above - Avocets.
Above - Barnacle Geese.
Above - White Fronted Geese.
Above - Male and female Pintails, plus Redshank in the bottom pic.
Above - Redshank.
Above - Moorhens, plus a Tufted Duck in the bottom pic.
Above - Little Grebe.
Above - Greylag Geese.
Above - Curlew.
Above - Canada Geese.
Above - Shelduck , plus male and female Tufted Duck and a Moorhen in the bottom pic.
Above - Female Teal.
Above - Male Tufted Ducks, plus Shelduck in the bottom pic.
Above - Wigeon, plus Dunlin in the bottom pic.
Above - Woodpigeons, plus female House Sparrow in the bottom pic.
Above - Male Mallard.
Above - Great Spotted Woodpecker.
Above - Black Headed Gulls.
Above - Great Tit.
Above - Blue Tits.
Above - Collared Doves.
Above - Male House Sparrow.
Above - Long Tailed Tit.
Above - Robins.
Above - Mute Swan passing Barnacle Geese, Wigeon, Oystercatcher, Shelduck and Lapwing.
Above - Squirrel.