A visit to WWT Wetland Centre, Arundel sounded the ideal way to spend the morning on our recent trip to Arundel in West Sussex. We’d already booked tickets for Arundel Castle in the afternoon, so a morning of nature and wildlife seemed like a perfect combination for a fun family day out.
Getting to Arundel
Arundel is a pretty, historic market town in the South Downs, England. It is easily accessible via the A3 and is less than 2 hours’ drive from London.
If you are coming by train, the quickest route from London is via London Victoria.
Arundel is famous for its magnificent castle which dominates the town from a hill. However, as the Wetlands Centre is less than a mile from Arundel Castle, it’s within easy visiting distance. Furthermore, the wetland centre has a big free car park in front of the visitor centre, so parking is easy.
What is a WWT Wetland Centre?
Having not been to a wetland centre before, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. However, it turns out that it is a large nature reserve.
The wetland centre in Arundel is one of nine in the UK that the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust manage. It is a purpose-built reserve, covering 65 acres of linking waterways and lakes.
The centre is a charity, whose aim is to conserve wetland wildlife and nature. They have a particular focus on species at risk of extinction, such as the water vole.
Our visit to the WWT Wetland Centre, Arundel
We arrived at 10am when the wetlands centre opens. They are currently operating a pre-booked system for tickets, so it is essential to book online before you arrive.
A boat safari at the Wetlands Centre
Once we’d checked in, our first port of call was a boat safari, which we’d booked online with our main tickets. We met our guide at the jetty, and she took us on a private boat around the Wetland Discovery Area.
The guide was so knowledgeable, that she was a delight to spend time with. She took us on a circular tour around the waterways, stopping the boat to explain about different birds.
We had lots of questions for her and she had lots of answers, so we felt a lot wiser when we got off the boat.
Our guide explained about the conservation efforts at the wetlands centre and how they’d reintroduced water voles to the centre to protect the species.
Unfortunately, we didn’t spot a water vole, even though our guide heard one foraging in the reeds. However, we did see a kingfisher, which was stunning. Additionally, we saw plenty of other waterfowl, such as mallards, tufted ducks, and dragonflies.
It was a very relaxing way to start the morning and I would happily have stayed on the boat for longer.
Exploring the wetland centre
After our fantastic boat safari, we continued our tour of the wetlands centre by foot. They are currently operating a one-way system, which was easy to follow in a clockwise direction.
The centre has zones with different habitats to attract different types of birds. The habitats include reed beds, lakes, forest and waterfalls. The walkways have paving or board walks, so are very accessible to all.
Click here for the WWT Arundel map
As WWT Arundel is a nature reserve, rather than a bird park, you can’t guarantee which birds and wildlife you are likely to see. However, the centre makes every effort to encourage as many different wild fowl as possible.
It’s also worth remembering that you’ll see different birds depending on the season, as some migrate.
WWT Wetland Aundel for children
If you’re visiting with younger kids, look for the enclosed areas where the children have a better chance of seeing the birds up close. One of these is the waterfall area, which was very pretty. However, my favourite enclosed area was the Icelandic lake duck ‘n’ dive.
Never before had I realised that a duck could hold its breath for so long swimming under water! It was just fascinating watching a close-up of the duck swimming on the bottom of the water looking for food.
Another area where it was easier to spot the birds was the woodland areas. Here you’ll find several clearings with bird feeders, which were attracting small forest birds.
If you are feeling patient, there are also several bird hides around the centre. However, social distancing measures limit the numbers inside, and hardcore “twitchers” were occupying some of the spaces. However, this wasn’t an issue, as we were happier wandering outside without our masks.
One of the most popular areas for children is the World Wildfowl area, as they can feed the geese and ducks. Unsurprisingly, this is a very popular area for the birds too!
Actually, the birds were in luck during our visit to WWT Wetland Centre, as the grain dispenser was out of order. Grain was all over the ground, so the kids scooped up handfuls for the birds.
This area was full of fairly tame geese and ducks wandering around. One of the most beautiful geese, was the endangered Hawaiian Goose.
Finally, we made a quick trip round the meadow maze, which is where you can look for bugs, butterflies, and insects. We had seen several bug hotels around the centre, but not really any bugs.
However, we did spot a few dragonflies, which are apparently one of the oldest living creatures. According to our guide, they date back to dinosaur times, although they were significantly bigger in those days.
Eventually we returned to the visitor centre where we had lunch outside the café. There is currently construction work underway for a pelican centre, which looks interesting.
The kids really enjoyed our visit to WWT Wetland Centre, Arundel. It’s a great place to have a walk and enjoy nature with some stunning views. Overall, our unanimous agreement was that the boat safari is the highlight, so be sure to book this if you go.
After our visit to the wetland centre, we headed off for a visit to Arundel and its magnificent castle.
Have you been on a visit to WWT wetland centre Arundel yet? Please feel free to comment below.
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