Fairburn Ings Nature Reserve is a 1000 acre RSPB nature reserve that has developed on the remnants of 150 years of mining and industrial work in the area. The lakes and ponds being the result of collapsed coal mines 600 metres below the ground.
We arrived in convoy with the in-laws on a gorgeous Summer day for our first visit to Fairburn. I had always thought it was just a lake for dog walkers and a few twitchers. I hadn’t realised that it was such a well -established destination with activities, play area, tree house, tours, cafe, and shop.
The RSPB visitor centre is just next to the car park (£3 for non-RSPB members) and has all the facilities you would need. There are then five trails to explore. The shortest being 0.3 miles long and the longest being 4 miles. There is also a duck feeding platform and pond dipping area where you can rent a net.
Avoiding the park initially, we set off on our walk. There is a sign in the visitor centre that shows the route of the trails, which we probably should have paid a little more attention to! Instead, we took to going roughly in the direction of other families with small children.
As one of the hottest days of the year so far and the car park nearly full, I was surprised by how few people we came across on our walk. There was a mix of families, lots of photographers and couples enjoying a leisurely stroll, but we were never walking in front or behind anyone, so could experience the sounds of the birds and nature in our own way.
It looks like we walked the discovery trail, which included the pond area, a large lake, some woodland and then a bird hide overlooking a very secluded bird habitat.
We had our picnic on some rocks at one of the highest points of the trail, which highlighted to us the scale of Fairburn Ings. It is a vast space and brought home how valuable the work of the RSBP is to maintain such a large area.
The Discovery Trail. 0.3 miles
This is flat and suitable for prams and pushchairs.
The Riverbank Trail. 4 miles
This undulates with an uneven gravel/mud surface.
The Lin Dike Link Trail. 4 miles
With a steep hill at the start, it is gravel and undulating and likely to be wet in winter.
The Arrow Lane Trail. 1.2 miles
This is level and surfaced.
The Coal Tips trail. 1.5 miles
This path is gravel and uneven in places with two steep inclines at the beginning.
There are two feeding areas.
During our walk, we took time as part of our commitment to #30DaysWild to inspect some of the wildlife with Little M, particularly the caterpillars in their odd webs, unusual birds, little ducklings and Damselflies.
As we continued to make progress on Little M’s fear of creepy crawlies, it was turning into an all round great day… until a leaf gently brushed against his neck, while he was deep in focus on the moving caterpillars. Then it was time for him to return to the relative safety of the trike.
This is what makes Fairburn Ings a fantastic day out; it is full of experiences and opportunities to educate and demonstrate, while always changing with the seasons.
The most engaging moment was at the dipping pond, where Little M inspected the children’s ice cream tubs to see what they had caught in their nets, before pointing out a little family of moor hens. It was a nice spot, and I look forward to coming back to take part in the pond dipping.
Following our walk, we returned to the visitor centre where there is a hot drinks machine and selection of snacks. I did some colouring in, while Little M and Gramps spoke to a photographer about some of the animals he had seen, we watched a vole via the webcam and researched some of the creatures we had seen using the books available on the side.
It was a friendly, educational and relaxed environment, with a few of the staff answering questions and engaging with visitors, helping them get the best out of their experience.
Before leaving, we then took Little M to the park and the tree house. We spent a surprising amount of time looking at the bug houses and one particular fly, before venturing onto the climbing equipment and up and down the tree house, following our second dalliance with a wooden den in a week.
We were at the RSPB site for about four hours, and everyone was impressed. There is clearly lots more to investigate and with several events on over the year, I am sure it will be a regular part of Little M’s childhood. It also felt great to be supporting the RSPB and the work they do to support the habitat.
The only personal frustration is that none of the walks seem to be a loop, it looks like you have to go back on yourself on pretty much all the routes. That said, there are different walks, some alongside the river, through woodland and around the lakes.
Running alongside the River Aire just three miles from Castleford with easy access of off the A1 near Ferrybridge Power Station. (Postcode for travel is WF10 2BH).
Learning about the Great Outdoors & Wildlife
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The RSPB Fairburn Ings nature reserve is a fantastic location to learn, enjoy and photograph nature. You can enjoy a different type of experience each visit with the various walks and routes, before playing in the park or relaxing in the visitors centre.
With so many questions raised by the wildlife on offer, it is easy to be inspired and educated - even I learnt new things.
Fairburn Ings will definitely be a regular feature on our list of places we regularly visit.