Your chance to rent-a-war­den

Rent-a-war­den Ben Lewis ex­plains how a per­son­alised guided tour can open your eyes and ears to the won­ders of RSPB Strump­shaw Fen.

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Ever dreamed of go­ing on your own per­son­alised guided walk out in na­ture? Or per­haps you’ve been stuck for a na­ture fanatic fam­ily mem­ber to share your pas­sion with? At RSPB Strump­shaw Fen na­ture re­serve we have the so­lu­tion to your prob­lems with our very own ‘rent-a-war­den’ ser­vice. What’s it all about?

As a war­den at RSPB Strump­shaw Fen, I spend my time on the ground watch­ing the re­serve tran­si­tion through the sea­sons – ex­pe­ri­enc­ing every sound and sight on of­fer. For me, rent-a-war­den is a great op­por­tu­nity to share my knowl­edge of the re­serve with peo­ple who share my pas­sion, ex­plain­ing what we do as war­dens at RSPB Strump­shaw Fen, the chal­lenges we may face in the fu­ture, and best of all, I get to show you some of the fan­tas­tic wildlife that calls the re­serve home.

How does it work?

Rent-a-war­den walks can be tai­lored to an in­di­vid­ual’s de­sires, to change the way you look for wildlife and deepen your un­der­stand­ing of how na­ture re­serves are man­aged to give na­ture a home.

There are many dif­fer­ent ti­tle re­quests for th­ese guided walks in­clud­ing: dawn cho­rus, bird/ but­ter­fly/drag­on­fly/plant/moth iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, spring mi­grant bird find­ing, ‘70 bird species in four hours’ chal­lenge, goose and wild­fowl iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, dusk har­rier roost walks, his­tory and man­age­ment walks, as well as more gen­eral walks where we can see what­ever shows it­self to us. What­ever you choose, at the end of the walk, we al­ways sit down with a hot drink and talk about what we’ve seen.

What might you see?

With the on­set of spring, we are fast ap­proach­ing the most ex­cit­ing time of year for the renta-war­den walks, when wood­lands and reedbeds are alive with bird song. I’m sure many peo­ple will in­stantly recog­nise the boom of the bit­tern or the far car­ry­ing cry of the cuckoo, but de­ci­pher­ing reed war­bler and sedge war­bler calls are po­ten­tial new skills you can learn. Head out­side early in the morn­ing and we will help you to un­pick the dawn cho­rus com­po­nents, of­fer­ing tips to re­mem­ber the calls and songs for the fu­ture.

As the sea­son pro­gresses into sum­mer, a myr­iad of but­ter­flies, in­clud­ing the mag­nif­i­cent swal­low­tail, emerge along with squadrons of drag­on­flies.

Sum­mer through to spring, there’s an ad­di­tional bonus of be­ing able to walk off-piste. Walk­ing through the mid­dle of the reedbed is an un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ence, nor­mally ex­clu­sive to the role of a war­den. I love this

ex­clu­sive tour, I get to tell peo­ple about the del­i­cate eco­log­i­cal bal­ance of water lev­els, water qual­ity, reed cut­ting and how it all helps cer­tain plants, which in turn helps the rare swal­low­tail but­ter­fly, one of the many com­plex bi­o­log­i­cal links on the re­serve.

Not just wildlife

If you’re a his­tory buff, we’re well equipped with the sto­ries of how this spe­cial re­serve came to be: its past, its for­ma­tion and how we need to man­age the habi­tat to en­sure it re­mains a fan­tas­tic place for wildlife - com­plet­ing an all­round nat­u­ral his­tory les­son.

You need to book your four-hour per­son­alised tour in ad­vance. Up to six peo­ple can join in – so whether you want to learn on your own or share the ex­pe­ri­ence with a friend, there’s some­thing for ev­ery­one. Or if you’d like to gift the ex­pe­ri­ence as a quirky present for a wildlife lover, we can sup­ply a voucher.

To book, ring 01603 715191. Cost: £ 80 for one to two RSPB mem­bers, each ad­di­tional RSPB mem­ber costs £ 20; or £100 for one to two non-mem­bers with each ad­di­tional non-mem­ber cost­ing £ 25.

Pic­ture: John Bridges.

A reed war­bler.

Pic­ture: Andy Hay.

A male broad-bod­ied chaser drag­on­fly.

Pic­ture: Alis­tair Rae.

A Nor­folk hawker at Strump­shaw Fen.

A four-spot­ted chaser. Pic­ture: An­dreas Trepte.

A cuckoo. Pic­ture: Ben An­drew.

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