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.
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.
A reed warbler.
A male broad-bodied chaser dragonfly.
A Norfolk hawker at Strumpshaw Fen.
A four-spotted chaser. Picture: Andreas Trepte.
A cuckoo. Picture: Ben Andrew.