As more of us look to spend our holidays in the UK, Springwatch presenter Martin Hughes-Games investigates ways to enjoy leisure time on the wildside, without breaking the bank.
With the holiday season about to start, millions of Brits are thinking about spending their summer in the UK because foreign holidays are getting too expensive.
But not only is the UK a fantastic place to take a break, as the BBC's Springwatch team have been discovering, it's also packed with wonderful wildlife that you can enjoy without spending a fortune.
If you're planning a seaside break, heading for the hills, woodlands and rivers, or simply putting your feet up at home - it's possible to have a credit-crunching encounter with Mother Nature.
Campsites are a real wildlife hotspot. There are more than 3000 camping and caravan sites across the UK and many of them are in our most beautiful countryside.
It doesn't cost the earth and it's a great adventure for the whole family.
Camping is a great way to enjoy wildlife
"When you go camping you're only the thickness of your tent away from the natural world," said Springwatch presenter Martin Hughes-Games.
"Always make sure to take some binoculars – but you don't need to spend a fortune on a pair – and take a field guide if you're going exploring for the first time.
"Make it a basic one as some of the bird guides can be too complicated. To let you into a little secret – the one I always take is Bill Oddie's," he added.
Some of the camping and caravanning locations you can enjoy in Berkshire include...
Lodden Court Farm, located just a quick journey from Beale Park near Reading, which is home to an amazing collection of birds including swans, owls, parrots and pheasants.
If you put up your tent in Bishops Green Farm Camp Site, try to take in a quick trip to Bowdown Woods Nature Reserve, where primroses, bluebells, marsh-marigolds and early-purple orchids can be viewed in the spring. In the summer butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies provide the main attraction.
In the woods
The woods are the UK equivalent of the rainforests, they are the most diverse habitat that we have and there's always something new going on - whatever the season.
Wherever you live you're never far away from a woodland adventure.
"The woods are home to some of our most spectacular wildlife and big animals like deer, wild boar, foxes and badgers," said Martin.
Woodland visits get you closer to nature
"Surprisingly, it's often a wood that has lots of visitors that is a better place to see wildlife as they get used to people.
"You should also go very early in the morning, and I mean really early - like first light, as this is when the animals are at their busiest.
"Getting up that early is a real adventure and just think how delicious your breakfast will taste when you get home," he added.
In Berkshire, popular locations for exploring woodland habitats include Bowdown Woods Nature Reserve, where spectacular foliage and fungi put on a show in the autumn.
Much of Berkshire's Woodland can be found within Swinley Forest, a large expanse of English Crown Estate woodland in the Winkfield and Crowthorne areas of Berkshire.
Situated to the south-west of Windsor Great Park, Swinley Forest includes Crowthorne Woods; and Swinley Woods. Much of the woods cover what used to be moorland as indicated by the names of some of the hills, such as Broadmoor, Owlsmoor, Wishmoor, Gormoor, Whitmoor and Englemoor (now Englemere).
Holidaying at home
If you're deciding to holiday at home this year, one of the most exciting wildlife habitats can be found in your own garden or from a visit to the local park.
"I love spending time in my garden, but if I'm not at home there's always a green space somewhere nearby that'll act like a magnet for wildlife," said Martin.
Take a wildlife adventure in your garden
"I'm passionate about insects as they have some of the best stories. Forget looking up at the birds, look down and under things and you'll find a bizarre and fascinating world.
"Again, get yourself a basic guide book and a magnifying glass. There are 20,000 different species of insect in Britain so you'll never be short of new discoveries."
Residents of Windsor and Slough can enjoy a Royal rural retreat, with Windsor Great Park on their doorstep, or Black Park and Langley Park in Slough.
Wellington Country Park in Reading offers 350 acres of parkland, including four nature trails and a beautiful 35 acre lake.
See baby lemurs as well as goats, ponies, deer, pigs and flamingos, in Beale Park near Reading, or head to the Nature Discovery Centre in Muddy Lane, Thatcham.
For a fantastic walk on the wild side, try contacting the UK Wolf Conservation Trust in Beenham.
Along the coast
The UK' coastline stretches for thousands of miles, offering a diverse range of habitats.
On a seaside break, the first instinct might be to flock to the beaches or, like moths to a flame, to the bright lights of the arcades - but by exploring a little further along the coast you can uncover a world of wildlife in the cliffs, tide pools and sea.
Rock pooling is fun for all the family
"There are spectacular wildlife hotspots all round our coast and it's not just birds – you can see seals, dolphins, even whales if you're lucky," said Martin.
Rock pools, or tide pools as they are sometimes known, are home to a wealth of sea life and provides a unique opportunity to study it at close quarters.
"I hadn't been rock pooling for years and I'd completely forgotten how much there is to see. It's fabulous, it's free and it's fun for all the family," said Martin.
"You'll see crabs, starfish, limpets, killer dog-whelks and if you catch a really low tide you might see British cowries or pipe fish – but don't forget to think safety first and keep an eye on the tide, it can come in far faster than you think."
Remember, the best sort of rock pooling means leaving no trace of your visit. Always return creatures back to the sea and leave the wonders of the rock pool for all to enjoy.
From villages to cities, the countryside to the coast – wildlife is everywhere you look.
To help you make the most of it, a number of free pocket guides are available from BBC Breathing Places.
last updated: 02/06/2009 at 11:26
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