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17 September 2014
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Cheddar caves and Gorge

Get out and about in some of our most popular tourist hotspots around the British Isles. Go pond dipping at London Wetlands and rock pooling at the Giant's Causeway. Or why not enjoy a bird and bug extravaganza at London Wetlands?

Cheddar Gorge - explore flora and fauna from top to bottom.
Photo - Cheddar Caves and Gorge.

The great thing about popular tourist spot is the diversity of the wildlife from birds and butterflies to crabs, plants and lichens.

Here's a few tips on making the most of your visits:

Giant's Causeway

Giant's Causeway (Image: Northern Ireland Tourist Board)The Giant's Causeway is a surprisingly good place for rock pooling trips, and there's an amazing selection of marine life to look out for.

* Take a closer look at the seaweed - it was once used for bleaching linen and was even cooked in a local dish called 'sloake', made from carrageen seaweed, the long frondy type.

* You might think that the plant life at the Giant's Causeway would be very fragile due to the exposed cliff faces and the wind, rain and cold.

Although it's a tough place to live, many plants have adapted to the conditions, including the Oysterplant, which is usually found on the shingle near the sea, and is named because its leaves taste of oysters.

* Also look for Scots Lovage, which is only found in Northern Ireland and Scotland, Sea Spleenwort, Devils Bit Scabious, Bird Foot Trefoil (a member of the Shamrock family) and Thyme Broomrape.

Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Pink c/o Cheddar Caves and GorgeEnjoy summer wildlife in and around Cheddar Gorge including rare flowers, plants and trees:

A good way of seeing the changing geology and plant life at Cheddar Gorge is to work your way from the top of the gorge right down to the bottom.

The Cliff Top Gorge Walk is a three mile circular toute which will take you through grassland rich in wild flowers.

Allow about two hours to complete the full walk circuit.

What to look out for en route:

* The Gorge's Carboniferous limestone plateau is dominated by grassland. No herbicides are used so unusual species flourish including many varieties of Orchid.

Also look out for Harebell, Rock Rose, Marjoram, and colourful patches of Wild Thyme.

* The Gorge's crags and cliffs rock ledges support plants which will only grow on rock ledges.

The Cheddar Pink is one of Britain's rarest plants and is unique to the Cheddar Gorge. It blooms around late spring and early summer. Look for it on the cliff top edges.

Also look for Cheddar Bedstraw and Little Robin. Mosses and lichens are also to be seen.

* As the gorge gently descends from its upper to mid slopes, a thick cover of Hazel and Oak coppice takes over from the grassland.

London Wetlands

Mallard c/o London Wetladn WWTThe London Wetlands Centre offers a great day out adults or families not far from the hubbub of the city.

Here are our top wildlife activities on the reserve in summer:

Water world

* The Wildside area boasts small pools which are prefect for dragonflies and amphibians in the summer.

It's easy to explore the myriad of pond life by following the network of ponds and wetland meadows linked by boardwalks and meandering paths.

* Keep your ears open for the sound of March Frogs croaking loudly on hot summer days.

* Pond dipping is a great activity for kids. Head down to the Pond zone in the Waterlife section of the reserve to get stuck into some serious pond dipping.

The centre runs guided sessions in the raised pond area where children can discover a wide range of aquatic life on a Great Pond Safari.

* Discover which plants like to live in and around water in the reserve's Waterlife section. There are also three designer gardens with top tips on how to create your own water garden.

Bird spotting

* As well as the pond life in the Wildside area, look out for Sedge and Reed Warblers in the summer.

* Look out for details of special events including dawn chorus breakfast tours and free guided tours.

* Head for a hide! The centre has several bird hides including one at the Reservoir Lagoon and others on the north and south sides of the Great Lake. The lagoon is a particularly good spot for breeding birds.

* Don't forget to visit the Observatory which offers great views over the Main Lake - it's a good spot for watching birds coming and going.

Photo credits

Mallard c/o London WetlandsThanks to London Wetlands for the images of the reserve.

Cheddar images courtesy and copyright of Cheddar Caves and Gorge.



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