the arrival of spring at idle valley

Looking Ahead At Idle Valley

Exciting times ahead for Idle Valley Nature Reserve and for visitors old and new. Erin McDaid, Head of Communications & Marketing, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.
 |  Katie Hogg  |  Retford

I’ve often used these pages to promote Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust’s largest site, the spectacular Idle Valley Nature Reserve near Retford. Yet as I write this piece, buoyed by the burst of colour offered by spring flowers and the sight of early butterflies on the wing, the extra daylight presented by the clocks going forward and the prospect of the end of the necessary but onerous ‘stay local’ advice – I’m truly excited about restarting my regular explorations of this special place in the weeks and months ahead. 


The arrival of spring at Idle Valley brings all the delights you might expect of a large wetland nature reserve, such as the opportunity to admire the aerial acrobatics of swifts and swallows or the joys of seeing water birds rear their chicks. Amongst the species that migrate here for the summer include the many warbler that fill the reedbeds and scrub with wonderful song, including the reed warbler, willow warbler and grasshopper warbler.

As May arrives there will also be the distinct possibility of hearing your first cuckoo of the year and at Idle Valley Nature Reserve you will also have the chance to see and hear the turtle dove with the site being one of the species' last strongholds in the county. As spring rolls into summer visitors will have the opportunity to see the hobby, one of our smaller birds of prey, stalking dragonflies over the lagoons.

In addition to the birdlife for which the reserve is rightly renowned, there are plenty of opportunities to see fascinating butterflies and other invertebrates. Beneath the surface of the water there will be all manner of fish as well as eels – including young ‘glass eels’ that may have only just arrived back in the UK after more than 300 days drifting across the oceans from their hatching grounds. The River Idle is one of the rivers where conservation groups hope to see a revival in the fortunes of this threatened species and a special eel pass has been fitted between the river and the large sheltered Belmoor Lake at the southern end of the reserve to act as a haven for the fish. 

Whilst not strictly ‘wildlife’ other creatures you are likely to see at Idle Valley are sheep and cattle from our conservation grazing programme. Traditional breeds of cattle such as Lincoln Red and Long Horn and sheep breeds such as Hebridean and Herdwick do a great job of helping us to prevent large areas of grassland from developing into scrub and woodland and their calves and lambs always add interest for visitors each spring. One of the aims of our recent fundraising appeal was to extend sensitive grazing management to new areas of the reserve. This will help us create a more diverse mix of habitats to benefit a wide range of species, from insects to wildflowers thorough to small mammals and of course birds.

The ‘headline act’ for our recent appeal was the beaver and later this year we hope to be able to welcome at least four to help us keep important wetland areas clear of trees and scrub to provide feeding and nesting areas for birds and, indirectly, to provide good opportunities for bird watching. Whilst we’re sure that many will be keen to visit to see the beavers once they arrive I should probably point out that they are mainly nocturnal and pretty elusive. Your chances of spotting one will be quite slim, but there will certainly be more chance than there is at the moment! 

The response to our appeal has been very generous and we are currently over 70% of the way to our ambitious £250,000 target. Almost 3000 have also responded to our survey to solicit views on the beavers’ planned return and to gather information on local wildlife sightings. Well over 90% of respondents welcome the prospect of these charismatic and hugely beneficial ‘wetland engineers’ making a home at Idle Valley Nature Reserve. 

With the prospect of a wonderful spring and summer of wildlife watching ahead, we are also delighted that we have been able to reopen the café for take-away service 7 days a week. We are now busy making plans to reopen our shop. Being able to welcome customers and visitors to support our conservation work through their café and shop purchases is vital to our long-term plans – so do call into to the café and shop if you’re visiting.

Like many parks, wildlife areas and other greenspaces, Idle Valley Nature Reserve has received its fair share of first time visitors over the past year with people forced to stay local and encouraged to explore options to exercise closer to home. 

We very much hope that many of those who discovered the reserve during lockdowns will become regular visitors in the future. We look forward to giving them an increasingly warm welcome as and when we are able to fully reopen the café facilities and to restart our programme of walks and family activities.

In the meantime, we would urge anyone that’s not yet discovered the delights of the Idle Valley Nature Reserve to take a look before the urge to head further afield kicks in. Just because we have the opportunity to return to our old habits and haunts doesn’t mean we have to. And, with a gem like the Idle Valley on your doorstep it’d be remiss to not give it a try for yourself this spring. 

Further details about Idle Valley Nature Reserve, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust’s other reserves across the county and the Bring Back Beavers campaign can be found at 

Now Open

The Wildlife Trust’s café at Idle Valley Nature Reserve is now back open between 10am and 3pm, 7 days a week

The team are serving a selection of drinks and snacks to take-away and the charity plans to reopen the shop area as soon as possible. The toilets currently remain closed. 

Updates about facilities and opening times can be found by visiting: 

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