Capture nature for BBOWT photo competition

Round & About


Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) has opened its annual nature photography competition for 2024 with new categories and prizes

Nature lovers of all ages are being invited to submit their best shots of animals, plants, people and scenery at BBOWT nature reserves and in the community.

This year the vote is also being thrown open to the public, with a new ‘People’s Choice Award’. There’s also an extra category for mobile phone photography.

This year’s top prizes include a high-spec birdbox camera, an exclusive wildlife photography masterclass with GG Wildlife Experiences and all winners will have the chance to see their photos featured in the Trust’s 2025 wildlife calendar. There are also bundles of nature books for younger entrants to win for their schools.

Rachel Levis, BBOWT’s Head of Events, said: “We’re thrilled to launch our photography competition again this year. It’s always such a treat to see so many amazing photos of wonderful wildlife taken on our patch. This year we have introduced a People’s Choice Award, which is a great way of getting our supporters involved with the very tricky judging decisions.

“The mobile phone has opened up nature photography to almost everyone, so we’re please to include a new category for that this year. Anyone from a six-year-old with a phone to a professional photographer with all the kit can enter – so why not send us your best shot?”

• Children (ages 6-11) – in any of the categories.
• Teens (ages 12-17) – in any of the categories.
• Birds
• Mammals
• Butterflies & other insects
• Our nature reserves
• Urban nature
• Taking action for nature
• Mobile phone photography

Examples of last year’s winners/ runners up:

Photographs for most categories must be taken on BBOWT reserves, and all must be taken in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire or Oxfordshire. The closing dates for entries is Monday, 26th August. Entries received by Sunday, 28th July, will also be considered for the People’s Choice Award.

Steve Gozdz of competition sponsor GG Wildlife Experiences added: “Wildlife photography can require patience but can be very rewarding – spending time in nature and capturing ‘that moment’ with a bird, mammal or insect can turn a glimpse in time into a real memory that can be savoured and shared with others. You never know when those ‘moments’ will occur, take your camera wherever you go and be aware of the beauty in nature around you.”

Go wild this June for BBOWT

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Do one wild thing every day for a month this summer, as the UK’s biggest free nature challenge returns for its 10th anniversary from June 1st to 30th.

Could you do one thing to connect with nature every day for a month and feel happier and healthier as a result? That is the 30 Days Wild challenge being laid down by Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT).

This June promises to be a bumper 30 Days Wild – people of all ages and abilities are urged to participate and BBOWT are offering free herb seeds and an inspirational guide to everyone who signs up to do one wild thing every day during the month. There are also special packs for schools, businesses and care homes.

Estelle Bailey, Chief Executive of BBOWT, said: “With wildlife in crisis across the UK, it seems fair to ask – are we still a nation of nature lovers? I believe the answer is a resounding yes. This year is the 10th anniversary of both 30 Days Wild and my own time with Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust. Over those 10 years I’ve had the privilege of seeing our communities’ commitment to restoring nature where they live and enjoying all it has to offer. While our first year of running 30 Days Wild saw just over five hundred people sign up across our three countries, last year more than four thousand took on the challenge, which is brilliant.

“This momentum comes as no great surprise – connecting with nature is so important for our sanity and general wellbeing. My top tips to enjoy 30 Days Wild: Sit, walk, run, lay on the grass, look up, look down, fix on something, don’t be afraid to touch or smell it. Smile at the sun, throw your arms out in the rain, get wet, walk barefoot on grass and bare earth, have a cuddle with a tree – be in the moment.”

Supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, 30 Days Wild encourages individuals, families, schools, and businesses to connect with nature on a daily basis during what many argue is the best month for wildlife spotting. It could be going on a snail safari, eating your breakfast outdoors or closing your eyes to listen for bird song, to more adventurous endeavours such as outdoor yoga or forest bathing. This year’s participants will receive a special 10th anniversary park, designed to make their 30 days even more fun.

The 10th anniversary marks a real milestone for The Wildlife Trusts’ flagship 30 Days Wild initiative. The nature challenge has grown from 12,000 participants nationally in its first year to over half a million last year alone. 30 Days Wild has helped people to get outside, enjoy and connect with nature as part of their everyday lives.

Research has consistently highlighted the positive impact of nature on well-being. A study found a significant increase in people’s health, happiness, and connection to nature through participating in 30 Days Wild. People reported feeling more relaxed, reduced stress levels, and a greater motivation to protect wildlife which lasted long after the campaign ended.

So why not get in touch with your wild side this summer? Sign up today and receive a free pack in the post, plus lots of inspiration for activities:

Buy a butterfly to celebrate memories!

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BBOWT wildlife charity launches new commemorative display

To mark Valentine’s Day, a local wildlife charity has opened two new butterfly memory walls to celebrate special occasions, declare your love for nature – or your sweetheart!

The ‘Your Wild Memories’ displays have been installed by Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) at two of its visitor centres. They feature specially-designed butterfly plaques which can be personalised with messages to remember precious moments, people or wild times.

The butterflies are made of brushed stainless steel and fly above an eye-catching wildlife border. They have been put up at the Nature Discovery Centre near Thatcham and College Lake visitor centre near Tring.

Laura Pepper, BBOWT’s Head of Philanthropy, said: “If your Valentine sets your heart a-flutter or you’ve just got engaged or married, why not celebrate your love with a specially engraved butterfly? Or you might like to commemorate a special birthday, a retirement, a favourite family walk or perhaps remember a loved one.

“Butterflies hold all sorts of different meanings for people, as well as being beautiful to behold. Our new ‘Your Wild Memories’ wall is a lovely way to celebrate your special memories and help the vital work of BBOWT at the same time.”

The Your Wild Memories walls have got off to a flying start, with butterfly messages added by local MPs, writers and nature champions.

Estelle Bailey, BBOWT’s Chief Executive, wrote: This special place, with nature at its heart. Here for every community.

Laura Farris, MP for Newbury, left this message on her butterfly at the Nature Discovery Centre: Delighted to support the NDC, bringing the wild into the heart of Thatcham.

Buckingham MP Greg Smith’s butterfly at College Lake reads: Thank you BBOWT, our nature champions. Proud to support you and work with you.

Writer and butterfly lover Patrick Barkham left this beautiful message: Breathe in green, Breathe in blue, Soar soul! Thanks, nature.

Priced at £250 (inclusive of VAT), each butterfly can be engraved to order with the wording of your choice. Funds raised from the sale of the commemorative butterfly plaques will go towards BBOWT’s work creating more nature everywhere for everyone, to benefit wildlife, climate and people.

To order your personalised butterfly visit: Order forms are also available from College Lake or the Nature Discovery Centre. For more information call 01865 775476 (Monday-Friday 9am to 5pm) and ask to speak to the Membership Team.

Share your dinner with the birds

Karen Neville


BBOWT Is asking people to do one ‘wild’ act for each of the 12 days of Christmas to connect with nature at the coldest time of year

Sharing some of your Christmas leftovers with the birds this year could make a real difference for local wildlife.

That is the message from Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT), which is asking people to join its 12 Days Wild challenge.

Recycling Christmas cards, creating nature-themed crafts and going for a walk in the park are among suggested ways people can take part.

Liz Shearer, Community Engagement Director for BBOWT, said: “Cold roast potatoes are a fantastic thing to give to birds at this time of year because they’ve got natural carbohydrates with a bit of extra fat which is great in the cold. You can also leave out Christmas pudding, fruit cake and mince pies which all have useful sugars and fats, and a little bit of mild low-salt cheese is good too!

“Doing things like leaving out leftovers is a really simple way to help local birds and mammals, and also helps us feel like we have a real connection to wildlife, especially at this time of year. Feeling more connected to wildlife is also the first step in taking action to help it.”

The 12 Days Wild challenge runs from 25th December to 5th January. Anyone who signs up online will receive daily inspirational emails with fun activity ideas.

Doing ‘wild’ things to connect with nature can also help us feel happier and healthier, as the Wildlife Trust’s summer challenge, 30 Days Wild, has shown. Whether you take a walk in the park, watch starling murmurations or create some natural art, this shorter winter challenge could offer real wellbeing benefits.

Signing up is also a chance to give something back to nature by making some small changes. You could:

· Do some detective work and spot animal tracks in the mud or snow

· Get crafty using natural materials and create some wild art

· Go wild in town or country and visit a nature reserve

· Beat the January blues by listening to our Wild about Wellbeing podcast

· Make a New Year’s resolution for nature to go plastic-free, cycle to work or volunteer

Or simply get out there and enjoy a walk on the wild side.

Sign up online here for free guides, activities, and inspiration. Share photos and videos of your nature inspired moments on social media using #12DaysWild and please tag @BBOWT in your pictures.

*Picture Credit: Margaret Holland

Youngsters’ wild photography project

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Exhibition of work by teenagers and children who have discovered a shared talent for wildlife photography on a BBOWT course.

The Youth Nature Photography Project was run by Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) at the charity’s Nature Discovery Centre (NDC) in Thatcham.

Now the budding snappers are holding an exhibition of their pictures at the centre this half term.

The youngsters on the course all have challenging personal circumstances, ranging from health conditions such as autism and anxiety to being in the care system or coming from a low-income family.

The course was designed to give them opportunities and learn skills they otherwise might not have discovered, and children and parents have said the effect was transformative.

Chris Harrison, whose nine-year-old daughter Sophia joined the course, said: “Thank you so much for including Sophia on the course, it’s given her so much more confidence and drive to get out of her comfort zone and explore the outside. It’s been great to see the transformation. I’m so proud of her for what she’s produced and her interest isn’t showing any sign of waning. Thank you for everything you taught her as well as giving her the opportunity. She’s loved it and it’s still all she wants to talk about.”

Gia Gomes’s15-year-old son Caleb also joined the course, she said: “Thanks so much for the opportunity. He’s really enjoyed it and learnt a lot and he loves the camera. He really wants you to know that he’s appreciated everyone’s time and input.”

The project was led by BBOWT officer Emma Gray and had three aims: improve participants’ wellbeing, teach them new skills and foster a new connection to the natural world.

Studies have shown that spending time in nature can lower blood pressure and heart rate, reduce anxiety, and improve mood. The Wildlife Trust also encourages all people to spend time in nature to build a sense of connection that can inspire action for wildlife and climate.

The photography workshops at the NDC were led by professional photographer Toni Cross and the young students used professional-quality cameras supplied by BBOWT which they have been allowed to take home on a long-term loan to keep practicing. The whole project was funded by the Robert Pilgrim Photographic Trust.

Commenting on the success of the course, Emma said: “This has been such a rewarding project to work on. All the participants came with various challenges in their lives but they have engaged brilliantly with all of the workshops and it has been fantastic to see how much they have developed. As well as improving their photography skills and connecting with nature, they have all increased in confidence and developed skills such as listening and patience.

“During one session they were practising their fieldcraft skills, getting down low and moving slowly and quietly so as not to disturb the wildlife they were trying to photograph. They crawled into a thick mass of bushes to try to get a good shot of a deer, and were doing such a good job of being still and quiet that at one point I thought I had lost them all! In another session, one of the participants brought her therapy dog River along so they could practise getting shots of a moving animal. They all had a lot of fun doing this, but I don’t think any of us expected she would run so fast.”

The Youth Nature Photography Project Exhibition will open in the visitor centre at the NDC on Saturday, 21st October, with a small ceremony at 11am, and will run to the following Saturday. The centre is open every day in half term 10am to 5pm. Full details at

Join The Big Wild Walk

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Get active for nature: walk, run, cycle, wheel or swim for wildlife!

The Wildlife Trusts’ Big Wild Walk is set to be the most exciting yet with its new ambassador Rhiane Fatinikun backing this year’s challenge.

Rhiane is an award-winning outdoors advocate and community organiser. She founded Black Girls Hike (BGH UK) in 2019 to challenge the stereotypes and lack of representation in the outdoors.

This year Big Wild Walk participants can create their own adventure, whether that’s by walking, running, cycling, wheeling, or swimming, offering flexibility for getting involved. Funds raised will help wildlife recover and contribute towards The Wildlife Trusts’ goal of protecting 30% of UK’s land and sea for nature by 2030.

Liz Shearer, Community Engagement Director at Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust, said: “The Big Wild Walk enables all of us to get involved, however we like, while having fun and feeling good about doing something for wildlife. I love nothing more than putting my boots on and exploring the outdoors, and there are some wonderful places across our counties to do this, including our 80+ nature reserves.

“The brilliant part about this challenge is that you can take it at your own pace and plan your own adventure. It’s also a great opportunity to raise money for The Wildlife Trusts, including BBOWT, to help us create more nature everywhere. What are you waiting for?”

The Wildlife Trusts are leading a swathe of projects across the UK to reintroduce keystone species such as beavers, revive marine habitats such as kelp forests and create more space for nature by rewilding larger areas.

This autumn, the Wildlife Trusts also team up with Aardman Animations to co-create Timmy Time materials to encourage families with young children to take part.

The specially-created Hedgehog Walk is designed for pre-school and Key Stage 1 pupils who can choose their own Timmy Time-themed character fundraising pack, including Apricot the hedgehog and Stripey the badger, to complete the challenge with. The challenge is to walk 3km in a week, the same distance a hedgehog travels each night.

The Big Wild Walk takes place during half term from Monday 16 to Monday 30 October 2023. Sign up at

Rhiane Fatinikun, founder of Black Girls Hike and ambassador for The Wildlife Trusts, says: “Spending time hiking in nature is incredibly special and I love sharing my experiences of the outdoors with others. I’m absolutely delighted to become an ambassador for The Wildlife Trusts as the Big Wild Walk gets underway. I started my journey into the great outdoors with no hiking experience so I’m keen to encourage everyone, no matter their ability or background, to take that first step. Signing up to the Big Wild Walk is a fantastic way to support nature and wild places whilst doing something you love. Or mix it up and turn it into a run, swim or bike ride – the choice is yours! I hope lots of you join us this October to champion nature by having a wild adventure no matter how big or small.”

Steve Brown, television presenter and athlete mentor, says: “All my life, I’ve found the greatest pleasure in exploring the countryside and championing our wild places. I believe nothing should hold you back from enjoying the great outdoors and it’s so exciting that The Wildlife Trusts’ Big Wild Walk this year invites participants to take up the challenge in whatever way that works for them. Whether you choose to walk, run, cycle, wheel, or swim, I’d encourage everyone to sign up and invite their family and friends to join in the fun too. However big or small your adventure, all funds raised by taking part in the Big Wild Walk will contribute towards The Wildlife Trusts’ goal of protecting and connecting 30% of UK’s land and sea for nature by 2030. Feeling inspired, start planning your challenge now?!”

Kate Cook, brand manager at Aardman says: “We are delighted to champion this fantastic challenge through our Timmy Time characters, specifically engaging younger participants through the Hedgehog Walk. We hope families love our character packs and learn something new about the incredible wildlife around them along the way.”

The Big Wild Walk takes place during half term from Monday 16th to Monday 30th October. Sign up at

Wildlife campaign will support the NHS

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Families are encouraged to join 30 Days Wild, the campaign by Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) to connect with nature every day in June, backed by the NHS.

Wildlife trusts across the UK have run the 30 Days Wild challenge every June for nearly a decade, encouraging people to take one wild act each day. This can be anything from watching wildlife from a window to listening to birdsong or taking a meal or drink outside.

For the first time the initiative has won the backing of the UK’s National Health Service. Liz Shearer, BBOWT’s community engagement director, said: “We are over the moon that the NHS has endorsed our challenge: we have always known that spending time in green spaces can have huge health benefits for many people, helping to lower heart rate and blood pressure and reduce anxiety, but now we have the official support of our fantastic health service. Try taking one tiny act to connect with nature and see what it does for you – you could change your life.”

Last year more than 500,000 people took part in 30 Days Wild, including more than 5,000 in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. Across the UK, 114,245 households, 11,740 schools, 898 care homes and 1,384 businesses joined in.

Anyone taking part can order a free activity pack, with different packs for families, individuals, businesses and schools containing activities, games and packets of wildflower seeds to sow. A survey of nearly 1,000 participants last year found that people’s favourite activities were watching wildlife and listening to birdsong (85%).

The NHS has decided to back 30 Days Wild as it celebrates its 75th anniversary celebrations this year. The Greener NHS programme at NHS England will showcase NHS gardens and green spaces that support biodiversity, improve air quality, and provide health benefits for staff and patients, both physically and mentally – across the NHS estate.

Join 30 Days Wild and download a free activity pack at 30 Days Wild.

BBOWT Nature Photography Competition 2023

Karen Neville


This year’s competition has opened with new categories and great prizes

Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) has opened its annual nature photography competition for 2023 with a host of new categories and prizes.

The charity is inviting nature lovers of all ages to send their shots of animals, plants, people and scenery at BBOWT nature reserves and in the community.

Anyone from a six-year-old with a camera phone to a seasoned professional can enter the contest which this year has new categories for pictures of plants, fungi, insects, mammals, birds, reptiles and fish. There is also a new category just for Urban Nature.

This year’s prizes include a top-of-the-range digital camera, an exclusive wildlife photography masterclass, and a high-quality canvas print of your winning photo. All winners will have their photo featured in the Trust’s 2024 calendar.

Rachel Levis, BBOWT Head of Events, said: “We’re so excited to be launching the contest again with these new wildlife categories. Last year we had so many fantastic photos of plants, animals and fungi at BBOWT nature reserves, and this year we really wanted a chance to celebrate all those ways of capturing our wonderful wildlife at its finest.

“I’m also really excited to be launching our Urban Nature category: as we’ve come to realise in recent years that we are in a nature and climate crisis, it’s also become clear that the solution has to be more nature everywhere – and that means looking after wildlife in our towns and cities as well. This category offers a brilliant chance to showcase and celebrate the species that are right under our noses – pollinating our window boxes, nesting under rooves and living in our gardens: these species can be just as important as the wildlife at nature reserves.”


All photographs must be taken on a BBOWT nature reserve except in the Team Wilder, Urban Nature, Children and Teens categories which must be taken in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire or Oxfordshire.

Children (ages 6-11) – Photos matching any of the categories below
Teens (ages 12-17) – Photos matching any of the categories below.
• Flora
• Fungi
• Insects and Arachnids
• Birds
• Mammals
• Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish
• Nature reserve Landscapes

Team Wilder – People are stepping forward from every sector of society to lead change in their fields and we welcome businesses, schools, politicians, and individuals as part of Team Wilder. If you’re taking action for nature right now, no matter how small the act is, you’re already a part of #teamWILDER. Send us your photos and show us what you are working on or have achieved already.
People in Nature
Urban Nature – Wildlife or nature in towns, cities and other urban settings.

Closing date for entries is Friday 1 September 2023.


This year’s overall winner will receive:

• A top-of-the-range digital camera
• Photography workshop with wildlife photographer Steve Gozdz from GG Wildlife Experiences
• A high-quality A3 canvas print of your winning photo
• Your photo featured in the 2024 BBOWT calendar
• Certificate

Category winners will receive:

• Photography workshop with wildlife photographer Steve Gozdz from GG Wildlife Experiences
• Your photo featured in the 2024 BBOWT calendar
• A BBOWT cafe voucher
• Certificate

The Children and Teen categories also have an additional prize: a bundle of nature books which will go to the school library of the winner (or to a school the winner nominates).

This year’s competition will be judged by a panel of three experts: Steve Gozdz is a professional wildlife photographer and founder of Berkshire-based GG Wildlife Experiences, which offers wildlife walks, experiences and photography classes; Ben Vanheems is the editor of BBOWT’s Wild Magazine and a wildlife gardener and Youtuber, and Lis Speight is BBOWT‘s head of communications.

Commenting on what he will be looking for in this year’s entries, Steve Gozdz said: “A great photo makes good use of light, composition and shows creativity. However, most importantly, I will be looking for images that capture ‘the moment’ that encompasses the beauty and essence of the subject matter of the environment.

“You don’t need a fancy camera: even a smart phone can produce some amazing images and give some very different perspectives. Don’t forget – the best camera you can have is the one in your hand.”

Need some inspiration?

Here are last years winners and runners up.

Teenagers Winner – Zachery Osbourne
Teenagers Runner Up – Lucy Colston
Team Wilder Winner – Helen Touchard-Paxton
Team Wilder Runner up – Peter Massam
People Winner – Peter Mohr
People Runner Up – Lorraine Clarke
Flora and Fauna Winner – Roy McDonald
Flora and Fauna Runner Up – Adrianna Bielobradek
Children Winner – Roly Lewis
Children Runner Up – Hayden Denham

The Trust is extremely grateful to GG Wildlife Experiences for sponsoring this year’s competition.

For full details and to enter, go to BBOWT Photography Competition 2023

RHS wildlife show stoppers

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A garden with nature’s recovery at its heart will be premiered by The Wildlife Trusts at this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival.

The Wildlife Trusts: Wilder Spaces garden promises to take wildlife-friendly gardening to a new level, combining beauty with biodiversity.

Wilder Spaces is sponsored by The Wildlife Trusts, led by Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) and its ecological consultancy Future Nature WTC. Working with experts from Oxford Garden Design, the team will demonstrate how wildlife habitats can be designed into the structure of a garden, using building waste, reclaimed material and untreated timbers. With biodiversity designed into the garden, hopes of winning a prestigious RHS medal are high.

The Wildlife Trusts believe gardening has a vital role to play in nature’s recovery, with long-term benefits for climate and people’s wellbeing too. The aim of the garden is to inspire visitors to think differently about the appearance of a garden designed for people and wildlife, and to show how we can all nurture nature, no matter what size or style of garden.

Estelle Bailey, BBOWT’s chief executive, said: “Nature is in crisis and not enough is being done to reverse this terrible decline in the UK’s biodiversity. We want to see 30% of land well managed for nature by 2030 and our gardens are a vital part of that wild jigsaw. Private gardens make up a bigger area than all of Britain’s nature reserves combined – they can provide a mosaic of mini-habitats that support a diverse range of species, so they are key to helping create more nature everywhere. RHS Malvern Spring Festival will be a great opportunity to showcase to people everywhere what they can achieve in their own gardens for nature, for climate and for themselves.”

The garden will include a range of nature and climate positive features, including grassland, wetland & deadwood, pollinator and larval friendly planting, a steam, waterfall and pond, a compost channel and hoverfly stumpery, recycled materials – timber, steel, building aggregate, a biodiverse roof and solitary bee columns & climate resilient planting and landscaping.

The garden features a watercourse that meanders through the plot towards a central pond and a section of bog planting. A pavilion, created in conjunction with Charlie Luxton Design and constructed from reclaimed steel joists and grating, will be topped with a living roof.

Oxford Garden Design, with Jamie Langlands as lead designer, is returning to the RHS Malvern Spring Festival following its successful 2022 show garden. Jamie has designed a garden that’s beautiful to behold and beneficial for the natural world. Jamie says: “I love creating spaces that are wild and untamed whilst having a little wonder within them.”

“I love creating spaces that are wild and untamed”

Sheena Marsh, owner and founder of Oxford Garden Design, which is also building the garden, said: “We are delighted to be working with BBOWT on The Wilder Spaces Garden, bringing together our learnings from BBOWT with Jamie’s creativity. We hope that this garden will inspire home owners to create wilder spaces in their own gardens.”

Once the RHS Malvern Spring Festival is over, the garden will be distributed across various Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust sites and projects. The seating will go to BBOWT’s College Lake visitor Centre, near Tring or Sutton Courtenay Education Centre’s wildlife garden near Didcot. The RHS Malvern Spring Festival runs from 11-14 May 2023 at the Three Counties Showground in Malvern, Worcestershire.

For more information and tickets to the show visit The RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2023 / RHS Gardening

New look for Nature Discovery Centre

Karen Neville


Nature Discovery Centre reopens after £125,000 revamp just in time for Christmas

Berkshire’s beloved Nature Discovery Centre has reopened after a £125,000 refurbishment. The revamp has created an open-plan layout for the popular cafe and shop, new educational table displays and a wildlife-themed children’s play corner.

The icing on the cake is a brand new ‘hide in the sky’ on the first floor of the centre in Thatcham. A viewing station overlooking the wildlife lake where visitors can use a telescope and binoculars to spy on all the wild goings-on below.

The café is also serving a new warming winter menu and new products in the shop. Including locally produced honey, Fairtrade chocolate, local art and jewellery and a host of Christmas cards, decorations and gifts. The renovations were commissioned by Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT). Which manages the site and funded by a grant of £125,000 from site owner West Berkshire Council.

Steve Johnson, NDC’s manager, said: “We’re so excited to show everyone all our new features. This is the biggest refurbishment we’ve had in years. It makes the whole centre a more welcoming, easy-to-use space for all our visitors.

“The NDC is now the perfect place to go for a family day out this winter. Take a bracing walk around our wildlife lake, come and have a hot pastry or panini, take a hot chocolate up to the hide in the sky, then pick up a few Christmas gifts while you’re here! Huge thanks to West Berkshire Council for the funding.”

Councillor Steve Ardagh-Walter, Executive Member for Environment and Transformation at West Berkshire Council, said: “We’re delighted to help BBOWT deliver this important improvement to the Discovery Centre with a grant.

“Ensuring our residents can be closer to nature is an objective of the council’s Environment Strategy, which this investment achieves. The Nature Discovery Centre is a key educational and wellbeing asset. I would encourage all our residents to visit and enjoy.”

As well as improvements indoors, the centre team have also put up several new interpretation boards in the grounds, telling visitors about things to do around the site and upcoming events.

A host of new welcome signs also include an innovative three-dimensional wooden ‘Nature’ sign on an exterior wall which is filled with bits of wood and other natural materials, which solitary bees and other insects can nest in.

Inside, a new wall-mounted screen is showing specially commissioned drone footage and other videos of animals and plants around the site. So visitors can admire the diverse wildlife even on the rainiest days. The Wildlife Trust is confident that all the new features will encourage more people to visit the NDC and help teach all visitors young and old, about wonderful local wildlife.