For this story, we were asked to write a piece on our favourite place and describe it in a way that the reader can see it without being there.
Warnham Nature Reserve
14 years ago, I started studying for my City & Guilds photography diploma, as I loved photographing nature and wildlife, I just wanted to learn more and get better. Around this time, I was told about a local place called Warnham Nature Reserve by a friend.
On my first visit, I fell in love with the place and have been visiting the reserve whenever I get the chance. So, what I thought I would do is let you in on a typical visit to a place I love to spend time.
I am a creature of habit; I have a specific ritual for when I visit that hasn’t changed from my first day. It’s a Wednesday morning and I have just parked up in the car park. First thing I do is get my camera bag out, and head to the café, which is also the entrance, I get myself a black coffee and a packet of crisps, I sit outside at one of the tables. I’m there for about half an hour checking that I have the right lenses on the cameras, and check all the batteries are charged, so cameras work ok, coffee is drunk, and crisps are eaten, so off I go through the café.
I like to visit on a weekday, as it’s a little bit quieter so I can get around easier in my chair or using my crutch.
As you enter the reserve you are assaulted by the smells of the heather and lavender, in the small rock garden Bee’s and Hover Flies lazily fly between the grey, purple, yellow and green of the plants, and the sound of the Seagulls above the pond. To the right of this area is a small viewing point called “Tern Hide’, it overlooks the right-hand end of the pond and weir. A great spot for viewing the swans.
After passing through the rock garden you have a choice of paths, left takes you along the boundary of the golf course, but straight ahead is the path I take, through the gate and across the wild meadow, were you are again bombarded by the sights sounds and smells, of the butterflies, Crickets, Bees and flowers. I always stop at the small bridge in the middle to drink it all in.
Once through the next gate I cross the long wooden bridge that spans the smaller pond whilst watching and listening to the colourful Butterflies, Demoiselle flies and the Dragonflies.
Now I follow the path into the musty old woodland, full of Oaks, Maple and Firs, I can hear a distant woodpecker, and then coming out of the thicket is a deer, a young female, she stops in the middle of the path about 20 feet away looks me in the eyes the slowly moves off, my day just keeps getting better.
A few more steps off to the right and I finally arrive at the ‘Heron Hide’, which is a good size and is wheelchair accessible. I sit on the bench at the far end of the hide put down my bag and get my camera ready, at this point I took the picture you see above. I can see three Herons on the other side of the pond and a swan chasing a Moorhen, at that moment I see the recognisable electric blue streak shooting across in front of the hide, one of the Kingfishers heading back to their nest, a little blurry but I manage to get a picture.
I turn my attention back to the Herons just in time to see two of them fly off, there is a bird calling to my left and as I slowly turn I see the Iridescent blue and orange of a female Kingfisher perched on the post in the pond. I’m too slow with my camera as it dives for a fish, it flies back up to the post but no fish. Then to my astonishment it just sits there and allows me to take my pictures, then it’s gone again, an electric blue streak racing across the pond.
I put my camera down and just sit watching and listening to nature doing its thing, I find these times to be so relaxing and it’s the main reason I go, the photography is just a bonus when I remember I’ve actually got my camera with me that is.
As I sit there relaxing in the moment, the door behind me opens and in come three teenagers with Cerebral Palsy, all in their electric wheelchairs followed by there three female carers, who unsuccessfully try to get there wards to quit down, which was funny to watch, then I helped with identifying the birds and where they are, it must of sounded like a party was going on with all the laughter, and for an hour we have a great time, one of the carers turns and thanks me for being so helpful, she says they will definitely come back as it is such a beautiful site and the kids had so much fun, we all say goodbye , and except for the odd cry from a gull quietness descends once again.
These are the days that are so important to me, not the photography but the experience and the enjoyment, and this is why I love the nature reserve so much. The best medicine I have found.