England’s National Nature Reserves (NNRs) are some of the best places for experiencing and enjoying wildlife and beautiful scenery. From our northern uplands, via coastal dunes, beaches, woodlands and wetlands, to the heathlands and downs in the south, there is something to interest everyone. These special sites protect a wide variety of habitats and are also home to some of our rarest, most spectacular wildlife in England.
Most of the 224 reserves, 142 of which are managed by Natural England, are open throughout the year and are absolutely free to visit. You will probably live within an hour’s drive of a reserve and some can be reached by public transport. By their nature, many are in quiet, remote areas and whilst there is usually limited free parking, the nearest facilities are likely to be in nearby towns and villages.
There are so many amazing NNRs to visit and include:
- stunning upland at Moor House-Upper Teesdale spanning the counties of Cumbria and Durham, where you may see black grouse, hear curlew and enjoy some spectacular moorland views
- the Stiperstones in Shropshire - an atmospheric heathland with magnificent rock formations and a variety of upland bird species
- some of Europe’s oldest living things in the form of the mystical ancient yew trees at Kingley Vale in West Sussex or enjoy the magical bubbling cascades and gnarled oak woodland of Golitha falls in Cornwall
- big skies and expansive views on a coastal walk at Saltfleetby to Theddlethorpe Dunes in Lincolnshire, looking out for spring migrant birds arriving from Africa and Europe
- rare natterjack toads can be heard as they make their way down from the dunes to their breeding pools at Ainsdale Sand Dunes in Merseyside
- glorious rolling Pewsey Downs in Wiltshire allow a stroll whilst enjoying the lilting song of skylarks
- the variety of habitats at Cavenham Heath in Suffolk which might see you lucky enough to spot an adder basking in the spring sunshine
Find out which National Nature Reserves are on your doorstep and step out on a journey of discovery. The Countryside Code can also help you make the most of a visit – to respect, protect and enjoy the places you visit.
There are also a number of activities throughout the year where you can join the reserve staff and volunteers as they lead nature walks and themed events or take part in volunteer activities to help manage the reserves. To see the latest news on NNRs or get more inspiration for a visit, have a look at and like our Facebook page.