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Winter delight

PUBLISHED: 05:33 29 December 2014

WWT Welney swan feed. Credit David Featherbe

WWT Welney swan feed. Credit David Featherbe

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It comes up time and again on people’s wish lists for things to do in Norfolk. So, urges Emma Brand, events and marketing office at WWT Welney Wetland Centre, make this December the time you pay a visit to witness the wonderful swan feeding sessions.

“Come out now, it is just fantastic,” says Emma, from her base at the Ouse washes which hold the UK’s largest roost of whooper and Bewick’s swans. “Until you get here you don’t realise how fantastic it is - whether you want to learn more about a specific species or just enjoy watching them feed. Don’t waste this side of the winter - it is easy to think that you will wait until you have made your New Year’s resolution to get out more. All our lives are getting busier and busier, but it is so important to take some time out to see what the area has to offer.”

Now through until March, thousands of ducks and swans overwinter at WWT Welney. Many have travelled vast distances from their breeding grounds in Iceland and Arctic Russia to reach their Norfolk refuge. The Ouse washes can see anything up to 5000 whooper swans and 3000 Bewick’s, many returning to Welney each year, bringing with them their latest brood of cygnets.

“It is amazing to see them interacting with each other,” says Emma. “At present we have shallow flooding which is perfect for the pools in front of the hide where the pochard like to be. They are diving ducks with stunning red heads and silver backs which have flown in from Arctic Russia on a similar route to the Bewick’s swans. These are mainly males as the females tend to go further south to Spain. When they dive underwater it makes the surface bubble like a Jacuzzi.”

The Ouse Washes were originally part of a much larger wetland area. “About 400 years ago the Dutch came over and taught us how to drain our marshes, which was good for our agriculture but not so good for our wildlife,” explains Emma. “Pockets of wetland hang on providing vital habitats for the wildlife. We have 300 acres next to the visitors’ centre which has been turned back into wetland habitat.”

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A flurry of feathers

View the swan feeds each day through to Sunday, March 8, at 3.30pm, and the floodlit feeds (Thursdays to Sundays until Saturday, February 28), with a live commentary to listen to. From Boxing Day until March 8 there will also be daily noon feeds.

From Boxing Day, hare walks are also held at Lady Fen at WWT Welney to view the many hares that have made this fascinating area their home.

WWT Welney is two miles south of Welney village, turning off the A1101 at the New Bedford Suspension Bridge, signposted Ten Mile Bank. Occasionally, the A1101 between Welney Village and Suspension Bridge floods and is closed to cars, but access to WWT Welney is always possible from Ely or Downham Market, off the A10.

WWT Welney Hundred Foot Bank, Welney, PE14 9TN; 01353 860711; www.wwt.org.uk

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