We have four different nature trails for you to follow, which all allow you to take in the sights of our vast array of wildlife in their natural habitat. One even allows you the closest contact with our resident red and fallow deer herds.
This is a gentle, short trail which leads off through coppiced birch and with scots pine and douglas firs scattered throughout the area.
On the right is an area of beech trees – the only ones you will see on the trails. The dense shade they cast restricts the growth of ground flora and few plants are able to thrive. Spring bluebells are one of the few exceptions to this, as they flower before the beech foliage has fully developed.
This trail is a favourite for butterflies: speckled wood; small heath; gate keeper; comma; clouded yellow; white admiral; red admiral; and green-veined whites can all be seen in this trail, as well as some other species, including dragonflies. Compare the ground flora in the area of beeches to that to the left of the path in the mature oak plantation. Because they do not cast a dense shade, the ground plants are more prolific, bracken and bramble being dominant.
Plenty of daylight penetrates this area and you should spot various flowering plants. In the autumn, many different fungi can be found.
This walk takes you into the beautiful Waterloo Meadow, along wooded paths, edged with bracken and briars, which provide a haven for woodland butterflies.
Along the way you will see a coniferous area of larch and scots pine with a number of large mature oaks scattered throughout. The larch is the only conifer that is deciduous (it sheds its needles in winter).
Before reaching a clearing, you come across a few mature birch. In the clearing, the bracken trees take full advantage of the direct sunlight, and grow significantly taller than those in the shaded areas.
Continuing along the trail, rowan trees produce orange-red berries which give rich pickings for thrushes, blackbirds and finches. In spring, the rowan blossoms into white flowers.
The trail then leads to an open ride, bordered on the left by holly trees. This provides another opportunity to see the woodland butterflies. Foxgloves grow here in the summer months, with small clumps of gorse bushes and tormentil (a yellow flower with four petals and five-fingered leaves).
The trail leads through an area of deciduous trees with a few large scots pines, with beautiful forest flowers in the spring and fungi in the autumn. Under the pines, you will find cones which have been eaten by grey squirrels and mice. The woodland then becomes more open and includes some coppiced birch and several very large scots pines.
The layer of peat here is a much darker brown than the local sandy soil. This is because it consists of leaf debris, grasses and heather, which die off each year. This is partly preserved by the acid conditions of the soil and the plants compress this, which in turn then forms peat.
The trail then leads you into Waterloo Meadow, home to our herd of Red and Fallow deer. Most of the conifers seen from the open area are scots pines. The scots pines are honeycombed with holes bored by beetles, wasps and birds. Trees like these provide homes for an astonishing variety of wildlife.
Follow the trail around the back of the Campsite through to the large lake. To your right will be the newly refurbished Animal Farm, where you will be able to see a variety of animals from pigs to poultry to small mammals.
The lake was created by the extraction of gravel in the 1970's, resulting in a 'pit', which has been carefully landscaped and the sloping banks have been recolonised by plants.
A level path, starting at Reception, runs along an embankment amid coppiced willow, gorse, brambles and broom.
There are areas suitable for relaxing, having a lakeside picnic or bird watching.
Many species of birds have moved in since the lake was created. The most notable are the mute swan and canada geese, who arrive in large numbers.
Egyptian geese and great crested grebes are also bred here. Pied wagtails can usually be seen around the shore, along with the kingfisher.
There are members of the Fishing Syndicate along the banks of both lakes, many of them are there for days at a time, catching various fish like common carp, pike, perch, roach and tench.