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Travel blog aimed at mature, independent travellers who like to plan their own holidays. The blog is based on our own travels and walking holidays in beautiful places such as Iceland, The Azores and Peru, and contains accounts of our experiences, advice, links to resources and lots of photography.
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Outdoor Spaces in Tallinn

The lovely city of Tallinn is surrounded by green parks, gardens and coastal paths. The post Outdoor Spaces in Tallinn appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.

Tallinn’s Old Town

Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia, is a wonderful city to visit.  The Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is immensely attractive.  It feels like being in a fairytale with its cobbled streets, old city walls, and turrets and towers at every turn.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn, Estonia

Beautiful domes of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn

Bell tower in Tallinn Old Town, Estonia

Typical architecture in the Old Town

View over the rooftops of Tallinn, Estonia

View over the city rooftops

There are plenty of varied shops and good museums to keep you busy.  And there are restaurants everywhere you turn, from medieval-themed eateries to slick and modern establishments.  It’s all very touristy, but still absolutely magical.  If you get a chance to visit, don’t miss it!

Architecture in Tallin, Estonia

View from one of the Old Town walls

Cobbled street in the Old Town of Tallinn, Estonia

Typical cobbled street in the Old Town

Medieval wall at the City Museum, Tallinn, Estonia

Medieval walls at the City Museum

Cannon at the City Museum, Tallinn, Estonia

Cannon at the City Museum

The Old Town is small and easy to stroll around and explore.  For a useful guidebook we recommend the DK Eyewitness Top 10 Tallinn.

But there is much more to Tallinn.  Outside the Old Town is an attractive bustling city with all the usual facilities.   And if, like, us you enjoy being outdoors, there are some fantastic parks and walks to enjoy.   Here are our suggestions, based on a recent short visit.

Kadriorg Park

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Kadriorg Park, situated east of the Old Town, is a wonderful place to spend a few hours.  The park covers around 70 hectares, and contains the beautiful baroque Kadriorg Palace shown above, surrounded by formal gardens.  The palace houses the Kadriorg Art Museum, and there are a number of other museums and monuments to discover within the park.

There are excellent criss-crossing paths for strolling around and exploring this lovely place.  The park contains some fantastic old trees, ponds, sculptures and an evolving Japanese garden with water features.  There are also several cafes to choose from, or plenty of seats for a picnic.

We found it an easy walk from the Old Town (less than half an hour to the entrance to the park).  If you prefer to use public transport there is a tram station near the entrance, and several bus stops around the park area.  For timetables and information about tickets see the useful Public Transport page at Visit Tallinn.

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For more information about the park see the website.

Walk to Pirita and Viimsi

If you want to do a longer walk you can follow easy paths east and then north to Pirita.  If you wish you can then continue towards Viimsi.  To see the route on a map just search ‘Walk Tallinn to Viimsi’ on Google).

The great thing about this walk is that a regular bus route runs parallel to your paths.  So you can go as far as you feel comfortable with, and then go slightly inland to the major road to find the nearest bus stop.  The buses are very regular (see Public Transport – Route 1A).

A great place to start is at the impressive Russalka Monument, built as a memorial to those who lost their lives due to the sinking of a Russian warship.  The Monument is just north of Kadriorg Park, and can easily be reached on foot (search on Google maps to see its location).

Russalka Memorial, Tallinn, Estonia

Russalka Monument

The path is at first an excellent promenade beside the sea wall.  You can watch the big ferries coming and going, and there are some interesting sculptures to see.

Sculpture on the seafront promenade at Tallinn, Estonia

Sculputre on the promenade and view of the ferry port

Ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki

Ferry heading for Helsinki on a slightly stormy day

On reaching Pirita there is a marina and convenient places to stop for lunch.  You can also head inland here to see the ruins of the Pirita convent.

Ruins of the Pirita Convent, Tallinn, Estonia

Ruins of the Pirita Convent

If you decide to walk further towards Viimsi you can choose from paths beside the sea or through some lovely shady pine forest.

Dense pine forest in Tallinn, Estonia

Dense pine forest at Pirita

Pirita beach, Tallinn, Estonia

Pirita beach

Just walk as far as you wish, and then find a convenient bus stop to take you back to the city (for timetables see Public Transport – Route 1A).  We really enjoyed the contrasts between the busy city centre, the seaside promenade and the shady pine forests.

Tallinn Botanic Garden

Another great way to spend a few hours is to explore the lovey Botanic Garden.  This is situated a few miles north east of the city, and can easily be reached by bus (Route 34A – get off at Kloostrimetsa Tee – for timetables see Public Transport).

The gardens are extensive and a great place to stroll.  A large part of the site consists of an arboretum, and there is a network of paths through the lovely collection of trees.

Botanic Garden, Tallinn, Estonia

View over the Botanic Garden in Tallinn

Fungi growing on a tree trunk in the Botanic Garden, Tallinn, Estonia

Impressive fungi on a tree trunk in the Arboretum

Trees in the Botanic Garden, Tallinn, Estonia

Trees in the Arboretum

There is a large and interesting glasshouse to visit,  which contains a small cafe.  Then there is a large rose garden with many varieties, some of which have been bred in Estonia,  Other areas include a Garden of the Senses, areas showcasing grassland plants and mountain plants, various ponds and a really interesting display on fungi.

Glasshouse in the Botanic Garden, Tallinn, Estonia

The glasshouse

Rose garden and glasshouse at Tallinn Botanic Garden, Tallinn, Estonia

View over the rose garden to the glasshouse

Rhapsody in Blue roses in the Botanic Garden, Tallinn

Beautiful ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ roses in the rose garden

Botanic Garden, Tallinn, Estonia

Flower beds

Mycology display in the Botanic Garden, Tallinn

Fungus display

For more information about the gardens including opening times and entrance fees see http://botaanikaaed.ee/.  It’s definitely worth a visit.

Adjacent to the Botanic Garden is the Tallinn TV tower, which can easily be combined with a visit to the garden.

Tallinn TV Tower seen from the Botanic Gardens

Tallinn TV Tower seen from the Botanic Gardens

The tower has a viewing platform and a good restaurant with fantastic views over the gardens, forest, Baltic Sea and Tallinn city.  There is also an interactive display about the tower’s history.  For more information see Tallinna Teletorn.

Other Parks and Gardens

These are just a few suggestions based on our own (way too short) visit to this lovely city.  There are many other parks and gardens within easy reach of the Old Town.  Here are some suggestions, together with links for more information.

Practicalities

Flights

There are flights to Tallinn from many airports.  To search for the best option near you try Skyscanner.


There are regular buses and trams from the airport to the city centre.

Ferries

We incorporated our visit to Tallinn into a tour of the Baltic by ferry (see Exploring the Baltic Sea by Ferry.  The ferries are really good value, so if you can get a flight to Stockholm or Helsinki this is a great alternative way to arrive.  And by booking an overnight ferry from Stockholm you can reduce the cost of staying in a Stockholm hotel for a night.   To check timetables and compare prices, try Aferry.



 

Accommodation

For accommodation, there is a very large choice available.  We stayed in the Taanilinna Hotel,  a characterful and quiet old hotel just off a street in the Old Town.  The hotel has individually designed rooms and a good breakfast.  It doesn’t have a restaurant, but it is right in the Old Town and there are loads of restaurants all around.  We would happily stay there again.

To search the vast choice of accommodation options in Tallinn see this page at booking.com.

Excursions

If your time is limited, a great way of seeing the city and its surroundings is by a City Sightseeing bus tour.  The hop-on hop-off service has three routes and over 20 stops in Tallinn, and you can choose between them as you wish.  Three-day tickets are also available.  Follow the link for more information.


For a wide range of guided tours in Tallinn, and excursions further afield, see Viator.



We really enjoyed our stay in Tallinn, and would love to visit again one day to explore more of the city’s lovely green spaces.  And hopefully next time we will see more of Estonia.
City Wall and St Nicholas Church, Tallinn, Estonia

City Wall and St Nicholas Church

The post Outdoor Spaces in Tallinn appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.



A Short Break in South Cumbria – For Lovers of the Gentle Outdoors

A short break to visit gardens and nature reserves in South Cumbria The post A Short Break in South Cumbria – For Lovers of the Gentle Outdoors appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.

Matt and I recently spent a lovely three-night break in the countryside near Cartmel in southern Cumbria.

There was a time when visiting Cumbria was, for us, all about hill walking in the Lakeland fells and conquering every summit.  But now we are older, heavier, and (perhaps) a little wiser, we like to enjoy the great outdoors in a more gentle manner.

Lake in the grounds of Sizergh Castle, Cumbria

Lake in the grounds of Sizergh Castle, Cumbria

We are discovering all the great places we missed when getting up high was the only objective!  If you love nature and wildlife, the best places are often in lower lying and sometimes remote locations.  You don’t have to push yourself to the limit to enjoy being in fantastic surroundings, and to discover great countryside, gardens and wildlife.

Cumbrian countryside, England

Cumbrian countryside

If, like us, you love being outdoors in great countryside and love nature reserves and gardens, here are some ideas in a less frequented area of Cumbria.

Sizergh Castle 

Sizergh Castle, Cumbria, England

Sizergh Castle

We passed close to the National Trust property Sizergh Castle on our journey to Cartmel, so this seemed like an excellent place to visit on our first day.

Because our short break was in November, the house itself was closed (as were many other stately homes and gardens in the area).   But the gardens and parkland were open, as well as the excellent cafe with a great outdoor terrace.

The gardens, which include a national collection of ferns, were absolutely splendid in their autumn colours.  Don’t be put off visiting because the house is closed – it is still a great place for a stroll.  Here are some pictures.

Autumn in the gardens at Sizergh Castle, Cumbria, England

Wonderful autumn leaves in the gardens

Gardens in Sizergh Castle, Cumbria, England

Path through the gardens including some of the fern collection

Golden autumn maple leaves

Beautiful autumn maple leaves

Reflections in the lake at Sizergh Castle, Cumbria, England

Reflections in the lake

In addition to the gardens, there are several laid out trails in the surrounding parkland.  Unfortunately there had been recent rain when we visited, and the trails were boggy.  We didn’t want to arrive at our hotel covered in mud, so we saved the trails for another day.

Sheep in a field

Sheep in the parkland

If you regularly visit National Trust properties, membership makes a lot of sense.  Follow the link above for full details.

For more information about Sizergh Castle’s location, opening times, admission costs for non-members and facilities follow this link to Sizergh.



Walney Island

Lighthouse at South Walney Island, Cumbria, England

Lighthouse on Walney Island

It is a bit of a trek to get to Walney Island, which is right at the southernmost tip of Cumbria, connected to Barrow in Furness by a bridge.  If you like remote places, it is so worth the trip.  When you get to Ulverston choose the scenic coastal route to Barrow in Furness – the views are stunningly beautiful.

We went to visit Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s South Walney Nature Reserve, which is an absolute gem.  To visit the reserve you follow a long, narrow track to the southern point of the island.  This takes you through a wonderful landscape of salt marsh and tidal creeks.  There are lots of gulls, ducks, herons and other wading birds, depending on the tide.  Speaking of the tide it is worth checking a tide table before you set off, because the track can occasionally be inundated in very high tides or bad weather.

The reserve itself has a car park, a small visitor centre, and good toilets.  There are excellent tracks around the reserve, and a lot of very good hides.  You can walk for several miles if you wish, or just have gentle stroll.  Depending on where you are on the reserve there are fantastic views to the offshore wind farm, the Cumbrian hills, Piel Castle and across Morecambe Bay.

The coastal habitats attract many birds, and the reserve is particularly known for its grey seal colony.  The seals are regularly seen around high tide.  We didn’t see any seals hauled out on the shore, but got great views of them playing in the sea as the tide went out.  We absolutely loved the reserve, and hope to return.

South Walney Nature Reserve, Cumbria, England

Wide open views at South Walney Nature Reserve

South Walney Nature Reserve, Cumbria, England

One of the hides and more distant Piel Castle on Piel Island

Piel Castle on Piel Island, Cumbria, England

View of Piel Castle on Piel Island

South Walney Nature Reserve, Cumbria, England

Great track along the coast

South Walney Nature Reserve, Cumbria, England

Great habitat for bird watching



Leighton Moss via the Kent Viaduct

Lake and reed beds at Leighton Moss, Lancashire, England

Lake and reed beds at Leighton Moss, Lancashire, England

We visited the RSPB reserve at Leighton Moss quite recently (see our post on Arnside).  But it is such a great reserve that we couldn’t stay so close and not visit again.

A fantastic way to get to Leighton Moss from the southern Lake District, is to take the train over the Kent Viaduct.  You park at the station in Grange over Sands, and get a train to Silverdale.  From Silverdale Station, it is only 250m to the entrance to the reserve.

Trains run regularly (approximately once an hour – timetables), and tickets only cost just over three pounds.  Make sure you ask for a return ticket because they are hardly any more expensive than singles.  The journey takes around 10 minutes (much less than driving), and is very scenic.

Kent Estuary viaduct at Arnside, Cumbria, England

Kent Estuary viaduct

Leighton Moss is actually just outside the Cumbrian boundary, in Lancashire.  It is a wonderful reserve, with extensive reed beds, wetlands, and loads of wildlife.  There are also great visitor facilities including a cafe, shop, binocular sales, information, play areas for children and regular events.

There is always something to see here.  The garden and woodland birds are incredibly tame, and there are regular sightings of otters, bearded tits and marsh harriers.  We had fantastic repeated views of the marsh harriers, and had a great day roaming around the excellent paths and hides.  After a short shower the afternoon light gave the reeds a lovely golden glow, and we saw the rainbow in the photo below.

Sunlight after rain at Leighton Moss Nature Reserve, Lancashire, England

Sunlight on the reeds and a rainbow after a shower at Leighton Moss

Reeds and lake at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve, Lancashire, England

View over one of the lakes

Robin (Erithacus rubecula) in a tree

One of the reserve’s exceptionally tame robins

For more information about the reserve see Leighton Moss.  For RSPB membership see RSPB.

Other Places to Visit in South Cumbria

Follow the links for more places to visit (note some places have limited opening hours in winter months).

Where to Stay

We stayed in the charming Aynsome Manor hotel, which is situated just outside the lovely (but busy) village of Cartmel.  The hotel has an attractive restaurant room with a great view over the surrounding hills.  Breakfasts were excellent, and there was a daily changing menu with good choice for evening meals.  Our room was very comfortable, and the staff were great.  The hotel appeals more to older guests, but note that they do not have a lift.

Other good places to stay would be Grange over Sands or Ulverston To search a vast range of accommodation options in Cumbria see booking.com.

For a general guide book of places to visit in Cumbria we recommend the AA Guide

For a detailed map of the area we recommend the OS Landranger



 

The post A Short Break in South Cumbria – For Lovers of the Gentle Outdoors appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.



Yorkshire Nature Reserves

A review of some excellent nature reserves to visit in Yorkshire The post Yorkshire Nature Reserves appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.

Matt and I have recently been exploring nature reserves in the region around our Yorkshire home.  I can’t believe we have lived here for over 30 years, and explored so much, but never realised how many excellent reserves there are within easy reach of York.

Birch trees in the woods at Barlow Common nature reserve, Yorkshire, England

Birch trees in the woods at Barlow Common

Here are photos and information about our favourites.  My skills as a wildlife photographer are limited, but I hope the photos will give you an idea of how excellent these reserves are.  All are definitely worth a visit, whether you are a keen birdwatcher, a plant lover, or just enjoy a good walk surrounded by wonderful nature.  Now we have discovered them, we will be returning again and again.

Greylag geese in flight at Staveley Nature Reserve, Yorkshire, England

Gregylag geese flying over Staveley Nature Reserve

If you are interested in membership of the RSPB or the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, just follow the links.  Hopefully I will add more reserves to this page in the near future, so do keep checking back.  And if you know of others worthy of inclusion, please do let us know!

 

RSPB Reserves

Blacktoft Sands

Blacktoft Sands nature reserve, East Yorkshire, England

Tidal wetlands, reed beds and waterfowl at Blacktoft Sands

Blacktoft Sands is just within the Yorkshire county boundary.  It is situated on the south bank of the River Ouse, just before the Ouse joins the Humber, close to Goole and Scunthorpe.

Blacktoft Sands nature reserve and a ship on the River Ouse, East Yorkshire, England

Tidal habitat at Blacktoft Sands, and a ship passing on the higher River Ouse

Blacktoft Sands is one of the largest tidal reed beds in the UK, and is a fantastic reserve.  There are six excellent hides, with great views over the tidal pools and reeds.   Good paths link the hides, and the distances between them are quite small.

Reeds at Blacktoft Sands Nature Reserve, East Yorkshire, England

Reeds at Blacktoft Sands Nature Reserve in late afternoon sun

The bird life varies with the tides and seasons, but there is always something to see here.  And you get great close up views from the hides.

On a recent visit we saw numerous black-tailed godwits, redshanks, wigeon, teal, herons, lapwings and many more.  There is a resident population of tree sparrows, which is easy to observe at a well-placed feeder.  We also got a great view of a marsh harrier, and were able to watch this lovely snipe feeding right in front of one of the hides.

Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) in grass at Blacktoft Sands, East Yorkshire, England

Snipe feeding in the grass in front of one of the hides

Facilities at Blacktoft Sands

  • Car park and small visitor centre
  • Toilets including accessible toilets
  • Good paths and excellent hides (some with wheelchair access)
  • Assistant dogs only

For more information, and charges for non-RSPB members, see Blacktoft Sands.

Konik ponies grazing at Blacktoft Sand nature reserve, East Yorkshire, England

Konik ponies – resident grazers at Blacktoft Sands

Sunset at Blacktoft Sands Nature Reserve, East Yorkshire, with a flock of fieldfares

Sunset at Blacktoft Sands Nature Reserve, with a flock of fieldfares

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Fairburn Ings

Fairburn Ings RSPB reserve, Yorkshire, England

Lakes at Fairburn Ings with Fairburn village in the background

Fairburn Ings is one of our favourite reserves.  The reserve contains a number of lakes and ponds on different levels, in what used to be a coal face.   The lakes are connected by good paths through beautiful woodland.  From higher ground there are great views over the reserve and the surrounding countryside.

Path through the woods at Fairburn Ings, Yorkshire, England

Path through the woods

The paths are suitable for all seasons and abilities.  There are excellent hides and screens to watch the wildlife, and plenty of benches when you want a picnic.   The reserve is large enough to walk for several miles if you wish.

River Aire seen from Fairburn Ings nature reserve, Yorkshire, England

View of the River Aire from one of the paths on the reserve

There is always wildlife to be seen here, particularly wildfowl and waders at the lakes.  On recent visits we saw great white egret, little egret, grey heron, curlew, wigeon, teal, shoveler, great crested grebe, little grebe, merganser, marsh harrier, buzzard, kestrel, and many others.  We also saw dragonflies, butterflies, and on one of our visits impressive numbers of ladybirds!

Other species regularly recorded on the reserve include kingfishers, bitterns, sparrow hawks, red kites and otters – we will definitely keep returning!

Birds on a lake at the RSPB Fairburn Ings reserve, Yorkshire, England

Mute swans, coots and cormorants on one of the lakes

Facilities at Fairburn Ings

  • Two car parks (one at the main entrance and one at the end of the reserve at Lin Dike).   There is a charge at the main entrance car park (free for RSPB members)
  • Visitor centre, shop and binocular hire
  • Refreshments with indoor seating and outdoor picnic areas
  • Toilets including accessible toilets, and many paths accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs
  • Excellent hides
  • Activities for children and special events
  • Dogs allowed

For more information see Fairburn Ings.

Bird hide in Fairburn Ings Nature Reserve, Yorkshire, England, surrounded by autumn foliage

One of the hides at Fairburn Ings, nestled amongst splendid autumn colours

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St Aidan’s Nature Park

Reeds and wetlands at St Aidan's Nature Park, Yorkshire, England

Reeds and wetlands at St Aidan’s Nature Park

St Aidan’s Nature Park, like nearby Fairburn Ings, occupies a disused coal mining site close to the River Aire near Leeds.  As at Fairburn, there are numerous lakes and ponds connected by an extensive network of good paths.

Mute swan and cygnets at St Aidan's Nature Park, Yorkshire, England

Mute swan and cygnets

However, despite the proximity to Fairburn, the two reserves are very different in character.  St Aidan’s is much more open and exposed, with big wide views over the wetlands and reed beds.

Wetlands and reed beds at St Aidan's Nature Park, Yorkshire, England

Wetlands and reed beds

The wetlands are a hive of activity with various water birds, and there is always something to see.  You can walk for several miles here using the paths on the reserve and also the adjacent path beside the River Aire.

Wetlands at St Aidan's Nature Park, Yorkshire, England
Open views across the wetlands at St Aidan’s

However be aware that there are no hides or shelters on the reserve, so it is very exposed.  If you plan to visit on a wet or windy day, go prepared!  The reserve is quite new, and hides are being planned for the future.

There are some benches around the site that are suitable for picnic stops.

Greylag geese flying over St Aidan's Nature Park, Yorkshire, England

Greylag geese flying over the reserve

Facilities at St Aidan’s

  • Car park (charge, but free for RSPB members)
  • Small visitor centre
  • Light refreshments
  • Toilets
  • Excellent paths

For more information see St Aidan’s Nature Park.

Sunset at St Aidan's nature reserve, Yorkshire, England

Sunset at St Aidan’s

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Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Reserves

Barlow Common

Barlow Common nature reserve is situated just south of Selby, off the A1041.  It is literally in the shadow of Drax Power Station, but is a haven of peace and tranquility.

Lake at Barlow Common, with the towers of Drax Power Station in the background, Yorkshire, England

Lake at Barlow Common, with the towers of Drax Power Station in the background

We visited the reserve on a glorious autumn day, as you can see from the photos.  The colours were just stunning, as was a flying display given by an obliging buzzard.

Autumn foliage at Barlow Common Nature Reserve, Yorkshire, England

Beautiful autumn foliage

Golden autumn foliage at Barlow Common, Yorkshire, England

More fantastic autumn colours

The reserve consists of lakes, meadows and beautiful mature woodland.  It has good paths to enable an easy circular walk with plenty of benches and a picnic area.

When we visited there were teasels everywhere.  We will definitely visit again in the spring and summer – this must be a fantastic for bees and butterflies as well as birds.

Teasels in autumn

Teasels

If you visit, be sure not to miss a second circular route through oak and birch woodland.  It is a short and very easy circuit through beautiful trees, and definitely worthwhile – see the map in the reserve to find the entrance.

Birch tree trunks at Barlow Common Nature Reserve, Yorkshire, England

Birch trees in the woods

Facilities at Barlow Common

  • Small visitor centre (closed when we visited)
  • Toilets
  • Picnic area and benches
  • Good paths with carved marker posts

For more information see Barlow Common.

Buzzard (Buteo buteo)

Buzzard soaring overhead at Barlow Common

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North Cave Wetlands

Lake at North Cave Wetlands nature reserve, East Yorkshire, England

View over a lake to one of the hides at North Cave Wetlands

North Cave Wetlands is a fantastic reserve, which will become even better in the near future.  The reserve has been created from a former quarry.  A further 100 hectares, which is currently still in use as a quarry, is going to be added to the reserve within the next few years.  It will then be a huge area of deep and shallow lakes, meadow and paths.

Map of North Cave Wetlands reserve, showing planned future developments, East Yorkshire, England

Map of the reserve, showing planned developments

When we visited in late summer we saw lots of dragonflies and butterflies, as well as many birds on the lakes.

Common darter dragonfly (Sympetrum striolatum)

Common darter dragonfly

Amongst the birds were many little egrets on the islands, as can be seen in the photo below.

Little egrets at North Cave Wetlands, East Yorkshire, England

Little egrets on one of the islands

Facilities at North Cave Wetlands

  • Car park and mobile refreshments
  • Toilets
  • Information boards
  • Good paths
  • Excellent hides
  • Dogs not allowed on the reserve

For more information see North Cave Wetlands.

Pathway between hedges at North Cave Wetlands, East Yorkshire, England

Pathway in North Cave Wetlands reserve

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Spurn Point

Approaching the lighthouse on Spurn Point, East Yorkshire, England

Approaching the lighthouse on Spurn Point

Spurn Point is a unique reserve, consisting of a vulnerable spit of land jutting out from the Holderness coast to the mouth of the Humber Estuary.  There used to be a road to the end of the point, but part of this was washed away in a tidal surge in December 2013.  Access is now on foot or cycle, and is not safe during very high tides, when part of the route may become inundated.

Dunes and shore at Spurn Point, East Yorkshire, England

View from the dunes at low tide

It is a bit of a trek to get there, so if you plan to visit make sure you check the ‘Do not cross’ times on the Spurn Point website before you set off.

From the car park you can walk as far as you wish along the point, and there are various side trails to explore.  It is around 4 miles to the lighthouse (which you can visit at certain times), and a little further to the tip of the point.  No matter how far you walk, it is always exhilerating being here, with wide open views on both  sides.

Offshore wind farm seen from Spurn Point, East Yorkshire, England

Offshore wind farm seen from the path

There are good chances of seeing wildlife on the shore and in the dunes.  Spurn is well known for its migrating birds, and is also a great place to see various insects and mammals.  On a recent visit we saw a roe deer in the dunes, a seal just offshore, and this interesting convolvulus hawk moth caterpillar which was crossing the main path.

Convolvulus hawk moth caterpillar

Convolvulus hawk moth caterpillar

Facilities at Spurn Point

  • Pay and display car park (free for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Members)
  • Excellent visitor centre with educational displays
  • Regular organised activities including Spurn Safaris in an all terrain vehicle
  • Toilets, including accessible toilets
  • Good cafe
  • Mainly good paths, but there is soft sand to cross at the wash-over zone, and note information about ‘Do not cross’ times on the YWT website below.
  • Hides, nature trails and history trails
  • Dogs not allowed on the reserve

For more information see Spurn Point.

Sandy shore at Spurn Point nature reserve, East Yorkshire, England

Sandy shore at Spurn Point

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Staveley Nature Reserve

Herons at Staveley Nature Reserve, North Yorkshire, England

Herons at Staveley Nature Reserve

Staveley, situated close to Boroughbridge, is another lovely reserve to visit.  It is quite a large site, with wetlands, grassland and good paths and hides.

Bird hide at Staveley Nature Reserve, North Yorkshire, England

One of the hides at Staveley Nature Reserve

Otters, barn owls and red kites are often seen here.  There are several orchid species flowering in summer, and lots of butterflies and dragonflies.  Even if you are not lucky enough to see the star species, there is always something to see on the various ponds and lakes.

Birds on a lake in Staveley Nature Reserve, North Yorkshire, England

Birds enjoying one of the peaceful lakes

On a recent visit we enjoyed great views of herons, and large flocks of lapwings catching the light as they flocked above the lakes.

Lapwings at Staveley Nature Reserve, North Yorkshire, England

Lapwings flocking above the lake

Facilities at Staveley

  • Car park just outside Staveley village (see YWT website below)
  • Extensive network of paths
  • Good hides
  • Dogs allowed on leads

For more information see Staveley Nature Reserve

Staveley Nature Reserve

Staveley Nature Reserve

*************************************************************************************

I will be adding more reserves to this list in the future, so please do keep checking back!

For reserves and country parks on both sides of the Humber Bridge, please see our post Humber Bridge.

To join the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust or the RSPB, follow the links.

If you would like to stay in Yorkshire, you can search for accommodation using this link to booking.com.

For more ideas for places to visit in Yorkshire we recommend the Rough Guide to Yorkshire.

And just a quick final request – we are always saddened at how much litter we see, even on nature reserves.  Please, please – take your litter home!



Please remember that this site is based purely on our own experiences – therefore kindly note the Disclaimer.

Reeds

Reeds at Staveley Nature Reserve

The post Yorkshire Nature Reserves appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.



Need a Gift for Someone Who Loves the Outdoors? Here Are Some Great Ideas.

Here is a great range of gift ideas for people who like being outdoors The post Need a Gift for Someone Who Loves the Outdoors? Here Are Some Great Ideas. appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.

If you know someone who loves walking, nature or just being in the great outdoors, here are some great gift ideas.  There are prices to suit all pockets!

For people who love to travel please also see our recent post on Travel-Related Gifts.

(Please note that the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links we will receive a very small commission.  This is how we fund Self Arranged Journeys, and if you do decide to purchase one of these great gifts your support will be very much appreciated.)

Solar Device Charger

We rely so much on our phones and tablets these days, that it can be a real hassle if they run out of charge.  For someone who spends a lot of time outdoors a solar charger is a great idea.

It can even hang on a backpack and be charging a phone as you walk!

The examples shown here are all available from Amazon.  For further details click on the images, or for more options see Solar power banks.

Cloud Identification Wheel

This handy carry-around device is an aid to identifying over 20 different types of clouds!

Cloud Selector, Cloud Identification Wheel

It is durable and weatherproof, and is available from Stanfords for £8.99 – click on the image for further details (worldwide delivery available).

Fleece-Lined Beanie

Just the job when the weather turns chilly!

These are fun, practical, and look as good in town as they do on a hill.

These examples are all available from Amazon. Just click on the images for further details, or see Fleece lined beanie hats for more options.

Waterproof Phone Case

Perfect for protecting a valuable phone in a deluge, if dropped in a puddle – or even when going for a swim!

The example shown is certified waterproof to a depth of 6 meters, and will also protect against dust and sand.  It comes with a detachable lanyard, and has a clear window front and back so you can access the camera and touchscreen without removing the phone.  It will take any phone up to 6.7 inch size, and also MP3 players.

It is available from Amazon – click on the image for further information, or see Waterproof Phone Cases for many more examples.

Torch

Not just for night-time use – a decent torch can come in handy for exploring caves or, as I know from experience in Madeira, walking through long tunnels.

The one shown above (available from Amazon) has adjustable focus, is waterproof and shockproof, and is easy to carry and pack.  Just click on the image for further details.

The example above can be solar charged as you walk, or charged via a USB cable.  Click on the image for further details, or see Torches for loads more examples, with prices to suit all pockets.


TourRadar

Compass

A decent compass is always useful for anyone who hikes, cycles, or just has a habit of getting lost!

The compasses shown here (available from Amazon) are strong, accurate and suitable for use in all seasons.  The one below is shake-proof, so suitable for use in vehicles or boats.

Click on the images for further details, or for many more examples see Compasses.

Waterproof Notebook

You just never know when you will need to jot something down in the rain!

The examples here are from Amazon, and make ideal, inexpensive stocking-fillers.


Click on the images for further details, or see Waterproof notebooks for more examples.



GPS Device

The ultimate way to make sure you don’t get lost is to carry a personal GPS tracking device.  These show you exactly where you are on a preloaded map, so you can be absolutely confident of which side valley you have just hiked into, or which hamlet you have just cycled through.

Garmin devices have easy to read screens and are tough and waterproof for outdoor use. They come preloaded with TopoActive Maps which are suitable for hiking and cycling. Extra maps can be purchased and added via microSD cards or downloaded (subscription required).

The model shown above is available from Amazon – just click on the image for further information.  For more options see GPS devices.

For walking and cycling in the UK, Ordnance Survey also have a wide range of GPS devices.  To explore their extensive range, click on the banner below.



 Multi Tool Knife

These have so many uses – from peeling an apple to opening a can to trimming a toe nail….

The examples shown here are available from Amazon.  Click on the images for further details, or see Multi Tool Knives for many more examples.

 

Photographer of the Year Books

Wonderful inspiration for anyone who likes photographing the great outdoors.

These book features the best entries from recent competitions, and are available from Amazon – just click on the images for further details.

Trek Umbrella

Ideal for anyone who spends time outdoors, this practical automatic umbrella with a comfortable ergonomic handle is lightweight and designed to prevent wind damage.

Trek Umbrella - Medium

It is available from Stanfords, and worldwide delivery is available.

Binoculars

Of course binoculars are great for bird watching.  But they are also great for watching boats go past as you are having a waterside coffee, reading a distant signpost when you are lost on your hike, checking whether an object on a hillside is a deer or just a bush, etc., etc……..  I never like to be without mine.

Wex Photographic have a comprehensive range to suit all pockets (available for UK delivery only).  Click on the ad above to visit their site.

For more options see Binoculars at Amazon.

Vacuum Flask

Another item that is useful for anyone who spends time outdoors, for any reason!

If the weather turns cold and you are miles from anywhere, you just can’t beat a steaming hot coffee.  And they are just as useful for keeping cold drinks cold.

The above examples are from Amazon. Just click on the images for further information, or for many more examples see Vacuum Flasks.

Picnic Blanket with Waterproof Backing

Of course enjoying the great outdoors doesn’t have to involve trekking off into the wilderness.  If your gift recipient enjoys picnics, a blanket with a waterproof backing would be an ideal accessory.

Click on the images for further information, or see Picnic Blankets for more examples.

Personalised Ordnance Survey Map (UK)

For UK recipients, here’s an idea for something completely individual.  You choose the centre point of your map and the scale.  You then add your own map title and your own photo for the cover, and OS produce your map for you.



Prices start at under £20.00, including free UK delivery.  Just click on the ad above to be taken to the OS site.

Membership

If you want a gift for someone who likes getting out and about in the UK, membership of the National Trust or the Royal Horticultural Society would be a great choice.  Especially if the recipient of your gift happens to live near one or more properties owned by the societies.

Both societies have fantastic properties to visit with great walks in beautiful gardens and grounds.  The National Trust also do a huge amount of conservation work in some of the UK’s best countryside, so buying membership will help to support this work.

Click on the links above to learn more about membership.



For more gift ideas both societies have excellent online shops with a wide choice of unusual gift ideas – see National Trust shop and RHS shop.  By using these shops you will also be helping to preserve some great outdoor spaces.

The Usborne Outdoor Book

Finally here is a great little book that is full of ideas for enjoying the great outdoors.  It costs £6.28 from Amazon – click on the image for further details.

Please keep checking back, as more gifts will be added.

If you still need inspiration check out my post on Travel-Related Gifts for more ideas.



The post Need a Gift for Someone Who Loves the Outdoors? Here Are Some Great Ideas. appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.



Looking for a travel-related gift? Here are some great ideas.

Here are some great gift ideas for people who love to travel The post Looking for a travel-related gift? Here are some great ideas. appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.

If you are looking for a gift for someone who loves to travel, and would like some inspiration, check out the suggestions below.  There are ideas suitable for all pockets!

For more gift ideas please see our other post on Gifts for the Outdoors.

(Please note that the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you.  This is how I fund Self Arranged Journeys, and if you do decide to purchase one of these great gifts your support will be very much appreciated.)

Scratch Map

Here’s a great idea.  These elegant maps have a layer which you scratch off to reveal the countries you have visited.  Great for an instant visual reminder of where you have been – and where you still have to go.

World Scratch Map® - Deluxe Edition

A range of Scratch Maps are available including world maps, European maps, US maps, a few cities and even a globe.  See Stanfords for their full range –  worldwide delivery is available.

For more examples see Amazon, where there are maps including country flags, highest peaks, ocean depths and more.

Globe

I have a beautiful globe which was bought for me as a gift, and I love it.  You can see where everything is in the world in relation to everything else, in a way that you just can’t with a flat map.

Stanfords have a huge range of quality globes to choose from in many sizes (some larger sizes are available for UK delivery only).  The range includes desktop globes, floor-standing globes, illuminated globes, inflatable globes, foam globes suitable for children, novelty globes…….

Prices range from £3.99 to over £250.00.

For further choices, a wide range is available from Amazon – see Amazon Globes.

Travel Journal

You can’t really go wrong with one of these – a gift that looks good and is also functional.

The journals shown here are all available from Amazon – just click on the image to visit the appropriate page.  There are many more to choose from – see Travel Journals.

Point It Traveller’s Language Kit

If, like me, you are not great at picking up languages, this is a really useful aid.

The little book has over 1300 pictures of things you are likely to want to ask for.  You just point at the one you want, and thus make sure you are understood.  It is also great for asking how to say things, so you will know next time!

Available from Amazon for £5.99 (UK price).

Travel Survival Kit

Here’s a novelty gift by Smile Gifts UK – hopefully it will make someone smile!

 

Packing Cubes

These are great for multi-base journeys – you can partition your luggage items ready for each base, and keep clothes that need washing separate.

The sets shown here are from Amazon.  There are various size combinations and colours available, and prices vary depending on the size.  For more options, see Packing Cubes.


TourRadar

Ultimate Travel Pillow

Ideal for long trips, this easily inflatable, ergonomic travel pillow provides excellent neck support.

After use the pillow deflates easily and rolls up small for easy packing.   Click on the image for further details, or see Amazon for many more examples.

Compass

Stanfords have a range of unusual, stylish, antique-style compasses – ideal for the discerning traveller.

Click on the image for further details, or see Stanfords Compasses for more examples.

Personalized Travel Photo Gift

If you have access to suitable digital photos, why not have a personalized gift made by Huggler, using your own travel photos.

25% OFF off photo books, prints and more...
You can select from notebooks, photobooks, diaries, calendars, prints and cards.  You select your gift, and the photos you want to include (the number required depends on the type of gift).  Then just upload the photos to Huggler’s site and design your gift online.   Calendars and diaries can start on any month, and there is a wide range of designs to choose from.

Huggler quickly produce your gift for you and send it by post.

Prices range from around £5.00 plus postage (items can be delivered worldwide).

I recently ordered a calendar from Huggler as a gift for Matt using photos from our holidays.  I really enjoyed designing the calendar, and when it arrived the quality was far better than I expected.  It had an opaque front cover which added rigidity, and was much better than many of the calendars you see in the shops – I was really pleased.

I can wholeheartedly recommend it!

Books

Of course, inspirational travel books are always popular.  Here are some great suggestions – just click on the images for more details.




Calendars

Not the most original of gifts perhaps, but always welcome.  Especially when you find examples like the ones below.  Click on the images for further details, of for many more see Amazon Calendars.

Perfume Atomizers

If, like me, you don’t want to leave home without your favourite perfumes, but don’t want to carry heavy or delicate bottles, travel perfume atomizers are ideal.

This example includes 3 6ml spray bottles, together with a funnel and pipette for easy refilling.

For many more choices, suitable for both men and women, see Perfume Atomizers.

Portable Device Charger

We rely so much on our phones and tablets these days, for boarding passes, maps, booking apps, entertainment……

It can be a major hassle if they run out of charge.  A portable charger can be kept in a handbag or rucksack as a backup in case you need to use an app urgently, take loads of photos or just spend a lot of time online.

These chargers are all available from Amazon. Click on the images for further details, or go to Portable Power Banks for many more examples.

Travel Cable Tidy

With all the chargers, cables, SD cards and memory sticks we take with us these days, it is easy to get them mixed up in your luggage so you can never find the one you want.  A neat answer is a cable organizer bag.  This one is from Amazon – just click on the image for further information.

Larger organizer bags are also available which are suitable for thicker cables, plugs and adaptors.  Again just click on the image for further details, and for many more examples see Cable Organizer Bags.

Luggage Scales

Perfect for checking that luggage doesn’t exceed the weight allowance.

These examples are from Amazon – just click on the images for more information. There are many more to choose from – see Luggage Scales.  Prices range from very low to impressively high!

Kindle Fire

The Kindle Fire range is just such good value.   With its built-in wi-fi it acts as a HD-screen e-reader and a tablet combined.  So if you finish your novel before you finish your holiday you can easily download any book from the vast Kindle catalogue.

You can also download movies, music and games, and it can be used hands-free with Alexa.  And of course wherever you have a wi-fi connection you have full Internet access, so you can check timetables, check out local restaurants, or do anything that needs a larger screen than your phone.

Kindle Fire tablets comes with a choice of 7″, 8″ or 10″ screen, and storage capacity ranging from 8 GB to 64 GB.  I personally like the 8″, for the best balance between portability and screen size. There is a range of colours to choose from.

I would also highly recommend the custom-made case.  It fits so well, it’s tough and protective, it acts as a stand, and the combined tablet and case are really thin and light-weight – perfect for travel.

I wouldn’t leave home without mine!

If you are still in need of inspiration, please see our selection of Gifts for Lovers of the Outdoors!



The post Looking for a travel-related gift? Here are some great ideas. appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.



The Yorkshire Arboretum – A Wonderful Place for a Peaceful Stroll

If you enjoy walking amongst beautiful and interesting trees you will love the Yorkshire Arboretum.  Consisting of around 120 acres of beautiful parkland, the arboretum apparently contains more than 6000 trees. The collection consists of trees from temperate countries around… The post The Yorkshire Arboretum – A Wonderful Place for a Peaceful Stroll appeared first on Self Arranged...

Yorkshire Arboretum, North Yorkshire, England

Yorkshire Arboretum looking down towards the lake

If you enjoy walking amongst beautiful and interesting trees you will love the Yorkshire Arboretum.  Consisting of around 120 acres of beautiful parkland, the arboretum apparently contains more than 6000 trees.

Yorkshire Arboretum in early autumn, North Yorkshire, England

Early autumn colours

The collection consists of trees from temperate countries around the world, and is around 40 years old.  There are many unusual specimens, and all are labelled with a tag attached to a branch – great if, like, me you like to know what you are looking at.

There are gentle paths around the site, and plenty of benches to sit and enjoy the glorious surroundings.

Yorkshire Arboretum in autumn, England

Path through the Arboretum on a beautiful autumn day

The Arboretum is a lovely place to visit at any time of the year (it is open from the beginning of February to the end of November).  In spring and summer there are vivid greens and wild flowers.

Horse chestnut tree in the Yorkshire Arboretum, England

Old horse chestnut tree and distant bluebells in spring

Path through trees in the Yorkshire Arboretum, England

Path through the trees in late spring

Wooden bench in the Yorkshire Arboretum, North Yorkshire, England

Wooden bench surrounded by summer foliage



Autumn is, of course, the most colourful season.  If you are lucky enough to visit on a sunny autumn day with a clear blue sky, the Arboretum is a truly beautiful place to be.

Acer rubrum 'October Glory' maple trees in the Yorkshire Arboretum, England

Acer rubrum ‘October Glory’ maple trees at their most colourful

Golden autumn foliage at the Yorkshire Arboretum, England

Golden foliage in autumn light

Red maple leaves in autumn in the Yorkshire Arboretum, England

Vivid red maple leaves

Autumn colours at the Yorkshire Arboretum, England

Stunning autumn foliage

As well as the trees, the Arboretum is also a great place for spotting wildlife.  There are birds singing in the trees, butterflies on the flowers, and water birds and dragonflies near the lake.

Lake in the Yorkshire Arboretum, England

Autumn colours around the lake

Last time we visited we spotted this impressive pale tussock moth caterpillar on a fallen oak leaf.

Pale tussock moth caterpillar

Pale tussock moth caterpillar

A few hours spent here is a great way to unwind and enjoy being surrounded by beautiful nature.
Shadowy trees in the Yorkshire Arboretum, England

Shadowy trees in autumn light

Practicalities

The Yorkshire Arboretum is situated just opposite the entrance to Castle Howard, easily reached from the A64 York to Scarborough road.

There is ample parking, an excellent cafe, gift and plant sales, and regular events.  For full details of opening times, events and prices see the Yorkshire Arboretum website.

The Arboretum is a partner garden of the Royal Horticultural Society, and RHS members are entitled to free access on all days until the end of August.  Follow the link for information about RHS membership.

If you would like to stay in North Yorkshire, you can search available accommodation on this page at booking.com.

For more great places to visit in Yorkshire we recommend the Rough Guide to Yorkshire.



 

 

The post The Yorkshire Arboretum – A Wonderful Place for a Peaceful Stroll appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.



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