There are dozens of nature reserves in my county, Devon, and I'm sure there isn't a county in the country that hasn't got at least a handful. We've taken to going to these reserves, inititally because of a lack of money but now because it is truly our favourite thing to do. Meshaw Moor, a small reserve, was the one we've been to most, in the few times we've been we haven't seen a single other person there but we have seen a huge variety of wildlife; marbled white butterflies, skippers, spiders, a barn owl and baby toads to name but a few.
The plant life is also spectacular, I've started going through the website of the Devon Wildlife Trust and looking for the plants with the best names - corky fruited water dropwort anyone?
The DWT's 'Little Bradley Ponds' have been our latest discovery and again we've not seen anyone else there; this was partly a shame as it is such a marvellous place and partly wonderful as we had the whole place just to the three of us. They have recorded over 20 types of dragon and damsel flies at these ponds as well as the acely named giant water scorpion, which we have yet to catch a glimpse of (pond-dipping nets at the ready).
Yesterday's trip to the ponds was extra spectacular as we saw one of the most elusive (although common) of this country's beasts: nudging over some rotten wood we saw some little dark shapes run off into the plants; a closer looked showed them to be juvenile common lizards. This, combined with several butterflies I've never seen before (brimstone, and a blue butterfly I haven't looked up yet; lazy, I know). These trips have also helped me like spiders a little more, as instead of thinking their only aim in life is to land on my bed with a size-inappropriate THUD in the middle of the night, I now like watching them zoom out of their funnel shaped webs and grab some poor minibeast or other.
So, drag yourself, your partner, your mum, children, friends and possibly the dog along to your nearest reserve and I promise that the next time you go there will be no dragging involved.