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Page last updated at 16:21 GMT, Wednesday, 27 May 2009 17:21 UK
Summer holidays on the wild side
Martin Hughes-Games from Springwatch goes wildlife camping in Norfolk

Martin Hughes-Games from Springwatch goes wildlife camping in Norfolk

Millions of Brits are thinking about spending their summer in the UK due to the rising cost of foreign holidays.

The Springwatch team have been discovering how you can have a wildlife holiday on a budget.

From a seaside break, to heading for the hills and woodlands, to staying at home - you can get closer to nature.

"No matter what you decide to do, it's possible to have a credit-crunching wildlife encounter," said Springwatch presenter Martin Hughes-Games.

Campsites are a real wildlife hotspot. There are more than 3000 camping and caravan sites across the UK and many of them are in our most beautiful countryside.

It doesn't cost the earth and it's a great adventure for the whole family.

"When you go camping, you're only the thickness of your tent away from the natural world," said Martin.

"Always make sure to take some binoculars - but you don't need to spend a fortune on a pair - and take a field guide if you're going exploring for the first time.

"Make it a basic one as some of the bird guides can be too complicated. To let you into a little secret - the one I always take is Bill Oddie's."

Norfolk has a tremendous array of campsites to choose from all over the sizable county.

From formal campsites in Hunstanton and Deepdale with all the amenities - hot running water and flushing toilets, to a simple plot of grass and water supply in Thetford.

If you are desperate to get up close and personal to the birdlife near you, Norfolk has a huge number of bird and nature reserves for you to explore.

Along the coast

The UK coastline stretches for thousands of miles, offering a diverse range of habitats.

On a seaside break, the first instinct might be to flock to the beaches or, like moths to a flame, to the bright lights of the arcades - but by exploring a little further along the coast you can uncover a world of wildlife in the cliffs, tide pools and sea.

Rock pooling
Rock pooling is a great way for the family to discover underwater worlds

"There are spectacular wildlife hotspots all round our coast and it's not just birds - you can see seals, dolphins, even whales if you're lucky," said Martin.

Rock pools, or tide pools as they are sometimes known, are home to a wealth of sea life and they provide a unique opportunity to study it at close quarters.

"I hadn't been rock pooling for years and I'd completely forgotten how much there is to see. It's fabulous, it's free and it's fun for all the family," said Martin.

"You'll see crabs, starfish, limpets, killer dog-whelks and if you catch a really low tide you might see British cowries or pipe fish - but don't forget to think safety first and keep an eye on the tide, it can come in far faster than you think," he added.

Remember, the best sort of rock pooling means leaving no trace of your visit. Always return creatures back to the sea and leave the wonders of the rock pool for all to enjoy.

Some of the best areas of the Norfolk coastline to enjoy marine wildlife include Hunstanton and West Runcton in north Norfolk.

These beaches provide a rich hunting ground for rock pool enthusiasts and is a great place to take the kids.

In the woods

The woods are the UK equivalent of the rainforests - they are the most diverse habitat that we have and there's always something new going on, whatever the season.

Deer in woodland
Woodlands are the UK's equivalent to the rain forests

Wherever you live you're never far away from a woodland adventure.

"The woods are home to some of our most spectacular wildlife and big animals like deer, wild boar, foxes and badgers," said Martin.

"Surprisingly, it's often a wood that has lots of visitors which is the best place to see wildlife, as they get used to people.

"You should also go very early in the morning, and I mean really early - like first light, as this is when the animals are at their busiest.

"Getting up that early is a real adventure and just think how delicious your breakfast will taste when you get home," he added.

In Norfolk, popular locations for exploring woodland habitats include Thetford Forest and Gaywood near King's Lynn.

Holidaying at home

If you're deciding to holiday at home this year, one of the most exciting wildlife habitats can be found in your own garden or from a visit to the local park.

Springwatch presenter Martin Huges-Games
Wildlife adventures can be found in your garden or local park

"I love spending time in my garden, but if I'm not at home, there's always a green space somewhere nearby that'll act like a magnet for wildlife," said Martin.

"I'm passionate about insects as they have some of the best stories. Forget looking up at the birds, look down and under things and you'll find a bizarre and fascinating world.

"Again, get yourself a basic guide book and a magnifying glass. There are 20,000 different species of insect in Britain so you'll never be short of new discoveries."

Norfolk, with its vast areas of untouched land, has a number of country parks and gardens to enjoy and many of them are free.

You can wander around the grand stately homes like Felbrigg Hall, Holkham Hall and Sandringham, or stroll by the broad at Whitlingham near Norwich. If you were after something even easier, why not sprawl out in a park, or take a walk by the river.

From villages to cities, the countryside to the coast - wildlife is everywhere you look.

To help you make the most of it, a number of free pocket guides are available from BBC Breathing Places.

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01 Apr 09 |  Nature & Outdoors



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