Buckinghamshire, HP23 5QG
College Lake used to be a chalk mine but it has been transformed into an amazing nature reserve, predominantly for wetland birds, but there is also a large wildlife area and agricultural exhibits. There is a two mile circular walk or you can walk down to one of the bird hides (this took us about 2.5 hours to go around but we had to take the longer, accessible route). A lot of the birds that visit here are migratory so you will see something different every time. In the first hide you come to there is an area where you can see which birds have been spotted for the first time this year. Because of the nature of the reserve there are places (particularly if you come out of the visitor centre and turn right) where there is very limited visibility for the birds for smaller people right up until they get to the hide itself. In many ways this is a good thing because you cannot really keep small people quiet and if they were right next to the birds there would never be any to see! The hides mean that the children can be children whilst still getting to see the wildlife.
In addition to the lake, there is a woodland area you can walk through. There is also a hut which acts as another bird hide, but this time for garden birds. Inside the main building there are a couple of bird-cams, which you can control to get a better look. They have hands-on exhibits for smaller children, a farming exhibit and a bee centre. There is also a wildlife garden which includes an old caravan. There is such a variety of things to do here you can come numerous times and not get bored. The visitor centre is worth a quick look around. There’s not a huge amount to do look at but there are some interesting things.
I’ve always found the staff to be so friendly and informative. They have a real passion for this place and it shows. In terms of access, it can be a bit tricky with a pushchair in places. Depending on which path you take it can be muddy, bumpy or uneven (there’s your usual woodland path issues as well). That said it’s not impossible to take a pushchair or wheelchair, they do have surfaced paths, you just may have to choose which path you take. We did the wild walk which is supposed to be the accessible trail – It has some uphill sections and it is very uneven in places. Whilst you can get a pushchair round, I’m not convinced it would be easy for a wheelchair. If you take one of the lower paths and it’s been wet it can get very muddy, particularly if you have a child who seems to be drawn to mud like my middle one!!
If you’re coming for the walks or for some bird-spotting this is a tranquil place to visit and a real favourite with my kids. College Lake is just one of numerous places run but the Wildlife Trust in the local area that are free to visit. I’m going to get more listed on here but have a search on their website as well.
Entry – Free
Parking – On-site. Free but donations of £3 are encouraged
Toilets – In the visitor centre and at the Outlook Inn.
Food – There is a small cafe on site but picnics are also welcome. There are lots of picnic benches near the Outlook Inn as well.
Rating – 4 / 5. We’ve been here many times and always enjoyed it.
For opening times and more details check their website https://www.bbowt.org.uk/nature-reserves/college-lake