College Lake nature reserve, just outside Tring, Hertfordshire, used to be a chalk mine but it has been transformed. It’s now an amazing nature reserve run by BBOWT. Home to predominantly for wetland birds, there is also a large wildlife area and agricultural exhibits. It’s incredibly family friendly, with lots to keep the kids interested and accessible walks. College Lake is a great way to encourage kids’ interest in nature.
There is a two mile circular wild walk (this took us about 2.5 hours to go around with toddlers but we had to take the longer, accessible route) or you can walk down to one of the bird hides. You can find a map of all the walks here (there’s even a secret trail to find!). A lot of the birds that visit here are migratory so you will see something different every time. In the first hide next to the visitors centre 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.
There is a QR family trail around the College Lake nature reserve that’s free to do. We first spotted it at the woodland theatre and it guides you from one location to the next with lots of interactive features for kids.
The woodland area
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.
Make sure you have a look inside the outlook inn if it’s open. This place is amazing! There’s so much to discover and the kids found it absolutely fascinating.
Our College Lake Nature Reserve review
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. We have visited here many times and have really enjoyed it whenever we’ve been.
Entry – Free. For current opening times visit their website.
Parking / How to get there
Parking – On-site. Free but donations of £4 are encouraged
Address – Upper Icknield Way, Bulbourne, Tring, Herts, HP23 5QG
In the visitor centre and at the Outlook Inn.
There is a small cafe on site but picnics are also welcome. There are lots of picnic benches near the Outlook Inn as well.
What else is nearby?
OMG there are soooo many free family days out and activities in and around Tring. There’s Tring reservoirs and the Grand Union Canal, Wilstone Reservoir, Tring Park AND Tring Natural History Museum. That should keep you occupied for days on end.