As I stood in the late summer sunshine on a small wooden bridge over a "dipping" pond, watching the dragon flies (or were they damsel flies?) with my father-in-law, I had one of those identifiable moments of happiness last week. He has been fighting prostate cancer for the past few years and, although his treatment has left him weaker than before, he is back to his old self. We watched the insects, looked for frogs and tried to name the butterflies. The weather was warm and birdsong rattled around us.
Minsmere is a bird watching paradise, and the enthusiasts were out in force when we visited. But you don't have to be an ornithologist to enjoy spending time in this coastal reserve. The wetlands are home to deer, otters, rabbits and all manner of animals and insects.
By the end of the day I had learned that an easy way to tell the difference between damsel - and dragonflies is that damselflies keep their wings together when they land (which doesn't really help you when they are flying.)
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The car park, hides and countryside walks are open from dawn to dusk every day, except 25 and 26 December. The visitor centre and shop are open daily, 9 am to 5 pm. The café closes at 4.30 pm. From November to January, the visitor centre opens daily, 9 am to 4 pm.
The area around the reserve, including some long walks, and to the visitor centre is free. To visit the countryside walks, Wild Zone and hides is free for RSPB members and RSPB Wildlife Explorers. Non-member adults £7.50, children (under 19) £3, concessions £5. Family ticket (two adults and up to four children) £15.
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