In 2011 a 250 acre site on the outskirts of Preston was transformed from a sand and gravel quarry into a beautiful combination of wetland, grassland and woodland.

The Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Brockholes Nature Reserve features the UK’s first floating visitor village and is home to a huge variety of wildlife throughout the year. As the days have drawn in and freezing conditions have arrived, it has become the perfect winter wonderland.

Great British Life: Brockholes in winter. PHOTO: Ian McGillBrockholes in winter. PHOTO: Ian McGill

The sand martin habitat looks quite scarce while its usual occupants are basking in the African sun, but there is still plenty to be seen from the Lookout bird hide – lapwing, goldcrest and robins are commonly spotted at this time of year.

Lucky birders may spot fascinating starling murmurations soaring above Number One Pit Lake as populations have increased with overseas arrivals. Watching hundreds or even thousands of birds swooping and swirling in unison is a hypnotic experience and one of nature’s gifts to the keen observer.

Starlings are thought to join in on this unique stunt for a few reasons – warmth, exchange of information and safety from birds of prey. Dusk is the best time to witness this as they gather over the roosting site and “perform” before settling down for the evening.

Great British Life: Bittern are at home at Brockholes. PHOTO: David TiplingBittern are at home at Brockholes. PHOTO: David Tipling

Some lucky visitors may spot bittern, as Brockholes has become a popular wintering site for this elusive species in recent years. The secretive birds enjoy hiding away in large reedbeds and were spotted around Meadow Lake last year. Patience is key as they are extremely quiet most of the time, except during spring, when the males make their famous booming call to establish their territory and attract a mate.

Although the roe deer are a little harder to spot now as they retreat to the safety of the woodlands, it’s not impossible to catch a glimpse. They are likely to group together at this time of year, as illustrated in the photo of three roe deer taken at Brockholes last December by Leslie Price.

Quite a few visible changes take place for our deer during the winter months, most notably the transformation of their coat from rusty red in summer to a dull grey in winter. Both the male and female have a prominent white rump with no tail, but during the frostier weather the females grow a little tuft of hair that resembles one at the base of the rump patch.

Great British Life: A group of roe deer at Brockholes. PHOTO: Leslie PriceA group of roe deer at Brockholes. PHOTO: Leslie Price

Last year, the eye-catching yellow brain fungus, also known as witches’ butter, was spotted by a lucky visitor on a fallen tree in Boilton Wood. Its shape and vivid colour stand out, brightening even the bleakest of winter days. It is fascinating to look at in close detail, with the translucent and gelatinous form resembling a brain.

And fungi fans will find their luck around hedge bottoms, mossy fallen trees, rotting wood and tree stumps. Boilton Wood is a great place to look for any fungi at Brockholes, including the intriguing earth tongue fungi, which was named after its tongue-like appearance growing up from the ground or moss.

Great British Life: Yellow brain. PHOTO: Chris LawrenceYellow brain. PHOTO: Chris Lawrence

The frosty mornings and fiery early sunsets make for a wonderful opportunity to grab a hot drink from the café, take a long winter stroll throughout the reserve and simply look up and appreciate the natural beauty of the surroundings.

There are also several events on for the whole family to enjoy, such as the winter fayre on the evenings of Decmber 1 and 8, and the Christmas artisan markets, which take place over the first three weekends of December.

Children can also write a letter to Santa as part of the Santa’s Postbox events and meet the man himself at Santa by the Lake. For more information on events and to book, go to