What do red kites, yellow ants, white rock roses and common blue butterflies have in common? All are species that can be spotted on Discovering Britain walks.
Discovering Britain is a series of geographically-themed walks created by the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers. Each walk explores how the landscape has been shaped by forces of nature and by people. That includes natural landscapes that are home to different species of mammals, plants, insects and birds.
Discover an estuary
Walking along the embankment of the Thames estuary near Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, the landscape looks like a lifeless flat expanse of grey mud. But look a little closer in the saltmarshes and on the mud flats at low tide to see a colourful and dynamic environment teeming with life.
Our Essex Estuary walk visits one of the key nesting sites of the avocet. You can also look out for brent geese who stop off here on their migration and watch boats collecting cockles as they have done here for centuries.
Enjoy a cliff top stroll
Along the cliff tops just outside Torquay, your attention is naturally drawn towards the sea and the spectacular view of the coastline. However, on our Babbacombe walk the seemingly-ordinary section of grassy cliff top at Walls Hill is worth a closer look.
On the thin soil grows the unique squill-spurge fescue grassland. Some of the rare and special plant species that thrive here attract colourful butterflies. You may see clusters of yellow Kidney Vetch which is a favourite of the Small Blue butterfly. Also look out for the common blue and marbled white.
Explore the grassy plains
Salisbury Plain is the largest military training area on British soil. Although some parts are off limits to the public on our Salisbury Plain walk you can enjoy safe parts of these vast grasslands.
You may see soldiers on manoeuvres and tanks rumbling past. Take a moment to look in the muddy puddles created in tank tracks and see if you can spot a fairy shrimp. These tiny creatures which once moved habitat in the hooves of grazing cattle now use the treads of tanks. Also look out for great bustards which were successfully reintroduced on the Plain a decade ago.
Always take a closer look
The Discovering Britain walks encourage you to keep your eyes open when on a walk and discover more about the landscape around.
Visit www.discoveringbritain.org to browse and download the free self-guided walks
Jenny Lunn, Discovering Britain Project Manager, Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)