Suffolk Wildlife Trusts’ Lackford Lakes is 323 acres of wildlife paradise just outside Bury St Edmunds. The reserve features a mix of lakes, reed beds, meadows and woodland. There are 6km of trails and 9 bird hides. Lackford Lakes visitor centre is open from 10am till 5pm Tuesday till Saturday.
The reserve is down a series of pot-hole filled stone lanes so if you struggle with back pain then take it slow. The car park is hard packed gravel but there are two accessible parking bays on the hard-standing outside the centre.
The centre itself features a massive viewing window that overlooks a small lake and a series of bird feeders with trail cameras that show on TV’s inside the café. The entrance to the centre is level and the doors are extra wide and almost always open. There is also an upstairs viewing area (which I haven’t visited) but no lift. The shop inside is open plan with knickknacks and wildlife paraphernalia along one wall, a small tuck-shop style café and an open seating area with small tables and chairs. There are a few wooden picnic benches outside which are perfect for a cup of tea in the sunshine.
Inside the centre there are toilets including a reasonable accessible bathroom with a changing table for kids. The accessible bathroom features fixed grab rails on the left side of the toilet (as you’re sat on it) and a drop down rail on the other side. The sink can be reached from the loo and there is a large mirror on the left hand wall. I didn’t have a tape measure with me but the room was perfectly big enough for my manual wheelchair. If you have a large power chair and need help it might be a tight squeeze.
The centre runs a variety of family activities and wildlife themed events, you can find out more about these here. If you’re not a fully equipped birder the centre also offers binocular hire.
The reserve does not allow dogs, if you’re a guide dog owner I recommend calling the centre and ask for more information.
I have visited the reserve a few times, each using a wheelchair with power assist or a scooter. The 1/2 mile Kingfisher trail is fully wheelchair accessible. The paths are a mix of hard packed dirt and very short grass so it’s hard work without a battery pack but by no means impossible. If you’re not feeling super strong it’s worth taking someone who can push if needs be. The paths being dirt helps the area feel more natural and keeps it looking lovely but it does mean it can be a little muddy in poor weather.
There are sign markers for each bird hide and at each junction. The signs are natural wood with black text and do blend in with the natural environment, if you’re worried about missing the signs please ask for a map at the visitors centre or just keep turning left at each junction to get back to the visitors centre! The paths don’t have raised edges and there are pools, streams and lakes so if you’re visually impaired or prone to falls then make sure you take precautions.
All of the bird hides have ramped access, some of the ramps are quite steep but you can reach both rails at the same time so you can cheat and pull yourself up. The hides off the accessible kingfisher trail are also ramped but one of two of them are a little narrow for a power chair! The door handles are standard levers.
Inside the hides there are wooden benches to sit on and openable windows. If you’ve brought your own chair (like I do) then you’ll probably need to drag the benches out-of-the-way, if there are people in the hide already they are usually happy to help. There are lowered windows for wheelchair users and there is always room to put your feet under the edges so you can get close to the windows.
The windows open upwards and latch with a gate mechanism, they can be opened from a seated position but not so easily closed. I had to stand up to work the latch, again people are usually kind enough to help and if there are other people inside the hide it’s fine to leave the windows open.
Off the accessible rout the paths get a little less accessible.. grass is longer, pot-holes are deeper and bridges are narrower. That said I managed most of it with just the occasional push up a hill or out of a rut.
The Lackford Lakes reserve itself is lovely. There is an amazing choice of wildlife…
…but what really makes the centre amazing is the team. The staff and volunteers. I tweeted them before my last visit and when me and my partner arrived they greeted me by name at the entrance! How’s that for customer service? The staff were polite and cheerful aswell as knowledgable.
On Saturdays in June, (like the day I happened to be there), there is a moth education session. The centre has a moth trap up overnight and at 1pm on Saturday’s they get out the latest catch and visitors can have a look!
We gathered around the table and they passed around the moths for us all to have a look at.
I would encourage anyone to visit, it really is a lovely reserve. I am always surprised at how big it is and by the amazing selection of wildlife.
I hope this review has been useful, if you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to ask. As always, comments are welcome.