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Attenborough Nature Reserve

Attenborough Nature Reserve

Situated 7km south west of Nottingham's city centre, Attenborough Nature Reserve was once an area of wet grassland alongside the River Trent. As a result of decades of gravel extraction and careful restoration, the area has become a haven for wildlife. The continuing operation of barge traffic through the site represents an excellent example of the harmonious relationship which can exist between industry and nature.



Excavations started on the floodplain of the River Trent at Attenborough in 1929 and gravel workings, including the fully restored areas, now cover more than 365 acres.

The process of mineral extraction has led to the creation of many areas of open water. Most of the soil removed in order to reach the gravel has been deposited back into the water-filled excavations creating a patchwork of lakes and islands.


duckThe many islands created over the years provide shelter, food and perhaps most importantly, freedom from disturbance, creating ideal conditions for the many species of wildlife that thrive here. As the vegetation has matured, so has the type and variety of habitats.

Since recording began in 1944, over 250 species of birds have been sighted here, from swans and starlings, to the elusive kingfisher and the even rarer bittern. The site is particularly noted for the wide range of waterfowl which can be found.

Many species are migrants passing through on their way to spend the winter in warmer climates. Others return to their breeding grounds here each spring. In 1982, the site was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to the importance of its over-wintering waterfowl population, particularly Pochard and Shoveler.

Other wildlife includes foxes, stoats, toads, newts, and many species of butterflies, moths and other invertebrates. The network of islands and paths is home to a wide range of trees, shrubs and wildflowers such as water forget-me-not which grows at the water's edge. Recently otters have been recorded in the Attenborough area and it is hoped that they will establish a breeding population in the future. 

Visitors & Volunteers


In addition to being a haven for wildlife, the site is very popular with visitors, many of whom come to enjoy the wildlife or simply to relax in the peaceful surroundings of the nature reserve.

Within the gravel pit complex there are a number of areas set aside for activities such as sailing, water-sports, horse riding, fishing and walking. The various pressures placed upon the site are managed to protect its wildlife value.

Over the years, volunteers have played an important role in recording the wildlife of the site and carrying out conservation work which has made Attenborough Nature Reserve the wonderfully wildlife-rich site that it is today.

A state-of-the-art eco-friendly building, surrounded by water, in the heart of a picturesque nature reserve within easy reach of Nottingham & Derby

As visitors to this home of nature we ask that you act with the safety and interest of all living things in mind

  • Park only in the designated area

  • Keep dogs and children under control

  • Be aware of the danger posed by cold deep water

  • Please place your dog dirt in the bins provided

  • Do not introduce any plants to the ground or lake

  • Place your litter in the bins or better still, take it home.

  • Please keep to the paths indicated on the map

  • Please do not pick wild flowers

Thoughtless actions can easily damage the delicate ecology of this reserve. Only with your co-operation can it be conserved.

How to get to Attenborough Nature Reserve

Download the Attenborough Nature Reserve map (.pdf) (103KB) (Opens in a New Window)


Attenborough Nature Reserve is owned by CEMEX and jointly managed with the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, with support from Broxtowe Borough Council.

Over the years the Council has invested heavily in the site, undertaking projects such as the construction of the Barton Lane car park, improvements to the network of paths, and provision of interpretation panels.  The Council has also provided funding for construction of the Nature Centre and for the improvement of habitats to encourage the return of species such as otter and bittern.

The Council is proud to be associated with Attenborough and continues to work with partners to maintain and enhance the site.

Nature Conservation
tel: 0115 917 3507
Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust
tel: 0115 958 8242