I'm a working mum writing about life in Edinburgh (and anywhere else we go) with two curious, adventurous, and imaginative children. Visit my blog at www.linzertortes.blogspot.co.uk. Follow me on Twitter: @LinzerLaw
Published December 13th 2012
Take a stroll among the ducks and geese
Murton Trust is an old sand and gravel quarry now transformed into a 70-acre nature reserve and 20-acre farm with a tearoom. The Murton Trust for Education and the Environment was set-up to restore and enhance the land when quarrying ended. They have definitely met these aims. The Trust website proclaims the Nature Reserve to be "one of the most beautiful walks in Angus", and I have to agree with that statement. The views as we walked round the wetlands were gorgeous.
A view over the Murton Nature Reserve, near Forfar, in the winter sun.
Although it was freezing cold, the well-maintained pathways were thick with ice, and very blustery, the winter sun still bathed the reserve in a deep, golden light. I immediately regretted not bringing my DLR camera, and instead had to rely on the waning charge of my phone.
Make sure you wrap-up warmly for a winter walk. Copyright: Lindsay Law, 2012
The Reserve provides an excellent place for photographers to capture shots of the local wildlife. It's home to over 130 varieties of bird and wildfowl, including protected species such as the Little Ringed Plover. There are hides dotted around the walk, which takes about an hour to complete, longer if you linger in the hides to spot birds. There's also a pioneering nesting facility for Sand Martins, although we had come at the wrong time of year to see them, because they migrate South for winter.
Lori poses in front of the pioneering Sand Martin house at Murton Nature Reserve. Copyright: Lindsay Law, 2012
In addition to the sea gulls, swans and various species of ducks, we also spotted two Grey Herons, four Buzzards, and more than one arrow-shaped formation of incoming geese. It was so windy that the poor herons, hunkered down by the water's edge, kept on being blown up into the air. Even worse for them, the edges of the loch were completely frozen, so there was no chance of fish for them, at least not while we watched from one of the hides. They moved on just before we did, presumably to hunt for fishing grounds without a sheet-ice barrier between them and their lunch.
In the John Compton Hide there was a journal and pencil, which was filled with young people's messages about what they had seen on their walk. We lingered long enough for Josie, aged eight, to complete a picture and key of what she had observed, and for Lori to help sign both their names. Then the chill wind got the better of us, even in the hide, and we headed off to finish the walk.
There are information points all around the Reserve so you can read about the birds and wild fowl making their home among the reeds. There's also lots of different paths cut through the undergrowth, which could make for a fun game of hide and seek for younger children who might lose interest in the birds. It was the perfect length of walk for my daughters, aged five and eight. There are benches all the way round if you need a rest or just want to take a moment to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the Reserve. Our last visit was in the height of summer, a few years ago, and the benches were a welcome stop-off for tired little legs.
Information boards like this one are placed throughout the Nature Reserve, as well as in the hides.
By the time we'd made a full circuit of the Reserve we were all very hungry and thirsty. Resisting the urge to try some makeshift ice skating on the frozen puddles in the car park, we headed into the war and welcoming Tea Room. In a prominent location outside the Tea Room is a wind turbine; the Reserve has very good carbon credentials. Most of the energy is provided by the wind turbine and solar power, while the heat energy comes from underground heat pumps. I loved the sign in the bathroom that declared "during periods of low energy the hand driers will be switched off". There was no danger of that happening on our visit – the wind was fairly pushing the turbine around.
Granddad and Josie enjoy a well-earned rest on one of the benches. Copyright: Lindsay Law, 2012
The Tea Room had all the usual fare you would expect from a country kitchen from homemade soups and toasties to a more unusual game platter featuring smoked venison and a duck prepared in couple of different ways. We chose a generously-sized Scottish breakfast, scrambled eggs on toast, and a cheese and onion toastie. There was plenty of food from these three meals to be shared between two adults and two children. I especially liked the granary bread going along with the toast. Next time I go, and there will definitely be a next time, I'm going to try the platter of the day.
The next logical thing to do would have been to go into the Farm, but it was extremely cold, and we were on a tight time schedule with a train to catch. Again, this is something we plan to do next time we visit Forfar. My two daughters gazed longingly into the Farm. We could see in the distance that there were lots of different kinds of animals, including Kune Kune pigs, goats and ferrets, as well as lots of birds, alongside the expected chickens and ducks are spectacular Red and Yellow Golden Pheasants. The Farm also has plenty of other activities for children. There is an adventure trail, sand pits, pedal toys and a variety of outdoor games. We departed with a promise of a return visit in the spring or summer.
The Trust is situated two miles East from Forfar, and is easily reached by car. There's also a bus service running from Forfar, which drops off in the car park. Birthday parties at the Farm are only £7.50 a child, which includes 4 free adult places for 12 children.
I was impressed with the excellent combination of the Nature Reserve, Farm and Tea Room. It offers an educational and healthy day out, which children will enjoy, with a variety of different potential activities to satisfy a whole family. For those looking for a budget day-out, the Nature Reserve is completely free. However, even the Farm is very reasonable with a family ticket for only £7.50.
I'd recommend Murton Trust to anyone living or holidaying in the Forfar area. It's the perfect place for a tranquil walk followed by a spot of tea.