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Idle Valley

Idle Valley This spectacular wetland site covers an area of 450 hectares following the River Idle northwards. The size of 600 football pitches, it is one of the largest sites for nature conservation in the East Midlands.

The acquisition of the site is supported by a grant from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund. Idle Valley is also the base for our Ecominds project.

Group Visits

We are able to offer walks, talks and an educational programme. For bookings and queries, please email (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Latest News

A range of binoculars now available in the shop. Wildlife Shop and Coffee Shop now open 10.30am - 3.30pm, 7 days a week


How to get to Idle Valley

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Where to find us

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, North Road, Retford, DN22 8RQ (please note if you are travelling to the site using SATNAV please use the postcode DN22 8SG)

Public transport links are available under the factsheets tab.

Why not explore these nearby reserves? Daneshill Gravel Pits & Clarborough Tunnel.


Idle Valley

Idle Valley Nature Reserve is part of the Idle Valley Project area, managed by Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust - a beautiful 450 hectare network of lakes, wetland, grassland and scrub. The reserve includes the 300 hectare nationally designated Sutton and Lound Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) – one of the largest in the county.  Membership helps us maintain the site for the benefit of both people and wildlife. 

This extensive nature reserve is home to a diverse range of wildlife and is recognised as one of the richest birding sites in the region. Look out for birds such as gadwall and little grebe in winter, and breeding wading birds including little ringed plover and redshank in spring and summer.

The Wildlife Trust looks after Idle Valley, maintaining existing habitats and developing new ones. We focus on providing the visiting public and groups with as many opportunities as possible, for studying, viewing and enjoying wildlife.  The Idle Valley Rural Learning Centre is a high quality educational facility based at the south end of the site and is a venue for a range of training course and events.

Idle Valley Rural Learning Centre,
North Road (A638),
DN22 8RQ
For satellite navigation please use the postcode DN22 8SG
Tel: 01777 713 945


The Rural Learning Centre open from 10.30am - 3.30pm 7 days a week, including Coffee Shop and Little Wildlife Shop

Reserve Walks

Visitors to Idle Valley are invited to enjoy the many footpaths and bridleways, of which 2500m are wheelchair-accessible, together with five viewing screens and a viewing platform. There are four designated walks of varying lengths (click ‘Factsheets’ to download reserve map), so whether you would like a quick stroll or a longer hike, there’s something to suit everyone.

For the children we have the following :

1) A bronze rubbing trail around the site various sculptures to enjoy, designed and built by local community groups. 

2) An outdoor PLAY SPACE to explore, which includes a picnic area 

3) DISCOVERY PACKS to hire for £1.50 per day.  The DISCOVER IDLE packs have monthly themes and come complete with everything you need to explore the site (including binoculars) (click factsheets for more information).  We also have DISCOVER PONDS packs which come complete with nets and pots for your own pond dipping session. 

The Centre, which is open 10.30am - 3.30pm, 7 days a week, includes a reception desk for information, enquiries, membership, activities and course bookings. There is also a  fully equipped viewing area with scopes and binoculars.  The LITTLE WILDLIFE SHOP  and stocks bird feeders, bird seed, ID guides, charcoal and hedgehog food.

Access is free of charge, but donations for parking are appreciated. Annual parking passes are also available. Toilet facilities are available during Centre opening hours.

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust is committed to trading with local suppliers and selecting organic and healthy produce whenever possible. Most of our hot beverages use FAIRTRADE ingredients and organic milk. This means you can enjoy your refreshments in the knowledge that your purchases are supporting local business, sustainable production methods and a healthier lifestyle. Your support helps our local community in many different ways and also helps us to protect wildlife for the future.

Opening times


The Idle Valley Nature Reserve is open throughout the year for walking.  During the summer months the Reserve is open for walking from 9am till 8pm.


Open 7 days a week, 10.30am - 3.30pm. Only closed Christmas Day & Boxing Day.

The Little Wildlife Shop stocks bird feeders, bird seed, ID guides, charcoal and hedgehog food.

For bulk bird seed purchases in advance – call 01777 713945

All opening hours are subject to change.


Events at Idle Valley

Wild Tots - Idle Valley

Wednesday 23rd April 2014

Parent and toddler sessions suitable for 2 to 4 year olds. 10.30am – 11.30am. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Donation requested.
Contact: Rural Learning Centre 01777 713 945

Dawn Chorus at Idle Valley

Saturday 3rd May 2014

Join one of our local bird enthusiasts for a dawn chorus walk to hear and watch the birds of Idle Valley Nature Reserve wake up. £3 including a hot drink. Booking essential. Please bring a torch.
Contact: Rural Learning Centre 01777 713 945

Wildlife Photography

Sunday 4th May 2014

Delivered by professional wildlife photographer Jack Perks at the Idle Valley Nature Reserve, this ‘best of spring’ session will cover techniques in capturing spring bulbs, wild flowers and the invertebrates that feed on them. 10.00am – 12 noon. £20 per person, booking essential.
Contact: Rural Learning Centre 01777 713 945

Idle Valley Wildlife Watch Kids

Sunday 11th May 2014

This month we will be discovering and taking part in activities all about outrageous owls! Suitable for children aged 5 and over. All children must be accompanied by an adult. 10.30am – 12 noon. £3 per child, booking required.
Contact: Rural Learning Centre 01777 713 945

Idle Valley Bird Walk

Sunday 18th May 2014

Join an expert birder for a walk around the Idle Valley Nature Reserve to see what birds you can spot. Please bring your own binoculars and walking boots. 9.30am – 11.30am. Donation welcomed.
Contact: Rural Learning Centre 01777 713 945

Idle Valley Half Term Holiday Club – Self-Led Trail

Tuesday 27th May 2014

Pick up a Discovery Pack and explore the wildlife of the Idle Valley Nature Reserve. 10.00am – 2.00pm. £1.50 per pack. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
Contact: Rural Learning Centre 01777 713 945

Idle Valley Half Term Holiday Club – Woodland Workshop

Thursday 29th May 2014

Make fires, build shelters and explore what the Idle Valley Reserve has to offer. Old clothes needed! 10.00am – 2.00pm. Suitable for children aged 8 -14. £8 per child, booking essential.
Contact: Rural Learning Centre 01777 713 945

News from Idle Valley

Call for local Crafts

Thursday 13th March 2014

On Sunday 6th April, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust will be holding a special celebration event at its Idle Valley Nature Reserve near Retford. As part of the event we plan to host a high quality craft for and we are keen to hear from local stall holders who’d be interested to attend.
Craft Stall Booking form

Find out more


Christmas events at Idle Valley

Wednesday 4th December 2013

Lots of festive fun coming soon

Find out more


Energy Company volunteers back our 50th Anniversary at Idle Valley

Saturday 26th October 2013

Aa team of over 50 volunteers from EDF Energy West Burton and Cottam Power Stations spent a day at the Idle Valley Nature Reserve, helping with vital wildlife habitat management.

Find out more


Bird feed funds our work

Saturday 26th October 2013

Walter Harrison’s, one of the UK’s leading suppliers of wild bird foods and accessories, has provided a major funding boost to our work thanks to sales of its range of bird food, feeders and bird care accessories.

Find out more


County’s first Wetland Challenge Passport is awarded

Tuesday 11th June 2013

The Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust team at the Idle Valley Nature Reserve, North Road, Retford, are delighted to announce that Oliver Shearman from Ordsall is the first young person to gain the Wetlands Challenge Passport in the whole of the county. 

Find out more


Award for Wildlife Charity

Thursday 30th May 2013

Idle Valley Team win award

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Half term at Idle Valley

Thursday 23rd May 2013

Make sure a trip to Idle Valley is on your list this half term

Find out more


Dogs at Idle Valley

Friday 3rd May 2013

Please keep your dog on a lead at Idle Valley

Find out more


Idle Valley Lincoln Red Calves

Thursday 11th April 2013

New arrivals

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Idle Valley needs your help

Thursday 11th April 2013

Cafe volunteers required

Find out more



Monday 11th February 2013

Volunteering - find out more from one of the team

Find out more


An Evening of Folk, Blues & Beyond

Monday 14th January 2013

Join us for a great evening of music, on Friday 15th March at Headon-cum-Upton, near Retford - a chance to enjoy blues, folk and more - whilst helping us raise vital funds for our Lost Woodland Appeal. 

Find out more


Winning photos capture Nature Reserve

Friday 14th December 2012

The winners of a photography contest which encouraged local people to capture a north Nottinghamshire nature reserve on camera, have been revealed.

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Real Reindeer at Xmas Event this Weekend!

Friday 7th December 2012

Join in the festive fun this weekend…

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Notes from the Idle Apiary

Friday 9th November 2012

Find out how the Idle Valley bees are doing as winter approaches.

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vfifty award collected

Tuesday 2nd October 2012

First young volunteer accredited with ‘vfifty’ award

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Wildlife Charity hosts Firewood Festival

Friday 28th September 2012

We’re seeking to re-light people’s interest in heating homes with wood.

Find out more


We’re on BBC Countryfile!

Tuesday 18th September 2012

Watch on BBC iplayer until Sunday 23rd Sept - find out how Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust filled giant holes in the ground and transformed them into a tranquil haven for wildlife!

Find out more


Quality Reserve

Friday 14th September 2012

We’re delighted that our Idle Valley Rural Learning Centre has received the ‘Quality Badge’!

Find out more


New meadow at Idle Valley is blooming

Monday 6th August 2012

New meadow at Idle Valley starting to bloom…
It’s taken over 2 years, but the experiment has worked.  Seeds were taken from our Ashton Meadow reserve are flowering at Idle Valley. 

Find out more


Learning from worms

Monday 6th August 2012

Learning from worms…
As part of the Trust’s schools program, the education team at Idle Valley have issued 30 wormery kits to schools in Bassetlaw so that children and teachers alike can learn more about these amazing creatures.

Find out more


Idle Photo competition

Thursday 28th June 2012

Idle Valley Nature Reserve launches photo competition

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Idle Valley Reception open for visitors

Wednesday 27th June 2012

Our Idle Valley Nature Reserve, near Retford has a snazzy new reception area!

Find out more


Poppy Love

Tuesday 12th June 2012

Poppy love - find out more about some of the flowers you can see at the Idle Valley just now…

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Buzzing Around at Idle!

Wednesday 6th June 2012

Bees set to make new home at Idle Valley!

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Picture Perfect at Idle Valley!

Tuesday 24th April 2012

Look at the stunning views of Idle Valley Nature Reserve at its best!

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Volunteer Tales: Ecominds

Tuesday 10th April 2012

We always like to tell you about the great variety of volunteering roles we have at the Wildlife Trust. A good way to do that is to put some of our volunteers under the spotlight, and find out about what they do to help us. Steve is one of the volunteers at our Ecominds project at Idle Valley Nature Reserve…

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Idle Valley Training Courses Success!

Tuesday 10th April 2012

This year the Idle Valley Rural Learning Centre launched a range of conservation training courses and they have proved to be very popular!

Find out more


Birthdays go Green

Friday 10th February 2012

Do you want a green birthday party for your 6-10 year old child? Then why not book a wildlife themed party at Idle Valley! We can provide superb all-weather facilities, with fun activities led by experienced Wildlife Trust employees.

Find out more


The Big Idle Birdwatch

Thursday 9th February 2012

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust Volunteers based at Idle Valley Nature Reserve gave up their time to carry out additional ‘birdwatches’ for other people as part of the RSPB ‘Big Garden Birdwatch’ weekend last Saturday and Sunday.

Find out more


Idle Valley scoops award

Wednesday 21st December 2011

New video! Idle Valley scoops award

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Firewood Festival this Sunday

Friday 11th November 2011

We want to re-ignite people passion for real fires

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Ecominds project scoops award

Wednesday 2nd November 2011

We are proud to announce that our Idle Valley Ecominds project has won a special award.

Find out more


Rescue swan gets new home at Idle Valley Nature Reserve

Monday 24th October 2011

A majestic mute swan was released at the Idle Valley Nature Reserve after holding up traffic during rush hour near Bothamsall, north Nottinghamshire.  Early morning drivers cared enough to slow down, stop and call the police when the swan just couldn’t quite get enough lift to ‘take off’.

Find out more


Increased demand for health walks at Idle Valley

Tuesday 4th October 2011

The nation is slowly but surely taking to its feet and enjoying the great outdoors as a way of improving their health and well-being and the Idle Valley Nature Reserve is the perfect venue for health walks and for training the leaders who lead those walks.

Find out more


‘Mega’ day at Idle Valley

Friday 30th September 2011

There was an afternoon of excitement at Idle Valley Nature Reserve near Retford yesterday, following reports of a possible ‘mega’ species of bird being sighted on the Wildlife Trust site.

Find out more


Idle Valley Summer Fayre

Tuesday 7th June 2011

Idle Valley Nature Reserve on North Road, Retford, is holding its Annual Summer Fayre on Saturday 18th June with a slight twist.

Find out more


Idle Valley Wildlife Extravaganza

Friday 20th May 2011

Wildlife Extravaganza at Idle Valley Nature Reserve – causing a spiky sensation on Saturday 28th May!

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Wildlife Roadshow a great success

Tuesday 10th May 2011

Our Idle Valley Nature Reserve held its much-anticipated Wildlife Roadshow event this Saturday (7th May) - marking the opening of new facilities at the Rural Learning Centre - another major milestone in the development of Retford’s biggest hidden jewel and the county’s largest nature reserve. 

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Get involved in Ecominds

Wednesday 13th April 2011

Members of the public are invited to help shape a new project which aims to combat mental health problems through outdoor activities, at a meeting on 9th May.

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Successful launch of Idle Valley Ecominds

Friday 18th February 2011

On 8th February we launched the Ecominds project at our Idle Valley Nature Reserve. Funded through Mind in association with the Big Lottery, this project aims to improve mental wellbeing through outdoor activity that benefits the environment and the local community.

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New Ecominds project at Idle Valley

Monday 7th February 2011

Idle Valley Ecominds Project begins: improving mental health though conservation, horticulture and wildlife gardening.

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FREE Idle Valley Calendar

Friday 17th December 2010

The 2011 Idle Valley Nature Reserve Calendar is here!

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Christmas Lectures draw supporters despite the snow!

Wednesday 15th December 2010

The Idle Valley Christmas Lectures were well supported on 9th December despite the atrocious weather.

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Idle Valley in Pictures

Tuesday 15th December 2009

BBC Nottinghamshire recently visited our newest flagship nature reserve - finding out how Idle Valley, near Retford, is reaping the benefits of receiving £1m of lottery money.

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Idle Valley Project

Tuesday 7th April 2009

After half a century of aggregates extraction the central Idle Valley has developed into a unique wetland landscape. It is home to an exceptionally rich assemblage of birds including nationally important numbers of black-necked grebe, garganey, pochard and wigeon.

Find out more


First Step to Action in Idle Valley

Tuesday 7th October 2008

Plans to transform the Idle Valley into a beacon nature reserve are to become a reality following thanks to Heritage Lottery Fund.

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Fact-sheets for Idle Valley

Idle Valley Visitor Map Flier

Idle Valley Visitor Map Flier

Click to download the Idle Valley Nature Reserve visitor map. There are a network of colour coded routes on site. If you would like more information on where to walk please either give us a call or pop into the centre when you arrive. The yellow route is suitable for pushchairs.

Download Factsheet

Discovery Packs

Discovery Packs

Find out more about with our discovery rucksacks - available to hire from the centre

Download Factsheet



We welcome dogs at Idle Valley please consult this map to see where we allow dogs off leads and under control.

Download Factsheet

Public transport links

Public transport links

How to access the Idle Valley using public transport

Download Factsheet

Discovery boxes

Discovery boxes

There are 2 boxes available for groups to use - a minibeast box and an environmental games box. You can use them on site or take them to your own venue. £10 to hire plus a £10 refundable deposit. Pre booking required on 01777 713 945

Download Factsheet

Wild Birthday Parties

Wild Birthday Parties

Fun filled birthday parties for children aged 4 - 11 years old.

Download Factsheet

SCHOOLS Education opportunities in North Nottinghamshire

SCHOOLS Education opportunities in North Nottinghamshire

Passionate about outdoor learning - we aim to provide high quality programmes for all that are local affordable and hands on.

Download Factsheet

SCHOOLS Adopt a Reserve programme

SCHOOLS Adopt a Reserve programme

Get involved with your local patch through our adopt a reserve programme

Download Factsheet

Our Wildlife Photography Sessions for 2014

Our Wildlife Photography Sessions for 2014

Join us for new exciting workshops with renowned professional photographer Jack Perks at the Idle Valley Rural Learning Centre.

Download Factsheet



Idle Valley Living Landscape

Idle Valley Nature Reserve is a picturesque wetland haven, near Retford in Nottinghamshire. This short video captures its beauty, telling the story of how much this reserve plays a part in joining the dots for wildlife in the surrounding area and how it forms an important Living Landscape.
With thanks to Nick Kirk at Moving Stories for the video www.moving-stories.co.uk
and also to Ann Biddle for the…

Watch the full clip on YouTube


Kids go wild!

A video featuring our recent Kids Go Wild Event at Idle Valley Nature Reserve. Just one of our many family events throughout the year, across the county run my Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust

For more events run by Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust please click the link below


Watch the full clip on YouTube


Starlings Flocking Neatholme Lane Idle Valley 15/11/12

Starling murmuration at Idle Valley Nature Reserve

A Murmuration is a gathering of large flocks of Starlings. They start to get together at Dusk during Autum in their roosting sites and fly together creating amazing swirling patterns.  The reason they get together is because there is safety in numbers, particularily from birds of prey such as Falcons. A large group means its also easier to keep warm during Winter and…

Watch the full clip on YouTube


Idle Valley Nature Reserve Wildlife Video

A special trip camera set up at Idle Valley Nature Reserve to record what species visited one spot of the reserve over 1 week…look how many different creatures shared that spot!
European Badger (Meles meles)
Common Pheasant female (Phasianus colchicus)
Reed Bunting ( Emberiza schoeniclus)
European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)
Red Legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa)
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Visit http://www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org/ for more information on…

Watch the full clip on YouTube


Idle Valley Wins Prestigious Award

Tarmac have awarded Bellmoor & Lound Gravel Pits the 2011 Cooper Heyman Award. This restored quarry now forms part of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust’s Idle Valley Nature Reserve. The award recognises the hard work that has been done to restore this area for the benefit of wildlife. Idle Valley is now a thriving Nature Reserve - one of the best places for birding in the county, and a great place to…

Watch the full clip on YouTube


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