North Norfolk's nature reserves & saltmarshes
A pleasant 20 minute walk from Chapel Cottage, Warham Camp is a fascinating and well-preserved Iron Age fort sitting within farmland. It is within the Holkham Nature Reserve and a scheduled monument. It has a diameter of over 200 metres. The River Stiffkey cuts across one edge of the earthworks, but this is an 18th-century alteration. There are outer and inner ditches and banks which show exposed chalk with a characteristic flora, rare in Norfolk. It is well worth the walk to see this impressive area in its own right. However it has the best chalk grassland in Norfolk attracting plants such as Dwarf Thistle, Scabious and Autumn Gentian.
We have see some beautiful Pyramidal Orchids here too in such quantity that it can be difficult not to tread on them! Another plant suited to the chalk is the Horseshoe Vetch, the main food of the Chalk Hill Blue butterfly. This is the northernmost colony in the UK and can be seen in July/August in significant numbers. Earlier in the year you may be lucky enough to see Brown Argus & Common Blue butterflies. Great views toward Wighton and back toward Warham can also be afforded from this vantage point.
Migrant birds can be seen alongside the Peddar's Way and Norfolk Coast path between Wells-next-the-Sea and Stiffkey. Several small pits offer cover for migrants and the saltmarsh attracts over-wintering
visitors. Warham Greens are just 1.6 miles from the cottage. Regular sightings include Harriers, Merlin Buzzard, and there is a raptor roost on site. This site is of interest for the raptor roost in winter months. The roost holds up to 10 Hen Harriers usually peaking in January, it is also good for Short Eared Owl and Barn Owl. Merlins can be seen along with the more frequent Peregrines and Marsh Harriers. A large number of Pink Footed Geese often roost out on the beach, if not they will fly in from the west and either roost at Holkham or on the beach near east hills, the small isolated wood to the east of Wells lifeboat station.
Grey Partridge are normally easy to see in the fields around here, listen out for them while waiting for the raptors to come in. Little Egrets also seem to love the salt marsh, it’s not uncommon to see 20+ of these feeding in the area and at dusk more heading west to their roost at Holkham.
The site is also an excellent migrant trap in spring and especially in Autumn. Regularly attracting such scarcities as Wryneck and both Barred and Icterine Warblers. To see migrants check any hedge line tree or bush. The small copse at the north end of the western most track is particularly good and sometimes holds a Yellow Browed or Pallas’s Warbler if there has been a good ‘fall’ along the coast.
Chapel Cottage in Warham is perfectly placed to explore all the nearby nature reserves and prime birdwatching sites. Warham Greens is walking distance from the cottage, or for those preferring to drive there is some parking available nearby. Cley is on 7.5 miles from Chapel Cottage and the Nature Reserve at Holkham is 4 miles.
Beside the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path between Stiffkey and Warham, leading along the Warham salt marshes, there is an overgrown circular area which measures 91.5 metres (300 feet) in diameter and is surrounded by a metalled track. At its centre there is a metal pole, known locally as "The Whirlygig". This was a Cold War rotary launcher installed in the early 1950s by the USAAF and used to launch RCATs (Radio Controlled Aircraft Targets) for the practice firing of anti-aircraft guns. Examples are known from the United States but this may well be the only one known and extant in the UK. It is a great spot for birdwatching also.
With huge horizons and a vast open expanse of pristine saltmarsh, Stiffkey Saltmarshes were acquired by National Trust in 1976 and form part of Blakeney National Nature Reserve. The twisting muddy creeks that are flooded by the tide daily are a perfect haven for wildlife. An important conservation area for breeding birds, it is protected by many national and international designations. The Norfolk Coast Path skirts the saltmarsh towards Blakeney to the east or to Wells-Next-The-Sea to the west, offering amazing walks with breath-taking views and sightings of birds.
An alternative access road exists just on the outskirts west of Stiffkey. This is a good road down to the Saltmarsh, "Greenways" toward the Stiffkey campsite.
Here you have the choice of watching the raptor roost with an excellent panoramic view of the marsh including East Hills. Watch out for SEO and male Hen Harrier. If you want there is a footpath you can take west which takes you past the famous Whillygig. From this vantage you can see more or less the same as if stood at the bottom of the Warham track, but no hassle with the car.
North Norfolk's nature reserves & Saltmarshes
Cley village is just 7.5 miles from the Cottage. The peaceful, pretty village of Cley-on-Sea is home to Cley Marshes - The marshes around Cley are internationally important for their populations of rare breeding and visiting birds. Cley Marshes bird reserve has been in the care of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust since 1926, making it the oldest county Wildlife Trust reserve in Britain. Among resident breeding birds are Avocet, Bearded Tit, Bittern, Marsh Harrier and Spoonbill. Winter visitors include Brent Geese, Wigeon, Pintail and many species of wading birds
NWT Cley Marshes is Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s oldest and best known nature reserve. It was purchased in 1926 to be held 'in perpetuity as a bird breeding sanctuary'. It provided a blue print for nature conservation which has now been replicated across the UK. The water levels in the pools and reedbeds are regulated to ensure they are ideal for the resident birds, and reed is harvested every year to keep the reedbeds in good condition.
The shingle beach and saline lagoons, along with the grazing marsh and reedbed support large numbers of wintering and migrating wildfowl and waders, as well as bittern, marsh harrier and bearded tit.
A new eco-friendly visitor centre opened in 2007 containing a café, shop, viewing areas (including viewing from a camera on the reserve). We have since added to this with the fantastic Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre, a courtyard and viewing deck. The view from the visitor centre across the Marsh to the sea is breathtaking.
Cley Marshes is one of the most beautiful spots on the North Norfolk Coast, and this easy walk will give you plenty to see, as well as a good blast of sea air!
The view from the Norfolk Wildlife Trust Cley Visitor Centre, across the reclaimed salt marshes towards the sea really takes your breath away, and as you take in this circular walk, you’ll come across scenery that is truly stunning. Flat, yes, but there’s something about the Norfolk coastal landscape that you just have to experience for yourself, as words just don’t do it justice.
From Burnham Overy to Wells the low-lying grazing marshes north of the coast road used to be tidal saltmarshes, separating offshore shingle and dune ridges from the main coastline. The tidal creeks were large enough to allow ships to load cargo from a staithe at Holkham village. From 1639 onwards a series of embankments were constructed by local landowners, including the Cokes of Holkham. By the time the Wells embankment was completed in 1859 by the 2nd Earl of Leicester about 800 hectares of saltmarsh had been converted to agricultural use.In the late 19th century the 3rd Earl of Leicester planted pine trees on the dunes, creating a shelter-belt to protect the reclaimed farmland from wind-blown sand. Today the ribbon of mature woodland still separates seascape from farmscape. The fields and dykes, ridges and trackways have become part of the landscape. Guided walks throughout the year are an ideal way to
discover the diversity of wildlife on the Nature Reserve. Holkham National Nature Reserve covers about 3706 hectares (9158 acres) from Wells-next-the-Sea to Burnham Overy and comprises a number of rare and precious habitats including salt marsh, sand dunes, pine woodland, beach and grazing marsh. There are thousands of geese in winter months. Events and tours are run throughout the year.
This 3½ mile long sand and shingle spit is a paradise for all kinds of wildlife. It is particularly noted for its colonies of breeding terns and migrant birds passing through in summer. Both common and grey seals can also be seen here. Managed by the National Trust since 1912 and within the North Norfolk Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Blakeney Point is a 4-mile spit of flint-derived shingle and sand dunes, created by longshore drift across the River Glaven.Designated as Blakeney National Nature Reserve, the area includes tidal mudflats, salt marshes and reclaimed farmland, known as Blakeney Freshes, as well as a host of wildlife. It is an import site for breeding birds, especially Sandwich, common and little terns, migrating birds in the Autumn and Winter, a favourable spot for samphire, or sea
asparagus, and is home to the largest seal colony in England, with over 1000 Grey seals and pups on the shoreline in Winter.
The Point is a dynamic landscape, slowing extending to the west and moving closer to the land at a rate of about 1 metre a year. It can be accessed on foot from Cley-next-the-Sea, but visitors, particularly those with dogs, should be wary of restrictions to protect nesting birds and fragile habitats. The best way to visit the seals is by boat from the quays at Morston and Blakeney so you can get close to the inquisitive mammals without disturbing them. Boats go at high tide once a day in the Winter and often twice a day in the Summer, sometimes allowing passengers to go ashore.
Other birds to look out for are black-headed and Mediterranean gulls, ringed plovers, oystercatchers, common redshanks, northern lapwings, sedge and reed warblers, and bearded tits. In the Winter the marshes are home to golden plovers, common shelduck, Eurasian wigeon, brent geese and common teal.
Salthouse Marshes is an area of small pools and extensive grazing marsh offering close views of waders and wildfowl.
The site comes alive in winter when wintering snow buntings usually take up residence. In some years, rarer lapland buntings and shore larks also join them. Barn owls can regularly be seen hunting over the marshes, as well as marsh harriers. The site is a good location from which to look for seabirds, and the small, isolated clumps of bushes can be good in spring and autumn for tired migrants.
At Norfolk’s northwest corner, where The Wash meets the North Sea, Holme Dunes is superbly located to attract migrating birds.
It also holds a variety of important habitats which support numerous other wildlife species including natterjack toads, butterflies and dragonflies, as well as a large number of interesting plants.
Various military remains from WWII can be glimpsed around the reserve, including the remains of a target-railway used to train artillery. Much earlier remains have also been discovered including Roman pottery and, in 1998, a well-preserved Bronze Age timber circle, which became known as ‘Seahenge’. The circle was uncovered by strong tides, having been hidden for some 4,000 years (no longer at Holme, the structure was removed for preservation purposes by archaeologists).
Titchwell is the most popular reserve on the North Norfolk coast and a must for amateur and seasoned birdwatchers. Board walks and paths lead towards the coast past fresh water, brackish water and tidal lagoons, filled with birds, eventually reaching an enormous sandy beach. Enjoy lunch at the 'Feeding Station' cafe.
Enjoy 'up close and personal' views of hundreds of geese and ducks from Island hide. One of Britain's premier birdwatching sites. Just 14 miles from Chapel Cottage, you don’t have to be a member to enjoy the new modern state of the art “Parrinder” hide which sits between salt water and fresh water lagoons. You get the best of both, with a huge variety of different birds coming and going all day long. The Titchwell RSPB centre has excellent facilities and is manned by very helpful people who are more than willing to tell you where to go, what you may see and to give you any advice you ask for.
On the biggest high tides of the month, marvel at tens of thousands of knot gathering right in front you at Sanctuary and Roost hides.
A home of the Hawk and Owl Trust, its wildlife includes breeding Marsh Harriers, water rails and kingfishers as well as barn owls. Otters use its waterways and the fen is home to many species of dragonfly, butterfly and flowering plants. The reserve runs many activites every month.
A Magical Haven For Bird Watchers
Sculthorpe Moor is a fantastic small 45 acre nature reserve situated in the Wensum Valley very close to Fakenham and is run by the Hawk and Owl Trust. Visitors and Conservation are key priorities and always have been. Although that may sound a bit contradictory, the whole site is set out in such a way that it gives you, the visitor, maximum chance to see a whole host of different species of birds, whilst at the same time the volunteers are working hard to conserve the surrounding area. There is such an abundance of wildlife here, it's amazing!