NORFOLK (Norwich, Great Yarmouth), (between)

National Grid c.TG464116 (main area) 00o00´/00o00´ N/A ha 0-8m, marsh, grazing marsh, saltmarsh, reedbeds, fen, open freshwater, creeks and rivers with woodland further inland 
Anytime (19-21.05.95, 01.10.08 etc)


Birding Site Guide

Also search BSG with ‘Norfolk’ for other sites nearby, as there are many good birding sites in the county.

The Broads lie E of Norwich between here and the main area lying on the W side of Great Yarmouth. They stretch from below North Walsham in the N to beyond the county boundary to Lowestoft in Suffolk in the S. The main rivers from N to S are the Ant, the Bure, the Wensum, River Tud and the Chet with the latter two joining the Yare which is S of them. The River Tas comes from the S and also joins the Yare. From the S, but from further W comes the River Waveney, which enters the national park at Bungay. These rivers and their associated flood plains and bogs (much reduced) define the area of the broads. Indeed much of the broads was created by the destruction of the bogs for peat in medieval times.

Places to stay abound as it is a favourite holiday area with all types who like the outdoors, booking in advance for peak season is advisable.

Barely above sea level, this huge area is one of the great havens for wildlife in lowland Britain. There are a great many reserves and protected areas, some public and huge such as the area covered by the Broads National Park, many small and private, but mainly all but the most sensitive areas have some access for the public.

Most any wetland, or marsh bird can be seen here as well as a good variety of woodland and farmland birds and the list of rarities is as good as many of the best sites in Britain. Otter and Water Voles have strongholds here.

Post breeding huge flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover are to be found on the grazing marshes, as are flocks of geese (Pink-feet, Brents). The area is notable for Cranes at Hickling Broad, but they may be seen these days irregularly over much of the area. Montagu’s Harrier is scarce as is Bittern and Little Egrets are increasingly seen.

The area is perhaps even more outstanding for its rare plants and invertebrates, some of which have their only UK outpost here and others which are unique, for example the British race of Swallowtail Butterfly. The place has many species of dragonfly, many uncommon.

Many of the smaller Broads and their backwaters are possibly private, obscure, difficult to reach (without a boat) and not well known beyond the locals. Others however are public or have public access (often via Public Rights of Way) are popular and heavily visited, especially in summer. Unfortunately it can get so busy, that it is detrimental to viewing wildlife. There can be huge numbers of boats and water sports going on, along with fishing and people walking, or riding horses or MTBs. So, it is best to pick your time and place with care, perhaps avoiding the best known areas in school holidays, especially in summer.

The River Ant headwaters lie N of North Walsham and enter the Broads National Park at Honing. Its Broads and fens are: Alderfen Broad, Barton Broad, Broad Fen, Crome's Broad, Great Fen, Hall Fen, Middle Marsh, Mown Fen, Reedham Marsh, Sutton Broad, South Fen and Turf Fen.

The River Bure headwaters lie in streams N of Aylsham and enter the Broads National Park at Coltishall. Its Broads and fens are: Belaugh Broad, Bure Marshes, Burntfen Broad, Cockshoot Broad, Decoy Broad, Hoverton Great Broad, Hoverton Little Broad, Hoverton Marshes, Ranworth Broad, Ranworth Marshes, Salhouse Broad, Sedge Fen, Ward Marsh, Woodbastwick Fens and Marshes and Wroxham Broad.

The River Ant merges with the River Bure at Ward Marsh and the Hundred Dike joins the Ant to the River Thurne near Womack Water and Shallam Dike. The River Bure carries on S eventually into and through Great Yarmouth to discharge into the sea, and along this stretch are found the following Broads: The Fleet, Upton Broad and Upton Marshes beyond here the Broads reach their greatest extent, with vast areas of grazing marsh, N of Acle Marshes and just W of Great Yarmouth.

The River Thurne continues NE to Blackfleet Broad, Brayden Marshes, Brograve Level, Commissioners’ Drain, Heigham Sound, Hickling Broad, Horsey Mere, Martham Broad, Rush Hill, Swim Coots and White Slea, (with Long Gore Marsh and Calthorpe Broad on an arm N of Brayden Marshes) and these are joined to the Hundred Stream, by the sea.

Just before The River Bure reaches the largest expanse of grazing marsh just E of Acle (near Decoy Carr), there is another spur off to the NE (below the River Thurne), this is Muck Fleet which goes on N towards Burgh Common, Filby Broad, The Nab, Lily Broad, Rollesby Broad, Ormesby Broad and Pickerhill Holme,.

West of Norwich the River Wensum and the River Chet flow through town to joining the River Yare. From the outskirts of Norwich, at the appropriately named Broadland District the River Yare enters the national park, it passes the sewage works and then Whitlingham Marsh, Postwick Marsh, Bradeston Marsh, Surlingham Broad, Strumpshaw Fen, Rockland Broad, Mill Dike, Buckenham Carrs, Langley Marshes, Hardley Marshes and Limpenhoe Marshes, after which the River Chet (which enters the National Park at Chedgrave where Hardley Flood is) joins it from the SW. Near where they meet is Boyce's Dyke and Reedham Marsh. This then joins the main large are of grazing marsh, where the River Bure passes at the N side. A huge area is known as Norton Marshes which then adjoin The Island (with Langley Marshes, Berney Arms Reach and Burgh Castle Reach) and Chedgrave Marshes. Further N there are Beighton Marshes, Burgh Castle Marshes, Halvergate Marshes, Reedham Marshes and South Walsham Marshes and of course the great tidal estuary of Breydon Water with Fisher’s Marshes and Gapton Marshes on its SE side and further S Belton Marshes and Fritton Marshes.

In the S the River Waveney flows E through the Broads of Outney Common, Broome Marshes (and Heath and Common), Ben Stead Marshes, New Dyke, Geldeston Marshes, Barsham Marshes, Gillingham Marshes, Beccles Marshes, Long Dam Level, Short Dam Level, Great Carr, Castle Marsh, Barnby Broad, Boundary Dyke, Share Marsh, White Cast Marshes and turns N at Oulton through Oulton Broad, Oulton Dyke, Oulton Marsh, Peto's Marsh, Burgh Marshes, Blundeston Marshes, Somerleyton Marshes, Wheatacre Marshes, Haddiscoe Marshes, Thorpe Marshes before joining Thurlton Marshes and the largest area.


Birds seen (this is a composite list from all my visits).

  • Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus
  • Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope
  • Eurasian Teal Anas crecca
  • Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
  • Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
  • Osprey Pandion haliaetus
  • Common Crane Grus grus
  • Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus
  • Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
  • Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
  • Eurasian Golden-Plover Pluvialis apricaria
  • Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
  • Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus
  • Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
  • Carrion Crow Corvus corone


Notable plants found in Norfolk Broads and other East Anglican fens (follows Stace)

  • Fibrous Tussock-sedge Carex appropinquata
  • Lesser Tussock-sedge Carex diandra
  • Downy-fruited Sedge Carex filiformis
  • Cowbane Cicuta virosa
  • Great Fen-sedge Cladium mariscus
  • Narrow-leaved Marsh-orchid Dactylorhiza traunsteineri
  • Oblong-leaved Sundew Drosera intermedia
  • Great Sundew Drosera longifolia
  • Round-leaved Sundew Drosera rotundifolia
  • Crested Buckler-fern Dryopteris cristata
  • Opposite-leaved Pondweed Groenlandia densa
  • Marsh Pea Lathyrus palustris
  • Fen Orchid Liparis loeselii
  • Holly-leaved Naiad Najas marina
  • Fine-leaved Water-dropwort Oenanthe aquatica
  • River Water-dropwort Oenanthe fluviatilis
  • Tasteless Water-pepper Persicaria laxiflora
  • Milk-parsley Peucedanum palustre
  • Sharp-leaved Pondweed Potamogeton acutifolius
  • Grass-wrack Pondweed Potamogeton compressus
  • Brackish Water-crowfoot Ranunculus baudotii
  • Ivy-leaved Crowfoot Ranunculus hederaceus
  • Hairy Buttercup Ranunculus sardous
  • Sea Radish Raphanus raphanistrum
  • Water Dock Rumex hydrolapathum
  • Spiral Tasselweed Ruppia cirrhosa
  • Beaked Tasselweed Ruppia maritima
  • Fen Ragwort Senecio paludosus
  • Bladder Campion Silene vulgaris
  • Greater Water-parsnip Sium latifolium
  • Marsh Sow-thistle Sonchus palustris
  • Water-soldier Stratiotes aloides
  • Lesser Bladderwort Utricularia minor
  • Greater Bladderwort Utricularia vulgaris
  • Cranberry Vaccinium oxycoccos
  • Fen Violet Viola persicifolia


Author: BSG