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International acclaim for Norfolk's nature


North Norfolk is hugely important to wildlife. The number of nationally and internationally major wildlife designations and sites is impressive. And they include some of Europe's most important nature sites - all protected by European law.

The Norfolk coastline is peppered with naturalist acronyms from UK and European organisations. Together they mean this region is a very special place.

It is a place of international significance for the habitat it provides for many rare species including birds, butterflies, sea-life, and plants.

It is quite simply one of Europe’s best places to see and experience peace, quiet and the wild beauty of nature.

A host of organisations and societies have an overlapping interest in protecting and preserving, maintaining and managing, recording and reconciling modern life and conflicting interests with this wonderful coastline, its saltmarshes, mudflats and farmland which together provide the perfect home for all manner of varieties of wildlife.

Most people will recognise the initials AONB or an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The North Norfolk Coast AONB covers nearly 174 square miles (450 sq km) stretching from The Wash in the west to Winterton in the east. It includes Hunstanton, Wells, Blakeney, Sheringham, Cromer and Mundesley including Norfolk’s highest point, the 300ft Cromer Ridge.

Within the AONB is England’s largest National Nature Reserve (NNR) at Holkham, ten miles from Blakeney along the A149.

The Holkham NNR is part of the North Norfolk Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSI) and part of it is also protected through Natura 2000 – a European designation for areas of special protection for birds and habitats providing a haven for Europe’s most valuable and threatened species.

Additionally it is a Special Protection Area (SPA) – an EU directive covering the conservation of habitats for migrating and threatened wild birds, a Ramsar listings site with wetlands of international importance and important for conserving biological diversity, as well as a World Biosphere Reserve for its coastal marshes and dune systems.

All this adds up to North Norfolk from Blakeney to Burnham Overy Staithe in the west being a bit special.

The good news is that the 10,000 acres of reserve and farmland, managed by Natural England and the Holkham Estate, is criss-crossed with footpaths for the public to explore and experience its beauty and rich wildlife from seals, birds, butterflies, plants and deer. Holkham also organises tours to explore different parts of the reserve with naturalists and experts. It also has an outstanding website which gives you a feel of what you can do and how to plan your day or days out at the Holkham reserve.

Other parts of the coastline are managed by the National Trust (NT), Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) with interest from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) - which has a reserve at Titchwell - the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and many other interested organisations.

Blakeney Point, a four mile spit of shingle, sand dunes, salt marshes and mudflats, is another National Nature Reserve. Its biodiversity has been studied for a century and it is of European significance with a host of designations including a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area, extra protection via European recognition in Natura 2000, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Ramsar listings.

This site is also part of the North Norfolk AONB and a World Biosphere Reserve. It is an important site for breeding birds, especially terns, and for migrating birds while Britain’s largest colony of grey and common seals is situated at the west end of the spit.

It is considered one of the most important nesting sites for terns in Europe and Britain’s most important site for Sandwich and Little Terns.

This spit is managed by the National Trust and their website is a great starting point for discovering the wonders of this reserve and the Blakeney area in general.


A tidal creek cuts through the mudflats at Blakeney, Norfolk. this provides a home for a huge range of wildlife.
Mudflats and tidal creek at Blakeney, Norfolk, provide a haven for a huge range of wildlife

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