We want to hear why Cley is special to you. Did you come here as a child and see your first little tern? Have you brought your own children here to explore?
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I have been visiting Cley for just about 50 years. In those early visits there were no hides and most regular bird watchers congregated along the East Bank, usually assembling where ever Richard Richardson was holding court. An alternative on a sunny summer day was to sit amongst the small dunes overlooking Arnold's Marsh and watch the terns and waders active there.
There was not a great deal of rarity information at that time, but I was lucky enough on several occasions to be at Cley when something exciting was happening. One evening before driving home, Richard Richardson dashed up on his motorcycle and shouted "Black Eared Wheatear at Salthouse". On another occasion he arrived in similar fashion to draw our attention to a Black Kite circling over the Walsey Hills; a first for Norfolk. On an early visit to the East Bank we were all signalled to come off the top and walk down on the side hidden from from the Salthouse side where two Pectoral Sandpipers were feeding quite near to the bank.
On one cold November day I was fortunate to see a Long-billed Dowitcher not far from the end of the East Bank. On another November day, the warden Billy Bishop, took Michael Seago and me on to the reserve, a rare treat in the days before hides, to see a Grey Phalarope, flushing Jack Snipe en route.
A May evening visit was a regular feature to see a few Ruffs displaying on the then grazing marsh not far from the present Bishops' Hide. In due course the first visitors' centre was built on the high ground across the road but the nature but the May spectacle faded and to make the view from the centre more interesting a scrape was constructed in the area - Pat's Pool, in memory of Pat Luckett who was a regular visitor to the centre.
In more recent years we arrived one Bank Holiday to find the whole area crowded. A big twitch was in progress for a Little Whimbrel which I eventually managed to see at a considerable distance. On another twitch, yes I did succumb from time to time, I arrived at Blakeney just in time to see two Slender-billed Gulls fly away without getting a proper view. However, before driving home I decided to stop and have a quick look from the Richardson Public Hide by the road at Cley. Initially I was the only one in the hide and to my astonishment the two Slender-bills were feeding on the small scrape, one of the pair being very protective of the other if Black-headed Gulls came too close. Fortunately other bird watchers arrived to confirm that it was not all an illusion!
However, the pleasure of visiting this fine reserve goes beyond seeking rarities, the sight of a party of Black-tailed Godwits in full summer plumage, a group of Avocets wheeling against a blue sky, looking out for ringed geese and waders etc. all give a great deal of interest. Long may it continue.
I had to offer my support to this very worthy cause in endorsing Cley Marshes as the most amazing, beautiful and inspiring natural habitat I have ever had the pleasure to enjoy.
I first started visiting Cley as a keen 16 year old Birder - I wasn't able to drive myself being the age I was, but thankfully, I had older friends who shared my enthusiasm for Bird watching and were able to offer transport to Norfolk from Leicestershire where I lived (and still do). The 2 hour plus journey is always eagerly anticipated because at the end of it, the breath taking views and delightful smell of Cley provides what is always a great day out. The walks around the reserve, visiting the hides and looking out to sea from the shingle ridge are what Cley is all about. I am 53 years old now, and still get the same feelings every time I visit, which is whenever possible, several times annually. I love sharing the hides with the local birders, listening to the older members telling their stories of past sightings and helping with identification of rarer bird visitors which we don't encounter that often anywhere else. Cley always throws up something special, if not a true rarity, just the Bearded Reedlings flitting in and out of the reedbeds, or the elusive Bittern occasionally gracing us with its presence. Or just the 'normal' birds and mammals that are ever present going about their daily routines and giving such pleasure to us all.
It is important that the Norfolk Wildlife Trust is able to continue the excellent work in providing habitat for all our wildlife, in times when areas are being developed and destroyed, we need this sanctuary for now and forever!
Cley inspired me when I was at a bad place in my life - a recent family death and a marriage breakdown had me feeling that life was not so good. But after a brief few moments taking in the Cley air, all other things became irrelevant as the atmosphere and surroundings took over and nothing else mattered.
Cley does matter, as does the North Norfolk coastline as a whole, and if we can get the required funding to ensure a further stretch of this superb landscape can be preserved for all future generations, then I for one say go for it!
Cley is my saviour, my inspiration and above all else, simply the best!
John Hubbard was my father, who sadly passed away on 11th November 2011, appropriate for an old soldier. Dad loved North Norfolk and in particular the East Bank and reserve at Cley. He spent many hours on the reserve either with me as a child and young man or alone (I’m now aged 55!).
My specific memory is the first time Dad and I visited Cley Reserve, which was in 1967. Entrance tickets were purchased from a small timber shed on raised land , near to the East Bank car park, from whoever was in, on this occasion Billy Bishop, the original reserve warden. A marvellous man, who became good friends with Dad, a friendship which lasted for the rest of Billy’s life.
In Billy’s ‘shed’ were numerous bird species pictures, I forget how many in total, but around 50 species. Billy said to my Dad, ‘if your lad can identify half of the birds he can have his ticket’. Dad set me on and with great relief and some pride on Dad’s part I ‘got’ about 45 of the 50, and consequently was allowed access.
I could recount numerous tales, but I felt that was the one which indicated the simple life around Cley reserve and in general in the 60’s and the encouragement from its warden of anyone with an interest in ornithology and ‘his’ reserve.
I continue to visit North Norfolk from my home area of Nottinghamshire on a regular basis and walk on the east bank and beach, and sometimes the reserve, nostalgia and a genuine interest.
I wish the reserve and NWT success in the new venture and retention of the amazing natural and manmade reserve at Cley.
I grabbed a couple of hours on Cley bank to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the sunset and the birds. What a spectacle that was. Nature put on an incomparable display of sunset and birds. It just got better and better, and climaxed with a huge murmuration of starlings surrounding me. As I slowly turned to follow their passage, my eyes met a pair of spoonbills flying in to roost - my latest 'first'.
My mother always hoped that I would not lose touch with North Norfolk after she had gone and it seemed on that evening Cley put on such a stunning display for me that it was telling me there was no chance I ever could.
My first visit to Cley was over the Easter holidays 1964. As school friend's father had a long standing love affair with North Norfolk, and as a special treat he took us boys up there, giving the chance to visit Scolthead, Holme and Cley. New birds came thick and fast, from the barn owl hunting at dusk near our hotel to a solitary Brent goose lingering on Scolthead. There were exciting birds, too, at Cley, including ruffs and bearded tits, but one experience in particular stands out. We were walking to one of the hides on a path through the reedbed when we heard a strange, repeated bleating. We looked around, but couldn't find the source, until one of us spotted a drumming snipe, flying high above the reeds. We had seen snipe before, but this was the first time we had seen one drumming. Whenever I've heard drumming snipe since I think back to that first magical encounter.
On my first visit to the East Bank, in May 1967, Richard (Richardson) identified a Savi's Warbler. singing in the reeds next to the bank, which we were fortunate enough to see as well as hear, and which remains, to this day, my only Savi's Warbler ever.
Though the east bank is not what it was in terms of a "mecca" it is still a special place for me.
The excitement of seeing the skeins of geese flying over at dusk must be one of the great wonders of the birding world. That combined with a magical coastline with ever changing light patterns place this part of Norfolk as one of our true national treasures.
After many years of visiting Norfolk, my wife and I finally took the plunge and moved there, even though I have to commute back to London for part of the week.
There are many reasons why we did this, with Norfolk's natural beauty and wildlife high on the list.
These qualities are epitomised on the Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve at Cley - a jewel of a place that brings out the best not only in nature itself, but in those who visit too.
Today’s world needs all the civilising influences it can get, so it is important that Cley remains, even grows in importance.
Many of my memories are of lying on windswept shingle using the old-fashioned long telescope, or sitting on the Walsey Hills watching the marsh and listening to the Coypu munching away on the swamp south of the road.
Cley is much, much more than just a twitching venue. Other memories include watching an adult and a couple of juvenile bitterns from the old bittern hide, sea watching in the lee of the coastguards shelter, watching arctic skuas harrying terns just off-shore, my fist ever red-necked grebe along with other grebes, divers and guillemots on the sea, winter shore larks, a migrant robin being taken by a kestrel just inside the shingle bank, skimming stone with my kids ... I could go on all night.
I was struck by the beauty of the marsh harrier, my first sighting of such a magnificent bird, when it rose from the reeds and slowly covered the marsh. As I walked along the edge of the marsh by the coast road the barn owl that silently flew past from behind me made me gasp as it was only a few feet away, what a beautiful sight.
'Once seen never forgotten' is the best way for me to sum up Cley.
I first visited Cley in the 1950s and was captivated by this hauntingly beautiful landscape. I have returned as an adult with my own children to watch terns and oystercatchers, lapwings and harriers. Soon, I hope to bring my grandchild. Above all, Cley is a landscape in my mind and in my heart.
My favourite memory is the electric excitement of the pacific swift over Cley in May 1993. I will never forget the frantic desperation of myself until I got on to it skimming about amongst 5000 Common and others as they arrived. A car full from Nottingham screeched up with its doors open and occupants tumbling out onto the verge before it had stopped, a look of panic on their faces - to be swept away by elation and relief when they saw the swift.
The day that is undeniably marked in my memory is the 17th August 1959. I saw Bittern, Bearded Tits, Gadwall (scarce birds then), Terns and waders - all wonderful fare for me. Lunch time arrived and only a few of us remained on the Bank. A Harrier, my first of any species, appeared as if from nowhere and hunted slowly over the Marsh heading West towards Blakeney. None of those remaining were sure what species it was, being a ringtail bird. Down the bank came a man in a beret. We could somehow, see that he knew something about birds and so sought his advice as to the identity of the now distant bird. He raised his bins (no scopes then) and without hesitation declared "Monty's". We were to learn later that this was Richard Richardson. The impression made by him and the reserve at Cley has remained with me.
The Marshes still retain their special magic for me - golden reed beds, huge skies and the distant mill are an outstanding backdrop for a wonderful variety of birds.
Fifty years of excellent bird watching and endless pleasure.
The beauty of that area which I have known for 70 years is its wildness and isolation. The last thing it needs are coaches coming through the narrow streets of the delightful surrounding villages. Children learn through their parents and schools and best of all going on a quiet walk with just a few people not mass outings.We really do not want more buildings, the new [current] visitor centre is quite adequate and has an exhibition/lecture room.