Sweet Briar Marshes FAQs

Why is the site important?

Sweetbriar Marshes is significant in its scale (36.6 hectares/90 acres) in Norwich, the largest urban centre in Norfolk. 
Much of this land is designated in recognition of its value for wildlife, by Natural England as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and by Norfolk Wildlife Trust as a County Wildlife Site (CWS). 

The site is bordered by the River Wensum, the largest chalk-fed river in Norfolk.  In its wider context, the site is part of a near continuous chain of wildlife-rich habitats running along the Wensum River valley corridor – making it the city’s most important highway for nature.

It is particularly unusual for a site of this quality and size to remain within an urban area and still be subject to regular winter flooding, supporting wildlife and acting as a sponge to protect local residential areas.

Our urban wildlife is increasingly under threat from our impact, and nature exists in smaller and smaller disconnected pockets of wildness. A flagship urban nature reserve of this scale will give wildlife in Norwich – including many species of conservation concern – a better chance to survive and thrive. 

Now, more than ever, we also recognise the importance of nature to our own wellbeing. A healthier, wilder, and more accessible Sweet Briar Marshes will provide local communities with a valuable connection to the natural world. Just as an example, with 40 schools within two miles of the site, local children will have the opportunity to be healthier and better connected to nature too.

Which species benefit from the site?

The Marshes are home to significant species of conservation concern. The main botanical interest lies in the wet grassland and associated ditches which support a number of plant species that are rare or scarce in Norfolk, including small water-pepper, tasteless water-pepper, tubular water-dropwort and lesser marshwort. There are large numbers of southern marsh orchid as well as early marsh orchid and common spotted orchid is abundant in the dry grassland. 

Both water vole and water shrew occur on the site along with regular, recent sightings of otter. The ephemeral pools contain a substantial common toad and frog population. Breeding bird interest includes 10 species of conservation concern including reed bunting. Snipe has bred until relatively recently and a number of other wetland species are known to breed nearby.

What is NWT’s vision for the site?

NWT wants to establish a wilder Norwich for all.  Sweet Briar Marshes, given its proximity to Norwich, gives a great opportunity to protect urban wildlife at scale, improve conservation connectivity along the Wensum River corridor, and bring urban communities closer to nature.

Is this just for Norwich residents?

No. Our members and the many visitors to Norwich will also be able to access the nature reserve when Sweet Briar Marshes is opened to the public. This is a wilder Norwich for all.

How did we raise the money to buy the estate?

£300,000 was raised following a public appeal, and amazingly, Aviva matched that pound for pound up to another £300,000. 

Does Aviva’s contribution mean that it will have a stake in ownership or control of the site?

Aviva are long-term supporters of NWT, and provide financial contributions in a number of ways for purely charitable reasons. They have recently announced the ‘Aviva Sustainability Vision’ for their corporate strategy, and NWT’s plans at Sweet Briar Marshes are seen as a practical way that they can follow this, in the county where 5,000 Aviva staff live and work. NWT are very grateful for Aviva’s generous support, given in return for no title, ownership or influence over the management of the site. 

How can I help?

If you would like to be kept up to date on our progress at Sweet Briar Marshes and how you can support the project, or for opportunities to get involved in the future, please get in touch:

[email protected]

When will I be able to visit Sweet Briar Marshes?

Now we have met our appeal target and secured the land, we will begin a ‘Discovery phase’ which will include planning public access to Sweet Briar Marshes in consultation with the local community.  This will allow us time to consider the best access routes that protect the tranquillity of the site for wildlife whilst still providing people with a vital connection to nature. We anticipate that this Discovery phase will run during 2023.  In the meantime you can view the site from Marriott’s Way.

Will it cost money to visit Sweet Briar Marshes?

This nature reserve will be free to visit when it opens to the public.  

To help us manage and care for the site, NWT will continue to seek support e.g. through membership and donations.