Sweet Briar Marshes (credit: Stu McPherson) 1/3
Solstice walk at Sweet Briar Marshes (credit: Denzil Dean) 2/3
The river along Sweet Briar Marshes 3/3

Come and discover Sweet Briar Marshes!

Wednesday 08 May, 2024

We're delighted to be opening our new Norwich nature reserve this weekend. 

The 90-acre wildlife haven sits by the river Wensum in the northwest of the city and forms a ribbon of green through an urban environment, providing a nature burst for nearby residents – who have played a vital part in helping to shape our vision for the nature reserve. 

A series of free events will help people discover Sweet Briar Marshes, which is open to the public from Friday 10 May. 

On Sunday 12 May, hourly drop-in guided walks (from 10am-3pm) and a self-guided nature trail will give visitors the chance to get to know Norwich’s newest nature reserve. Children can take part in art and craft sessions and fill in spotter sheets. Members of staff will be on hand to answer questions and chat about plans. During the guided walks being led between 1 and 3pm, you’ll also get a chance to experience Kinship, a new poetry and sound project by artist Daisy Henwood, 2024’s commission for Nature Connects Us – a new creative partnership between us and Norfolk & Norwich Festival.  

Lunchtime and evening NWT drop-in guided walks will also run each day from Monday 13-Friday 17 May.  

Thanks to the partnership with Norfolk & Norwich Festival, there is artwork to discover at Sweet Briar Marshes. On Our Doorsteps is part of a nationwide project exploring the relationship between urban communities and the green spaces around us. People can view the newly commissioned temporary art from Friday 10 May-Sunday 9 June.  

We purchased Sweet Briar Marshes in 2022 to protect it from the threat of development, enhance its biodiversity and preserve it for the local community to enjoy. This was made possible thanks to support from our project partner Aviva, The Geoffrey Watling Charity, The Paul Bassham and Leslie Mary Carter Charitable Trusts, The Martin Laing Foundation and The Shelroy Charitable Trust alongside others, and with generous public donations.  

Over the last year, we have been working alongside the local community to develop a shared vision for the nature reserve. Over 1,000 people got involved. Central to the ethos of Sweet Briar Marshes is providing a nature experience for everyone. Priorities for opening have included installing an accessible path, which runs the length of the reserve, as well as several mown paths. Finishing touches to the accessible path will be completed in the next couple of weeks.  

Eliot Lyne, our CEO said: ‘Anyone visiting Sweet Briar Marshes this summer and seeing the meadows brimming with flowers, dragonflies and feeding butterflies will quickly understand why we must protect and nurture this precious wild space.  

‘Its proximity to Norwich also provides us with a great opportunity to connect more people with the natural world. Nature is for everyone, and we have been learning from many different groups how to break down barriers to access – something we’ll continue to progress.  

‘Our vision is that Sweet Briar Marshes is a shining example of a community-centered, inclusive and accessible nature reserve where ​wildlife thrives and everyone can experience, connect with and be inspired ​to care for nature.’ 

Work to protect and restore the incredible biodiversity of Sweet Briar Marshes is already underway. Generous funding from Biffa Award, as part of the Landfill Communities Fund, has paid for the essential infrastructure needed to introduce cattle for conservation grazing. Reserve staff and volunteers have started conservation management work, informed by results of wildlife surveys that established the current state of biodiversity. 

Leah Ramoutar, Director of Environmental Sustainability at Aviva said: ‘It is brilliant to see that Sweet Briar Marshes will now be open to the public so they can enjoy this beautiful nature reserve in the heart of Norwich where so many of our colleagues live and work. 

‘We are proud to have played our part - from supporting the campaign to raise funds through to a number of Aviva colleagues who have volunteered on the site to prepare it for this day. This reserve has an important role to play in reducing nature loss as well as mitigating the effects of climate change.’ 

Rachel Maidment, Biffa Award Grants Manager said: ‘Biffa Award is delighted to be able to support Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s project at Sweet Briar Marshes nature reserve. The urban restoration works that we have funded will go a long way to re-establish grazing to improve grassland conditions and restore a species-rich sward. Now more than ever it is extremely important that we support projects like this that promote nature’s recovery.’ 

With a mixture of wet meadows, ponds, mature woodland, dry grassland and scrub, Sweet Briar Marshes attracts an impressive variety of wildlife for an urban reserve. Surveys so far include evidence of nearly 1,000 species of invertebrate, over 200 species of flowering plant such as musk mallow, carrot and water mint and more than six types of bat. The natural habitat along the banks of the Wensum creates a natural corridor which allows wildlife to spread out and move freely across the county. 

This is just the start of the story for Sweet Briar Marshes. Facilities to help visitors get closer to nature such as bird-watching screens, further paths and more onsite information will form the next phase of work. Other priorities to come out of the community consultation, such as providing a small amount of accessible parking and toilets close by will take longer as they’ll need more planning, further design and consultation.

Visit our Sweet Briar Marshes nature reserve page here.  

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