Bearded reedling by Julian Thomas 1/7
NWT Salthouse Marshes by Richard Osbourne 2/7
Avocet at Cley by Mike Rawlings 3/7
Reed cutting by Barry Madden 4/7
Teal in flight by Peter Dent 5/7
Wigeon at Cley by Liz Dack 6/7
Marsh harrier by Brian Macfarlane 7/7

Discover: Cley to Salthouse

The complex of reserves along the coast from NWT Cley Marshes to NWT Salthouse Marshes protects a great range of habitats. Historically saline, much of the area was embanked in the sixteenth century to create freshwater grazing marshes which were better for livestock than saltmarshes. These grazing marshes are fed by water from springs rising from the underlying chalk which was laid down in the Late Cretaceous. The marshes are winter habitat for wigeon, teal and dark-bellied brent geese, breeding habitat for redshank and lapwing, and a stopover for many wildfowl and waders. Among the grazing marshes are areas of reedbed which are home to marsh harriers, bearded tits, water rails, reed buntings, wainscot moths and numerous warblers.

Explore the links to our species profiles and learn what has been seen recently (and what you could see), or share your photos of Cley to Salthouse wildlife in our gallery.
Cley to Salthouse, photo by Mike Page
To the north, along the shore, are Norfolk’s most important area of coastal shingle and small areas of brackish marsh and saltmarsh. In summer the shingle blazes with the blooms of yellow horned poppy, common cat’s-ear, sea campion and bird’s-foot trefoil while in winter it is the foraging habitat of snow buntings, Lapland buntings and linnets. The brackish habitats are home to one of the UK’s only populations of the starlet sea anemone and the haunt of little egret, redshank, shelduck and oystercatcher.
The ridge behind the coastal marshes is composed of sand and gravel pushed on top of the chalk by an ice sheet during the Ice Age. Sand is low in nutrients and poor at retaining water so, once post-Ice-Age forest had been felled, scrubby heathland developed, especially where grazing was maintained. The heaths of the Cley to Salthouse Living Landscape are some of the finest in Norfolk, composed of a rich mosaic of common ling, bell heather and western gorse and home to adders, Dartford warblers, nightjars, woodcock, silver-studded blue butterflies and many other species. In some places, such as at Holt Lowes and along the river Glaven, chalk springs feed small areas of fen. These alkaline wetlands and the wet woods around them are home to a bewildering array of species including marsh helleborine, Pugsley’s marsh orchid, fen fragrant orchid, wood horsetail, mezereon, emerald damselfly and bog pimpernel.

Connecting these nature reserves and special places are areas of farmland and gardens. Farms in the Cley to Salthouse Living Landscape support brown hares, grey partridges, barn owls, kestrels, yellowhammers and many other species which have declined in much of the country.

A Living Coast Project

Following a highly successful appeal we have now started to lift this project off the drawing board on to the ground. Connecting and improving 8km of nature reserves will enhance this important coastal and marine habitat and will be supported by the new flagship Simon Aspinall Wildlife Centre and an innovative programme to improve learning and understanding of wildlife and their habitats.  

Simon Aspinall Wildlife Centre

Simon Aspinall was a naturalist and conservationist who made major contributions to ornithology and conservation. His love of the natural world, his personal and professional dedication to conservation of wildlife and wild landscapes, and his generosity in sharing experiences, ideas and knowledge about wildlife are recognised and reflected in our plans for a new wildlife centre at Cley Mashes.

Designer's impression

Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre, image by LSI ArchitectsThe building of the Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre will start in May 2014 and the centre should be up and running by next Easter-time. The works include improvements to the existing Visitor Centre and the construction of a new viewing deck to provide even  more panoramic views across the Cley Marshes.

Careful management will minimise disruption to the existing Visitor Centre and to our education and interpretation programme and the message is 'business as usual'. However, some disruption is inevitable: for example, the rear courtyard will be closed to visitors from the start of construction. We hope that visitors will bear with us during this exciting time of change.

Environmental sustainability has always been an important principle in everything we do and the visitor centre at Cley has been a great example. Because of the lack of space the existing wind turbine will be replaced with new forms of energy generation and heating will be introduced which will be even greener.  

Pope's Marsh

The area of land known as Pope's Marsh was the missing piece in the jigsaw of salt and grazing marsh, freshwater and saline pools, reedbed and shingle bank along this special coast.

Pope's Marsh was used for intensive commercial wildfowling for decades and needs sensitive restoration. The plans include the draining and cleaning of dykes and pools and re-grading banks; fencing, bridges, paths and hides to protect and improve opportunities to access this habitat; and new interpretation. This will happen over two years or so and we are limited to when works can take place because of the breeding and migratory seasons.

The storm surge damage in December 2013 affected the site and our planning, but it has helped us understand the impact of storms and flooding, the encroachment of salt water, habitat regeneration and species recovery. On a positive note the breaches in the shingle bank have self-repaired and appear to have held during recent high tides. Changes to the shingle bank present opportunities for new habitats, for example for ground nesting birds such as oyster catchers, avocet and ringed plover.

Interpretation and education

Education, participation and interpretation are building blocks of our approach to connecting people with inspirational wildlife and wild spaces. Our ambitions for the Living Coast will develop this further. New audiovisual presentations are being commissioned, with subjects including Norfolk’s chalk feef, the local and international significance of Cley Marshes and 'Saving Species' a presentation demonstrating NWT's work in action.  

The new wildlife centre will also enable us to increase our formal and informal education and awareness programmes.

The sustainability of our plans depends on the contributions that local groups or individuals can make through their photographs, videos and memories, all of which we can incorporate into our programmes.

Coming soon...

  • Latest wildlife sightings for the Cley to Salthouse Living Landscape.
  • A way to submit your Cley to Salthouse wildlife sightings to us.

News stories, A living landscape

2018-05-22 Wildlife in Common Wildlife in Common
Tuesday 22 May, 2018
A two year project celebrating Norfolk’s commons and their wildlife and heritage has begun,  run by Norfol...
2017-12-08 Be ‘eagle’ eyed this winter Be ‘eagle’ eyed this winter
Friday 08 December, 2017
Winter is often a very good time of year to spot birds of prey. As the trees have lost their leaves the silhouettes o...
2017-12-05 Cley Calling celebrates Norfol Cley Calling celebrates Norfolk’s starry skies this weekend
Tuesday 05 December, 2017
Do you know your mallard from your gadwall? Do you fancy a spot of frosty storytelling with a glass of mulled wine? Y...
2017-10-02 New report links volunteering New report links volunteering in nature with better mental health
Monday 02 October, 2017
A new report which examines the effects of volunteering in nature on people’s mental health is published by The...
2017-09-20 Cley Calling – Autumn Colours Cley Calling – Autumn Colours
Wednesday 20 September, 2017
This autumn, you can explore North Norfolk’s colourful coastal landscape and culture as part of NWT’s ...
2017-09-19 Celebrating two decades of rub Celebrating two decades of rubbish help for biodiversity
Tuesday 19 September, 2017
It feels counterintuitive - the waste we produce helping to restore habitats and conserve some of Norfolk’s mos...
2017-09-11 Breeding redshank return to Ro Breeding redshank return to Roydon Common after 40 years
Monday 11 September, 2017
A new noise has joined the cacophony of bubbling curlew, drumming snipe and the ‘tooo-wips’ of lapwing th...
2017-06-27 Norfolk's magical meadows Norfolk's magical meadows
Tuesday 27 June, 2017
Norfolk Wildlife Trust is leading a free meadow tour of Mulbarton Common this Saturday 1 July 2017 as part of The ...
2017-06-07 From Dartmoor to Breckland From Dartmoor to Breckland
Wednesday 07 June, 2017
New ponies settle in to manage Cranwich Camp, Norfolk.  Sixteen Dartmoor Ponies are settling in to their new...
2017-05-03 Cley Calling - Spring Song Cley Calling - Spring Song
Wednesday 03 May, 2017
Musicians and artists celebrate spring at the North Norfolk Coast From Thursday 4 May to Sunday 7 May, Norfolk Wi...
2017-04-18 £1 million target reached to s £1 million target reached to secure future of international wetland Hickling Broad
Tuesday 18 April, 2017
Norfolk Wildlife Trust has announced today that the £1 million target had been reached through donations to the...
2017-03-15 'Microsculpture' 'Microsculpture'
Wednesday 15 March, 2017
'Microsculpture' is a unique exhibition resulting from a ground breaking insects project by Levon Biss, Briti...
2017-03-07 Celebrating 'The Year of Norfo Celebrating 'The Year of Norfolk’s Nature' - photography competition
Tuesday 07 March, 2017
Norfolk Wildlife Trust today [Wednesday 8 March 2017] announced the winner of its photographic competition celebratin...
2017-02-16 Do some 'fun raising' and Do some 'fun raising' and "Help Hickling" Broad
Thursday 16 February, 2017
Norfolk Wildlife Trust has an ambitious target of raising £1 million by 31 March 2017 to help it purchase 655 a...
2017-02-02 World Wetlands Day celebrates World Wetlands Day celebrates major public commitment to securing Norfolk’s finest wetland
Thursday 02 February, 2017
Norfolk Wildlife Trust has announced today on World Wetlands Day that over £500,000 has been donated so far to ...
2017-01-14 Sea Flooding at NWT Cley Marsh Sea Flooding at NWT Cley Marshes Nature Reserve
Saturday 14 January, 2017
Update: 18 January 2017 Following the flooding at the weekend, reserve staff are now carrying out a clean-up and ...
2016-12-06 A strong step towards securing A strong step towards securing Hickling Broad
Tuesday 06 December, 2016
Norfolk Wildlife Trust has announced that over £128,000 has been donated so far as a result of it launching the...
2016-11-21 It's time to chat about the ba It's time to chat about the bat
Monday 21 November, 2016
Join bat expert John Goldsmith for an evening this Thursday [24 November] discovering the secret lives of these noctu...
2016-11-02 Hickling Broad - urgent appeal Hickling Broad - urgent appeal to secure future of historic Norfolk wildlife haven
Wednesday 02 November, 2016
 Norfolk Wildlife Trust today announced it is launching a £1 million appeal to secure the future of one of...
2016-07-11  A wild morning in Reffley – t A wild morning in Reffley – this Saturday!
Monday 11 July, 2016
Join Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Reffley Community Association and the Gaywood Valley Conservation Group for a fun packed...
2016-05-13 Competition to name King’s Lyn Competition to name King’s Lynn Wildlife Area
Friday 13 May, 2016
Ideas are being sought from members of the public for a name to give to a publicly accessible wildlife area which is ...
2016-03-11 Taking action for county wildl Taking action for county wildlife
Friday 11 March, 2016
Norfolk Wildlife Trust has been awarded £81,600 from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HL...
2016-02-04 Towering tractors to help tiny Towering tractors to help tiny wildlife
Thursday 04 February, 2016
A huge transformation has begun using heavy machinery at two sites in the Brecks managed by Norfolk Wildlife Trust. T...
2015-12-04 Winter wildlife survey to help Winter wildlife survey to help protect species in Norfolk
Friday 04 December, 2015
Norfolk Wildlife Trust launches a new wildlife spotter survey to record sightings of mistletoe, stoat and tree sparro...