Common tern by Dave Kilbey 1/1

Explore: Cley to Salthouse

At the heart of this area of Living Coast is NWT Cley Marshes. Purchased in 1926, Cley Marshes is the oldest Wildlife Trust nature reserve in the UK. Today, it is one of the country's most popular birdwatching sites, attracting over 110,000 visitors each year. Various hides give fantastic views across pools and scrapes that are specially managed to attract a variety of breeding, wintering and passage birds. And over the years, Cley has hosted a huge number of rare birds – the reserve's position in the middle of the North Norfolk coastline makes it ideally placed to receive scarce visitors.
Cley’s eco-friendly visitor centre offers a wealth of information about the area’s wildlife and habitats, as well as commanding an impressive panoramic view across the landscape. Watch from the centre itself and you should soon see a marsh harrier, with its impressive four-foot wingspan, drifting across the reedbeds, or large flocks of geese passing noisily overhead. A number of paths and wheelchair-friendly boardwalks also lead around the reserve, allowing access to birdwatching hides that give a close-up view of visiting birds.

Just to the east of Cley Marshes is another NWT reserve: Salthouse Marshes. This is an excellent area of pools and extensive grazing marsh offering good views of waders and wildfowl. The few small clumps of bushes often harbour tired migrating birds in the spring and autumn, and in the winter snow buntings, frosty-looking songbirds from Scandinavia, are usually present to the delight of visiting photographers.

Also accessible from Cley is Blakeney Point, a spit of shingle (acquired by the National Trust in 1912) that stretches out to the west for several kilometres. It is possible to walk along the Point – in spring and autumn, if the conditions are right, many tired migrant birds might be seen, while in summer noisy sandwich, common and little terns nest. Large gatherings of common and grey seals also congregate at the end of the spit, and these can be more easily encountered by taking a wildlife boat trip from Blakeney or Morston.

The Cley to Salthouse Living Coast is definitely an area worth exploring.

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