Photo by Frederic Landes 1/8
Photo by Frederic Landes 3/8
Photo by Frederic Landes 4/8
Photo by Frederic Landes 5/8
Photo by Frederic Landes 6/8
Photo by Frederic Landes 7/8
Cley Marshes, photo by Barry Madden 8/8

Cley and Salthouse Marshes

NWT Cley Marshes is Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s oldest and best known nature reserve.

It was purchased in 1926 to be held 'in perpetuity as a bird breeding sanctuary'. It provided a blue print for nature conservation which has now been replicated across the UK. In 2012 an appeal helped purchase a further 57 hectares linking the two NWT reserves at Cley and Salthouse together, creating a single coastal reserve of more than 300 hectares. Today, Cley and Salthouse Marshes is one of the country’s most popular birdwatching sites, attracting more than 110,000 human visitors each year. The six hides (four of which are accessible via boardwalks) give fantastic views across pools and scrapes that are specially managed to attract breeding and passage birds. The award-winning visitor centre features interactive interpretation, regularly changing exhibitions, and a well-stocked gift and book shop.

The Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre provides popular events, workshops, performances, guided walks and seasonal festivals. The centre is named in memory of naturalist, Simon Aspinall (1958 – 2011) in recognition of his contribution to ornithology and nature conservation, both in the UK and abroad.

There is also a large café which serves tasty local produce and offers panoramic views over the marshes and coastline.

Visitor centre phone number: 01263 740008
Explore the huge range of events, workshops and activities we have taking place at Cley Marshes!


The main access point for NWT Cley and Salthouse Marshes is located 0.8km (0.5 miles) east of Cley Next the Sea village, on the Coast Road – A149 towards Sheringham. Regular buses stop outside the visitor centre – non-members can present their ticket for a reduced entrance fee to the hides (the visitor centre is free to all). Access to the hides is free to members and children, with a charge for non-members. The Coast hopper bus also stops in the village of Salthouse where public footpaths pass through the reserve leading to the beach. The entire reserve can be circumnavigated by a series of walking tracks, which also lead into the village of Cley to the west and Salthouse to the east. Car parking is available at the centre, with additional parking available at the beach car park (all parking free to members, charge for non-members).

The visitor centre and some paths are fully accessible for wheelchair users.

  • Reserve: From the visitor centre car park, cross the road using a pedestrian crossing to enter the reserve. There is a hardened (compacted hoggin) path: left leads to a boardwalk, with passing areas, to the hides; right leads to Bishops Hide. Continuing in this direction it is possible to access East Bank (there are steps and a slope for easy access) which is a raised bank with a hardened (compacted hoggin) path that stretches towards the beach overlooking all of the reserve.
  • Visitor Centre: disabled parking bays with a rough surface leading to the centre. There are push button doors, a lift to access the main centre, disabled toilets, a hearing loop and a wheelchair available.

Migrating and rare birds
Cley and Salthouse Marshes is justifiably popular with birders as over the years the Marshes (and surrounding area) have hosted a huge number of rare birds; the reserve’s position in the middle of the Norfolk coastline makes it ideally placed to receive scarce visitors, as well as thousands of common ones. Among the rarest birds have been a white-crowned sparrow from North America, a Pacific swift, a red-necked stint from Asia and a rock sparrow from southern Europe. To the eastern part of the reserve, Salthouse beach comes alive in winter when wintering snow buntings usually take up residence. In some years, rarer Lapland buntings and shore larks also join them. Although there are many species of interest using the site in summer and winter, spring and autumn are undoubtedly the best times for rarer birds to show up, but almost anything is possible at any time. Check at the visitor centre for the latest sightings.

One of the most spectacular birds that visitors to NWT Cley and Salthouse Marshes might spot, is also one of the UK’s most recent avian colonists. Similar in build to a grey heron, though slightly smaller, the spoonbill’s plumage is completely white, except in the breeding season when adults show a small patch of yellowish feathers on their chest. But by far their most noticeable feature is the one for which they are named – that enormous, spatula-like bill. The species had not bred in Norfolk for over 300 years until, in 2010, a colony was discovered at Holkham marshes, where six pairs raised ten chicks. Birds from the colony frequently visited Cley’s pools to feed, and will hopefully continue to do so in years to come.

Snow bunting
A little bigger than a sparrow and with predominantly white plumage, mixed with patches of warm brown and chestnut, the snow bunting is a frosty jewel of a bird. Despite its colouration, the species can be surprisingly hard to pick out as it feeds among the shingle – its plumage makes perfect camouflage, moulding into the winter landscape. Snow buntings visit the UK’s coastline in small numbers each winter, with around a thousand individuals settling on the beaches of Norfolk between November and March. Salthouse is arguably the best site in the county to watch this species, with a small flock often present.

Marine life
An amazing array of colourful marine life lives just offshore from Cley and Salthouse Marshes, around various shipwrecks, and as part of the 32km (20 mile) Cromer Shoal Chalk Reef which stretches east from Cley to Trimingham. Among the many colourful species found are the comical Tompot blenny and various crabs, anemones, sea squirts and sea slugs. It was designated a Marine Conservation Zone in 2016.

Marsh harrier
You shouldn’t have to sit long before a marsh harrier drifts into view. The initial clue is usually a sudden scattering of flocks of gulls, ducks and wadering birds from the pools and scrapes. Present all year, NWT Cley and Salthouse Marshes is one of the best places in the UK to see this spectacular raptor.

Birds - Avocet, spoonbill, ringed plover, redshank, lapwing, bittern, marsh harrier, bearded tit

Birds - Avocet, spoonbill, ringed plover, redshank, lapwing, bittern, marsh harrier, bearded tit, sedge and reed warblers

Birds - Wigeon, pintail, tufted duck, bittern, marsh harrier, bearded tit, teal, little stint, curlew sandpiper, black-tailed godwit

Birds - Wigeon, pintail, brent goose, pink-footed goose, tufted duck, bittern, marsh harrier, bearded tit, teal, snow bunting and seawatching from shingle bank
Car park charges for some visitors will be introduced at Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Cley and Salthouse Marshes visitor centre car park from Monday 2 August. The income will contribute to the work required for the upkeep of car parks, footpaths and the conservation management of the nature reserve. It will also help with improving our understanding of who is using our site and how. Parking will be free for the following:
  • Members of Norfolk Wildlife Trust
  • Residents of Cley and Salthouse villages
  • Non-members who purchase a ticket to the paid entry part of the nature reserve
  • Non-members who are attending a paid event
  • Blue badge holders
Below are some Frequently Asked Questions which we hope will answer any queries you have, but if not please ask at the visitor centre and we will be happy to help.

If I am a member of Norfolk Wildlife Trust or a resident of Cley or Salthouse, how do I get free parking?
Members: We have sent all adult members a temporary permit in our Spring 2021 mailing. Fill in your name/s and membership number and place this on your dashboard. When you next renew your membership, as well as membership cards we will send you an annual permit to replace the temporary one. Life members will be sent durable permits later this spring. If you need additional or replacement permits, please speak to the visitor centre reception.
Residents: Please show your proof of residence at the visitor centre reception where you will be issued with an annual NWT Car Park permit.

If I am purchasing a ticket to go on the paid entry part of the nature reserve or attending a paid event how do I get free parking?
When paying for your tickets at the visitor centre reception you will be issued with a car parking daily ticket valid for that day. Those non-members purchasing online or over the phone for an event will be issued with a daily ticket on arrival at reception.

What is the charging period and how much do you pay?
The charging period is from 10am to 5pm every day, charging will be for a half day rate (3 hours) at £3 and a full day rate (6 hours) at £5.

If I have paid for parking at the NWT Cley beach car park can I then also park at the NWT Cley and Salthouse Marshes Visitor Centre car park?
Yes, you will be able to use your ticket in either car park during the paid for ticket period.

What happens if I arrive before 10am and after 5pm?
If you require a ticket and arrive early, purchase it when you arrive and the charging period on your ticket will begin at 10am. If you are in the car park after 5pm you will need to ensure your ticket covers you until 5pm only. Please note overnight parking is not allowed.

What if the pay-and-display machine isn’t working?
Staff and volunteers are on hand in the visitor centre to help visitors. If the car park machine is out of order, please see if there is someone available to help you. If not, where possible please leave a note in your windscreen with your arrival time.

Getting to and from the machine is difficult for me. What are you doing to help?
If you have mobility issues and you are a Blue Badge holder, you are able to park for free as long as you display your badge. We recognise that for many with mobility issues this may be your only method of travelling to the site.

What if I am not one of those eligible for free parking and wish to use the visitor centre facilities?
You will need to pay for your parking in order to access visitor centre facilities.

How will parking work at the NWT East Bank car park?  
This car park will remain free parking for all users.

What if I don’t have the correct method of payment?
The pay-and-display machines in the visitor centre car park will be card and cash. The pay and display machine at the NWT Cley Beach car park will be card only to reduce the potential security risk of a remotely-located machine.

What if I fail to display evidence of free parking or a valid ticket?
You will be issued with a compliance notice, you will not be fined.

How will the car parking charging scheme be managed and monitored?
It will be managed and monitored by the NWT Cley car parking attendant with additional support from staff and volunteers.

Have you given consideration to displacement parking elsewhere?
Yes we have, especially the visual impact of parked cars. We have charged for parking at the NWT Beach car park for a number of years, and have found no direct relationship between the charge and the small amount of parking off road in areas near to Beach Road or the end of Old Woman’s Lane. We will continue to manage and monitor displacement parking. There will be limited free parking at the East Bank car park off the A149 Coast Road.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust always seeks to encourage greener and more sustainable forms of transport to get to our nature reserves such as cycling and walking, as well as public transport with the coastal bus service on the doorstep at Cley, and lift sharing. Half price reserve entry is also offered to visitors travelling on the coast hopper.

Download the Cley information leaflet:
   Download the Cley information leaflet Download   



Post code
NR25 7SA
Map reference
OS Landranger 133
Grid reference
TG 054 440
SPA, SAC, SSSI, Ramsar
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Best time to visit
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Upcoming events at Cley and Salthouse Marshes

Sarah Weston: Rural and Wild Norfolk, Cley and Salthouse Marshes
Wed 14 Feb 2024 - Tue 27 Feb 2024
Event Info
Robert Gillmor Retrospective , Cley and Salthouse Marshes
Sat 17 Feb 2024 - Thu 04 Apr 2024
Event Info
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