At Norfolk’s northwest corner, where The Wash meets the North Sea, Holme Dunes is superbly located to attract migrating birds.
It also holds a variety of important habitats which support numerous other wildlife species including natterjack toads, butterflies and dragonflies, as well as a large number of interesting plants.
DOWNLOAD the Holme Marsh walk map (PDF)
Various military remains from the Second World War can be glimpsed around the reserve, including the remnants of a target-railway used to train artillery.
Much earlier remains have also been discovered including Roman pottery and, in 1998, a well-preserved Bronze Age timber circle, which became known as ‘Seahenge’. The circle was uncovered by strong tides, having been hidden for some 4,000 years. No longer at Holme, the structure was removed for preservation purposes by archaeologists. It is now on view at King’s Lynn Museum.
Probably planted to help stabilise the dunes, this spiky silvery shrub is prevalent here. In autumn, its bright orange berries are a godsend to the thousands of migrating birds, such as wintering thrushes, that stop off at Holme.
There are few sights in Norfolk more evocative than the ghostly form of a barn owl carefully quartering the fields and dykes. NWT Holme Dunes is one of the best places to catch up with the ethereal birds as they hunt silently over the grazing marshes in the late afternoon. Calm days are the best time to observe them.
This unmistakeable black-and-white wader, with its characteristic upturned bill, breeds in small numbers on the reserve, and can often be watched feeding in front of the hides during the summer.
Migrating and vagrant birds
The unique location of NWT Holme Dunes means it attracts large numbers of migrating birds. In spring, wheatears and warblers are common, with large numbers of finches and thrushes in the autumn. Scarce migrants such as wryneck, yellow-browed warbler and barred warbler are almost annual. When the conditions are just right, thousands of tired migrants take shelter among the scrub and dunes in what is known as a ‘fall’.
Holme is a good place to seawatch: with the correct winds gannets, skuas, terns and divers can be watched passing by the coastline in their hundreds.
From Hunstanton head north along the A149 Coast Road for 4km (2.5 miles), where you will then take a left turn and drive down Beach Road. The reserve is signposted. Please park in the NWT car park on the left- hand side of the track. Entrance to the nature reserve and start of the trails are beside the visitor centre. A number of hides overlook the pools and grazing marshes. There is a charge for non-NWT members.
The Lynx Coastliner bus stops on the main road 3km (1.9 miles) away.
Access for those with limited mobility
From the car park it is possible to access the Norfolk Coast Path via a hardened path. The coastal path which runs adjacent to the reserve has some sections of easy access boardwalk. The reserve also has some sections of boardwalk/hardened paths leading to one accessible hide.
No specific disabled car parking bays but a rough surface leads to the centre and a ramp to the entrance and patio area. The unisex toilets are wheelchair accessible but are only available when the centre is open.
Please note that the dunes and their wildlife are very susceptible to erosion and disturbance, so please follow all on-site access instructions. During busy periods in the summer visitor numbers may be limited.