A magnet for birdwatchers and nature-lovers in the region and beyond.

Nature Bathing & Birdwatching at Carlton Marshes Nature Reserve

Carlton Marshes Nature Reserve is a magnet for birdwatchers and nature-lovers in the region and beyond. Yet regardless of whether you are actively interested in birdwatching, it’s just such a lovely area to explore. We feel very lucky to have it located literally on our doorstep, and it’s free entry too. Plus, everyone agrees, that a long stroll around the Reserve leaves you with a spring in your step, regardless of the time of year.

Not long ago, the location benefited from an investment of over £4m worth of National Lottery Heritage funds, which transformed it into a southern gateway to the Broads National Park. Situated in the Waveney Valley, the southern tip of the Norfolk Broads, it’s technically part of the Suffolk Broads. The reserve is a beautiful combination of flower studded marsh, peat pools, fens, tall fen, short fen meadow, pools, dykes and scrub.

At Carlton Marshes you will find 1,000 acres of wildness and ample water, which has arrived back onto the land and allowed nature to take over again. Twenty-eight species of dragonflies have been spotted here at Carlton Marshes. Other species you might see include barn owls, bearded tits, frogbits, marsh harriers, ragged-robins, water-soldiers, bogbeans, Cetti’s warblers and Norfolk hawkers.

The habitat is considered to be coastal, floor plain grazing marsh, a lowland fen and reedbed. Mostly, these habitats are man-made but have developed over hundreds of years with the support of traditional management to become what it is now – home to a host of specialised wildlife. Effectively, this reserve is just like the Broads in miniature. All in all, a paradise for marsh land birds and birds of prey.

If you’re planning a visit we definitely recommend a hearty breakfast with us first (opting for the Full English, Eggs Florentine or Eggs Royale) served until 9.30am in our Crooked Barn restaurant (£12 for non-residents). If you plan a trip to the reservoir on a Sunday, many of our guests enjoy a stroll at the Reserve after breakfast to work up an appetite for our Sunday Carvery (booking your table is highly recommended, as we do get busy).

Carlton Marshes: Claims to Fame

• Princess Anne visited in May 2021 to open the new visitor centre
• Carlton Marshes hit the national headlines when its visitor numbers soared during lockdown as more people connected with nature and enjoyed bird life, fresh air and beautiful wetland landscape.
• It’s one of the best places in the UK for freshwater snails, which shows just how good the water quality is in the dykes!
• It’s also one of the best spots in East Anglia to witness Grasshopper Warblers
• A couple of years ago, staff at the reserve spotted a grey seal on their ‘otter cams’ – and the seal made the local headlines after its found its way inland to the marshes.

Feel-Good Factors Behind Bird Watching

Speaking of feeling good in nature, in a journal about the positive changes experienced during Covid-19 lockdown by L William (Jan 2021), the paper revealed that 70% of people spent more time doing enjoyable things such as spending more time in nature or being outdoors (65%). Carlton Marshes has certainly witnessed this over the last 18 months or so, with more visitors keen to explore its expansive and stunning backdrop. Regardless of whether you’re a semi-professional twitcher or simply a bird admirer, a long stroll around the Reserve is guaranteed to dust out the cobwebs and instil those all-important feel-good factors back into your world.

When to Visit:

Dawn to dusk, all year around. Free car park

Carlton Marshes
Burnt Hill Lane
Carlton Colville
NR33 8HU