Norfolk – early summer natural history
Norfolk is justly known as one of Britain’s best counties for wildlife. From a base just north of Norwich, we’ll explore a diverse range of habitats in search of early-summer wildlife.
We will spend one full day in Broadland, England’s most important lowland wetland, where Norfolk Hawker dragonflies and Swallowtail butterflies are among the rare creatures we may see on the wing over fens full of fascinating plantlife. Marsh Harriers are feeding chicks at this time of year, Bitterns are booming and Hobbies are feeding on the first flush of summer dragonflies.
We’ll also spend a day in Breckland, Norfolk’s historic sandy grassland, where Mediterranean plants and insects have their northern-most outposts and Stone Curlews have their national stronghold. Though the landscape has changed dramatically, with the introduction of modern agriculture and forestry, we’ll find quiet corners of the Brecks where we can still explore the fascinating history and natural history of these unique grasslands.
Heading to the famous North Norfolk Coast, we will take a privately-chartered boat trip out to Blakeney Point, where we will visit the busy colonies of breeding terns and pupping seals. We will also visit the famous Cley Marshes reserve, where we will watch elegant Avocets and dozing Spoonbills, and listen out for pinging Bearded Tits, and then head inland to Kelling Heath, where Dartford Warblers and Woodlark may be seen, with early butterflies and reptiles also in our sights.
3 – 7 June 2019
Single room supplement – £130
Four nights’ accommodation, full board basis. Local transport on excursions as specified in the itinerary. Blakeney Point boat trip.
Travel to Crostwick. Refreshments. Entrance fees for optional sightseeing. Gratuities. Travel insurance.
Day 1 Our holiday starts in Crostwick where we will meet this evening at our hotel in time for an introduction to the holiday and our first dinner together.
Day 2 We head south today and explore the Yare Valley. Strumpshaw Fen gives us access to alder woodland and open pools in the reedbeds. Here, Cetti’s Warbler may be heard singing, while we will also be listening out for the squeals of Water Rail. One of the stars of the reserve is the impressive Swallowtail, Britain’s largest butterfly, which is restricted to the fens of Broadland. Many dragonfly species will also be present, but the real local speciality is the Norfolk Hawker. Depending on time and weather, we may also visit the nearby grazing marshes at Buckenham. After dinner, we will head out to an area of heathland where, as dusk falls, we will listen for the churring of Nightjars and squeaking of Woodcock as they display overhead.
Day 3 No trip to Norfolk is complete without a visit to Breckland. This ancient grassland once covered a huge area but today only small remnants remain and the most celebrated among them is Weeting Heath. The stronghold of Stone Curlew conservation, this beautiful reserve also boasts an intact Breckland flora, though it is usually not possible to walk onto the grassland. Nearby we’ll visit the RSPB’s Lakenheath reserve, where Hobbies and Marsh Harriers hawk over head, while Common Cranes might be seen making feeding flights to and from their nest. Finally, given time, we will visit East Wretham Heath, among the largest nature reserves in Breckland, an area of grassy heaths, and fascinating fluctuating wetlands known as meres.
Day 4 Today we head to the North Norfolk Coast where we will start the day at Morston Quay. From here, we will take a boat trip out through the creeks and channels to the sand and single banks of Blakeney Point. Here we will find a large colony of seals, with both Grey Seal and Common (Harbour) Seal present in large numbers. The Point is also home to terns, with Little, Sandwich, Common and Arctic Tern all to be seen at their breeding colonies. Nearby, Cley Marshes needs no introduction to birders. On the reserve we’ll look for birds including elegant Avocet, reedbeds full of singing Reed and Sedge Warblers and, with luck, ‘pinging’ Bearded Tits. Heading inland, we will end the afternoon at Kelling Heath, where Dartford Warbler and Stonechat sing, butterflies should include Green Hairstreak and Small Copper, and we will watch out for reptiles including Common Lizard and Adder.
Day 5 One final breakfast, and then it is time to bid farewell to The Old Rectory and to Norfolk and to head home, hopefully taking some good memories of the big skies and wonderful wildlife of the Norfolk summer.
Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.
Our accommodation will be at The Old Rectory in the village of Crostwick, which lies ten minutes north of Norwich on the B1150 towards North Walsham. If travelling by train, we will arrange for a shared taxi from Norwich (cost not included). All rooms are ensuite.
We shall be taking packed lunches each day. Evening meals will be taken at our hotel, with an emphasis on local food. Requests for special diets can be accommodated.
If you would like to extend your stay in Norfolk, we can book extra nights accommodation at the hotel, and give advice on good places to visit.
Our transport for this trip will be by small coach or minibus. Our 1.5 hour boat trip to Blakeney Point will be in a traditional Norfolk ferry.
The English summer is of course unpredictable. The weather could be hot and sunny on some days and cold and wet on others! We will adapt our itinerary to the weather. It can be ‘breezy’ or even windy on the coast at times. We will not walk for long in adverse weather conditions. Evenings can be cold.
We will be walking for much of the day, each day, albeit at a slow pace. In some locations ‘facilities’ are scarce! You therefore need to have a reasonably good level of fitness although none of the walks are strenuous. There are likely to be steps at the hotel, and you also need to be able to step into and out of the small (12 person) boat.