National Nature Reserves in England

Find out more about the reserves, where they are, who manages them and what special features or opportunities they offer.

Natural England’s National Nature Reserves are open to the public, and we welcome all our visitors to connect with nature and be inspired by our fantastic wildlife, habitats, geology and landscapes.

When visiting our reserves please follow the countryside code to enable everyone to enjoy, value and respect England’s most important places for nature.

National Nature Reserves (NNRs) were established to protect some of our most important habitats, species and geology, and to provide ‘outdoor laboratories’ for research. Most NNRs offer great opportunities to schools, specialist interest groups and the public to experience wildlife at first hand and to learn more about nature conservation.

There are currently 221 NNRs in England with a total area of over 110,000 hectares - approximately 0.8% of the country’s land surface. The largest is The Wash covering almost 8,800 hectares, while Dorset’s Horn Park Quarry is the smallest at 0.32 hectares.

You can find:

Natural England manages about two thirds of England’s NNRs. The remaining reserves are managed by organisations approved by Natural England, for example, the National Trust, Forestry England, RSPB, Wildlife Trusts and local authorities.

The NNR strategy: find out about the managing partners’ joint approach that puts NNRs at the heart of 21st century conservation.

The NNR selection principles are the guidelines used when deciding whether to declare new NNRs.

The NNR management standards are the benchmarks we set for NNRs.

Natural England issues a public notice when an NNR is created, extended or has a change of management.

Visit a National Nature Reserve

Natural England welcomes all visitors to the reserves they manage - they are free to enter.

Most NNRs have some form of access and many have extensive path networks and access land. Some NNRs are difficult to access because they are remote, have rugged terrain or sensitive habitats.

Follow the Countryside Code and respect any special notices at the reserve regarding dogs or sensitive habitats.

East Midlands NNRs

East of England NNRs

North East NNRs

North West NNRs

London and the South East NNRs

South West NNRs

West Midlands NNRs

Yorkshire and the Humber NNRs

Public access on NNRs

Horse riding and cycling has been permitted on certain NNRs by relaxing the public access rules. See the maps to find out where you can ride a horse or cycle.

Find out more about Natural England’s work to secure public rights of access to NNRs:

Volunteering with Natural England

Research opportunities for further education students

Dissertations and similar projects provide students with opportunities to work on high quality sites and to contribute to the research and management of Natural England’s NNRs. See the list of topic titles available for study.

Updates to this page

Published 4 January 2009
Last updated 23 May 2024 + show all updates
  1. Updated the number and total area of NNRs in England.

  2. We've removed the alert about Woodwalton Fenn NNR being closed due to flooding. This reserve is now open to the public.

  3. Added an alert about Woodwalton Fenn NNR being closed due to flooding.

  4. We've updated the number and total area of NNRs in England.

  5. There are currently 220 NNRs in England with a total area of over 107,000 hectares.

  6. Added links to 2 new documents: NNR selection principles and the NNR management standard.

  7. Added Greater Manchester's NNRs to the list under the North West.

  8. Removed the Covid-19 notice. Amended total number of NNRs and total area covered.

  9. Removed Rostherne Mere NNR car park from the list of car parks that are closed.

  10. Update on which car parks remain closed.

  11. Update to status of car parks for Fenn's Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses NNR.

  12. Car parks that remain closed as of 18 May 2020.

  13. Link to NNR Strategy leaflet added.

  14. Revised introductory text.

  15. Link to a visitor survey added

  16. First published.