Corporate report

Suffolk's National Nature Reserves

Published 31 October 2008

Applies to England


Benacre National Nature Reserve (NNR) is on the Suffolk coast. It includes the reedbeds and lagoons of Benacre, Covehithe and Easton Broads, together with the woodlands and heathlands on the higher ground between them.

Much of the reserve is private property and access off public rights of way is by permission only.

Main habitats: coastal, woodland, peatland

Area: 393 hectares

Features of interest

Over 100 breeding bird species use the reserve including marsh harrier, bearded reedling, water rail, a variety of ducks, and, in some years, bittern. Little terns are summer visitors to the shore and the heathlands are home to woodlark, wheatear and hobby.

A typical East Anglian shingle flora is found along the shore, with yellow horned poppy, sea kale, sea holly and prickly saltwort. The northern dunes support extensive areas of sheep-bit and the rare grey hair grass.

The reedbeds support marsh sow thistle, marsh mallow and golden dock while on other parts of the reserve you can see wild daffodil, climbing corydalis, orpine and greater broomrape.


The reserve is made up of 2 main sites to the north and south of the village of Covehithe. To the north the reserve extends as far as Benacre village, and to the south, as far as Reydon Smear.

The reserve is on the route of a major trail, the Suffolk Coast & Heaths Path.

The nearest train station is in Lowestoft.

Bus services from Lowestoft down the A12 are provided by First Group.

The reserve is accessed along minor roads from the A12 and B1127. The nearest car parks are in Kessingland (3 kilometres north of Benacre) and Reydon (1 kilometre south of Reydon Smear).

There is a public hide on Benacre Broad.


Volunteers of all abilities are welcome on a Friday, and on-task training is given by reserve staff. Volunteers can claim travel expenses and will be provided with safety equipment.

Group or corporate volunteering opportunities are also available on the reserve and site staff have experience of working with teenage groups, prison groups, young offenders and local conservation societies.

It is also possible to arrange a short period of work experience the on the Walberswick reserve. Contact the reserve office to discuss options.

If you would like more information about volunteering contact Paul Lacey, or call the reserve office on 01502 676178.


Adam Burrows
Senior Reserve Manager
Natural England
The Barn
Frostenden Hall Farm
Church Lane
NR34 7HS

Telephone: 01502 676171

Bradfield Woods

Bradfield Woods are almost entirely of ancient origin. The woods have been under continuous traditional management since 1252.

Main habitats: woodland

Management: Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

Features of interest

Further information about the NNR, its wildlife and how to visit is on the Bradfield Woods page on the Suffolk Wildlife Trust website.


Felsham Road
Bradfield St George
Bury St Edmund's
IP30 0AQ

Telephone: 01449 737996

Cavenham Heath

Much of Cavenham Heath NNR is typical Breck heathland with dry, acidic sandy soil supporting acid grass heath, heather heath with patches of bracken and sand sedge. In addition there are riverside meadows, woodland, wet woodland scrub and small areas of fen.

Between March and October adders are found in this area. They are quite timid in nature and will not usually bite unless they feel threatened or cornered. You should keep dogs on a lead during this period. If your dog is bitten, seek prompt veterinary attention.

Main habitats: lowland heathland

Area: 204 hectares

Management: Natural England

Features of interest

There is a good population of Britain’s only poisonous snake, the adder, on the Heath. They’re best seen at the start of the warmer spring weather, often as early as mid-February. This is when they emerge from winter hibernation and come out to bask on sunny days.

For details about what to see in different seasons, and more information about how the reserve is managed, see Natural England’s pages on Cavenham Heath in the National Archive.


The reserve is 1 kilometre south of the A1101 (between Bury St Edmunds and Mildenhall) near the village of Icklingham.

The reserve can be accessed from Icklingham on foot and is near the junction of 2 major trails, the Icknield Way and St Edmund Way.

The nearest train stations are in Bury St Edmunds (12 kilometres to the south east), Newmarket (15 kilometres to the south west) and Thetford (13 kilometres to the north east).

For details of railway times and bus times, go to the Traveline website.

Access to the reserve is along a minor road from Tuddenham village, 2 kilomeres to the south east. There is a car park on the Tuddenham to Icklingham road, adjacent to the reserve.


Contact the reserve by email or by calling Chippenham Fen NNR Office on 01638 721329.


Orfordness-Havergate NNR lies just south of Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast. The site is a large shingle spit separated from the mainland by the River Alde. The site is normally closed during the winter but the National Trust will allow access to large (12 people nd over) pre-booked groups in this period.

Visitors to Havergate Island must pre-book with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) by telephoning 01728 648281.

Visitors to Orfordness should contact the National Trust for opening times by telephoning 01394 450057.

Admission charges apply to both sites.

Main habitats: coastal

Area: 909.1 hectares

Management: Orfordness is managed by the National Trust and Havergate Island by the RSPB

Features of interest

The spit was formed by the deposition of shingle deposits though wave action and longshore drift. This is an on-going process, meaning the spit is growing, and the site is of great value to coastal defence research.

The shingle supports a number of rare and scarce invertebrates - particularly beetles and spiders - and the site is also an important breeding place for many bird species including terns and avocets.

For more details, visit the National Trust’s pages on Orfordness and the RSPB’s pages on Havergate.


The nearest train station is in Woodbridge, 15 kilometres to the west.

Orford is accessed along the B1078 and B1084. There are parking facilities in Orford Quay.

Access to both Orfordness and Havergate Island is by a ferry from Orford Quay.

The reserve is near the route of a major trail, the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Path.

Orford is on Route 1 (Suffolk Coastal Path Route) of the Sustrans National Cycle Network.

There are bird-watching hides, toilets and a picnic area on Havergate Island.

Orfordness has an education centre. A trail guide and family guide are available and there is also a children’s trail/quiz. Normally there is limited disabled access but there are special access days for disabled visitors. Contact the National Trust for details (01394 450057).

Redgrave and Lopham Fen

Redgrave and Lopham Fen NNR is an extensive area of spring-fed valley fen in the headwaters of the River Waveney on the Suffolk/Norfolk border. It is the largest fen in lowland England. The reserve has a range of distinct habitats including the internationally important saw sedge beds and purple-moor grasslands. It is also home to one of only 2 British populations of the fen raft spider

Main habitat: peatland

Management: Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Features of interest

Full information about the NNR, its wildlife and how to visit is on the Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s pages on Redgrave and Lopham Fen.


Telephone: 01379 687618

Suffolk Coast

Suffolk Coast NNR is made up of 3 reserves: Walberswick, Hen Reedbed and Dingle Marshes.

Main habitats: coastal

Management: Natural England and Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Features of interest

The reserve has a rich beach flora, while the wetlands are home to marsh sow thistle, bog pimpernel, sneezewort, lousewort, bogbean, frog-bit and greater bladderwort. The heaths are rich in acid-loving species, which include fenugreek, subterranean and suffocated clovers and mossy stonecrop.

Resident wildlife includes otters and 5 species of deer, and natterjack toads have been re-introduced to the area. Over 280 bird species have been recorded including bitterns, marsh harriers, bearded reedlings, woodlarks and nightjars.

For more information, including directions to the reserve, see:

Thetford Heath

Thetford Heath is a fine example of Breckland grass heath, with a wide sweep of open landscape, home to many of the rare and specialist species so typical of the area.

Access during the summer months is by permit only for special projects.

Main habitats: Breckland grass heath

Management: Norfolk Wildlife Trust

The reserve is made up of an expanse of acid and chalk grassland, together with smaller areas of heather and lichen dominated heathland. Sheep and rabbit grazing combine on this site to provide the short grassland and bare ground on which so many of Breckland’s specialist plants, invertebrates and birds depend.


Contact Norfolk Wildlife Trust for further information:

Telephone: 01603 625540

Norfolk Wildlife Trust
Berwick House
22 Thorpe Road

Westleton Heath

Westleton Heath NNR is part of the best remaining tract of heathland in Suffolk.

Main habitats: lowland heath

Features of interest

In medieval times a large area of heath known as the Sandlings (on account of its dry sandy soils) stretched along the Suffolk coast. Today only about 20% of the heathland remains; the rest has been lost to modern farming and forestry.

Birds of open heath and light scrub are well represented here and include tree pipit, dartford warbler, stonechat and nightjar. The woodlands support nightingale and woodcock.

The local flora is typical of acid soil, with species such as harebell, tormentil, heath bedstraw and mossy tiliea on the grass heath. Cross-leaved heath may also be found in the damper areas. Of the heather species, common heather and ling predominate, and these, together with deep purple bell heather, provide an important nectar source for invertebrates such as the white admiral butterfly.

See the map to find out where you can ride a horse or cycle on the reserve.


Westleton Heath is 1 kilometre north east of the village of Westleton.

The nearest train station is in Darsham, 5 kilometres to the west.

Bus services along the A12 (5km west of the reserve) are provided by First Group.

The heath is crossed by a minor road from Westleton to the coastal village of Dunwich, 2 kilometres to the east. The road, accessed along the B1125, has 2 car parks on and near the reserve.


There is a weekly practical conservation volunteer team which meet on site on a Friday. This includes tasks such as scrub management, fencing and woodland management. Volunteers of all abilities are welcome. On-task training is delivered by reserve staff. Volunteers can claim travel expenses and will be provided with safety equipment.

There are also group or corporate volunteering opportunities on the reserve and site staff have experience of working with teenage groups, prison groups, young offenders and local conservation societies.

If you are interested in volunteering and would like more information contact Paul Lacey, or call the reserve office on 01502 676178.


For more information contact Adam Burrows, senior reserve manager:

Natural England
The Barn
Frostenden Hall Farm
Church Lane
NR34 7HS

Telephone: 01502 676171