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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

East Suffolk Nature Reserves Part 1: 12.07.21-13.07.21 North Warren, Minsmere

Updated: Jul 20, 2021

Click here to view Part 2

From Monday 12.07.21 to Saturday 17.07.21 I visited a series of bird and natures sanctuaries in the Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) see: Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB – Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

I visited all of these sites by public transport (train, bus, Suffolk County Councils Connecting Communities demand-responsive minibus service and walking.

I based myself in a hotel in Saxmundham, because Saxmundham is on the Great Anglia East Suffolk railway lines

Because Suffolk's rural bus network, like all the UK's rural buses, have been greatly reduced, careful planning is required to ensure that you can get to and back from the places you want to visit. Most of these reserves required a fair bit of walking to reach, on top of bus journeys. For each venue I have given a brief description of how I got there, with links to the relevant timetables. Please remember bus routes are sometimes discontinued and timetables change; so check the latest timetables before heading off to one of these sites!

Monday 12.07.21 Saxmundham

The Bell at Sax was a good place to stay; great service and food and helpful and friendly staff.

Monday 12.07.21 Afternoon North Warren Nature Reserve (RSPB)

I took the 64 bus from Saxmundham to Aldeburgh and got off at a stop close to the entrance of North Warren on the B1122 (the Leiston Road, as it goes into Aldeburgh).

The North Warren reserve lies on the Suffolk coast on the north edge of the town of Aldeburgh and to the south of Thorpeness. Thousands of ducks, swans and geese use the marshes in winter, while spring hosts breeding bitterns, marsh harriers, woodlarks and nightingales. North Warren Nature Reserve, Suffolk - The RSPB

The first bird I saw a Yellowhammer in a similar pose to the one on the RSPB information board! The walk starts in heathland with heathers and tress.

and continues into the reedbed, where I saw dragonflies and Marsh Harriers and heard (but not saw) Reed and Sedge warblers

Male Marsh Harrier

Walking round the woodland. around Thorpeness Mere I saw some fledgling Blue Tits

and a Greenfinch

The symbol of the Coasts and Heathers Are of Outstanding Natural Beauty is the Redshank (I saw Redshanks at Minsmere and Hazelwood Marshes); these posters were displayed in every nature reserve I visited, including North Warren; which had no Redshanks (which wasn't a surprise considering the landscapes I visited in North Warren, although I would imagine in the pools close to the Thorpeness/Aldeburgh beach there will be many Redshanks in Autumn and Winter


The small village of Thorpeness is dominated by the Mere, which is popular all year round and bears witness to the village’s fantastical past. In 1910 Stuart Ogilvie bought the hamlet and set to transform it into a private fantasy holiday village. Today the village is just how Ogilvie envisaged it with pretty mock Tudor houses and the fairy-tale ‘House in the Clouds’

Thorpeness is a popular holiday village with a whimsical literary link. The picturesque ‘meare’ or artificial lake is vast- covering over 60,000 acres with its various islands and inlets. The Meare comprises many little islands, all named by J.M Barrie, author of Peter Pan and visitors can take to one of the many little boats available to hire and drift between fairytale settings such as the pirate’s lair and Wendy’s house.

You can’t miss the ‘house in the clouds’, an unusual water tower with a boarded house on top, appearing to float up into the sky. If you're looking to stay in an iconic Suffolk building, the House in the Clouds is available to hire for holidays! Guide to Thorpeness Village in Suffolk (

A hybrid Mallard on Thorpeness Mere

Egyptian Geese from Thorpeness Mere; a non-indigenous bird, introduce in the 18th century as an exotic duck for ornamental ponds and lakes, which have subsequently become naturalised in East Anglia. See: Specieswatch: Egyptian goose | Birds | The Guardian

Moorhen and Chick in Thorpeness Pond

Linnet (on the Thorpeness to Aldborough beach section of North Warren Reserve)

Brent Goose (marshes of North Warren)

Cow, calf and Little Egret. North Warren marshes

the Little Egret from the above picure in flight

Aldeburgh Beach - monument to Benjamin Britten by Maggi Hambling

On the beach near Aldeburgh, Suffolk, a giant scallop shell rises up from the shingle. The sculpture is a tribute to composer Benjamin Britten who lived in Aldeburgh and walked almost daily along the stretch of coastline between there and Thorpeness. It is made by local-born artist Maggi Hambling, an ardent fan of Britten's music. Scallop, created in 2003, is formed of two halves of a broken shell, fabricated from steel. One half stands upright, its sea-facing surface polished and catching the shimmering light. The other half of the shell lies prone, making a sort of platform. Cut high into the sculpture's upper edge is the line 'I hear those voices that will not be drowned' from Hambling's favourite Britten opera, Peter Grimes. Maggi Hambling's 'Scallop' | Art UK

Tuesday 13.07.21 RSPB Minsmere (all day)

To get to Minsmere I travelled in one of Suffolk County Council's demand-responsive Connecting Communities mini-busses. These have to be booked in advance; it took me from Saxmundham Rail Station to the Minsmere Visitors Centre. See Connecting Communities - My area / Suffolk Coastal ( for booking details

From the Bittern Hide

No Bitterns on Tuesday, but a Grey Heron

and Marsh Harriers

View over the marsh and reedbeds where the Bitterns mostly live

Another Marsh Harrier

Vegetation on the walk to the Island Mere Hide

From the Inland Mere Hide




Common Terns (Sizewell B Nuclear Power Station in the background)

From this hide I also saw Hobbies catching Dragonflies, but I was not able to photograph any

On the way to the Canopy Hide

Canopy Hide

I saw no birds from the hide but some trees!

On the way to the Visitors Centre, I saw this Buff-tailed worker Bumblebee on a Thistle

Visitor Centre Cafe Pond

Lots of Dragonflies and Damselflies and other water insects

and a Rabbit

From the hides around the scrapes

In the scrapes I saw many Black-headed Gulls, Avocets (with lots of juveniles, representing a good breeding season), many Common Terns and their chicks, some Little Terns, many Lapwings, Redshanks, Little Ringed Plovers, Common Sandpipers, many Black-tailed Godwits, Oysetrcatchers. Shelducks, Mallards, Greylag Geese, Canada Geese and Barnacle Geese

Black-tailed Godwits and Avocets

Common Tern

Juvenile Avocet (not the transition from chick plumage colouration to adult black and white, with some brown left)

Black-tailed Godwits and Black-headed Gulls

Black-tailed Godwits and Avocets

Common Terns and their chicks

Black-tailed Godwits and Avocets

Common Tern

Black-tailed Godwits and Avocets

In a drainage ditch a Black-headed Gull

Some Little Terns (with Common Terns, Avocets, Black-tailed Godwits and a Canada Goose)

An adult Avocet and a juvenile

An Oystercatcher


Avocetss, Black-tailed Godwits and Barnacle Geese

A Grey Herron

Inside the Discovery Hide

A Magpie on a fence

A Lapwing on a nest

A Black-tailed Godwit alone!

A Common Tern foraging

Another Gret Heron

and some more Marsh Harrier from a return to the Bittern Hide

A Reed Bunting

A Marsh Harrier in front of the sluice

Tuesday 14.07.21 Lowestoft (evening)

In the evening I went to Lowestoft for a meal

and saw many Herring Gulls nesting on dilapidated un-maintained buildings.

The Lifeboatman, June 2000, by Dominic J. Marshall, commissioned by Lowestoft Lifeboatmans Social Club (LLSC)



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