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Cley Marshes, a Ramsar site, credit Richard Osbourne

Free entry to Cley Marshes to celebrate international wetland conservation

Norfolk Wildlife Trust is opening its Cley and Salthouse Marshes nature reserve free of charge on Saturday 2 February in honour of World Wetlands Day and the nature reserve’s international significance.

Celebrated every year on 2 February - the date of the signing of the 'Convention on Wetlands', known as the Ramsar Convention, on 2 February 1971 – World Wetlands Day raises awareness of the vital role played by wetlands across the world and promotes their conservation and the sustainable use of wetlands and their resources.

Cley Marshes credit Richard Osbourne

Located on the eastern end of the Norfolk Coast SSSI, the protected nature reserve is home to breeding avocets and marsh harriers, plus thousands of pink-footed and brent geese which visit in winter. The reserve’s habitats include grazing marshes which are winter habitat for wigeon, teal and dark-bellied brent geese; areas of reedbed which are home to marsh harriers, bearded tits and numerous warblers; and three large areas of water which provide invaluable refuge and feeding habitat for a range of wetland species including winter wildfowl and geese.

The RAMSAR designation gives another important layer of legislative protection to the UK’s most sensitive and valuable wetlands. The conservation designations at Cley and Salthouse Marshes ensure statutory bodies such as Natural England and the Environment Agency focus their work with us on the protection and conservation of the wetland habitats at the reserve.

Wetlands are of international or national importance for wildlife if they hold 1% or more of respectively international or national wildlife populations. Many of Norfolk’s wetlands judged by this criteria are not just nationally important but globally so. As well as the north Norfolk coast AONB, other renowned wetlands in Norfolk include the Wash, with its tidal mud and sandflats teeming with waders; and the Norfolk Broads, England’s largest lowland wetland, with its shallow man-made lakes home to crane, bittern, harrier and the UK’s most spectacular butterfly, the swallowtail.

Birdwatching at Cley Marshes

Head of People and Wildlife at NWT, David North said: “Globally wetlands are more threatened than forests, with many, including most of Norfolk’s once extensive peat fenlands, having been drained and reclaimed. Here in Norfolk our coastal and Broadland wetlands still teem with migratory birds, reminding us of a shared global responsibility for life on an inter-connected planet. We can be proud of Norfolk’s wetlands: more than just wildlife-rich, they are part of a global life support system of inter-connected wetlands on which migratory wildlife depends.

“World Wetlands Day is the perfect time to get out and celebrate the value of our wetlands to both wildlife and people. Come and join us at Cley and Salthouse Marshes for free on Saturday, or get your wellies on and go and discover a wetland near you!”

NWT Cley Marshes on the north Norfolk coast was named by Sir David Attenborough as “one of the great places in Britain to see wildlife”. Since its purchase in 1926, under Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s care the nature reserve has grown to become one of the best-loved birdwatching sites in Europe.

Cley Marshes

Birdwatching in Norfolk