“ Situated on the stunning north Norfolk coast. „
Titchwell Marsh RSPB reserve is located on the north coast of Norfolk, not too far from Hunstanton. The A149 runs right past the reserve, and there is a good size carpark onsite. There are toilets located in the carpark, which had a bit too much wildlife in the for my liking - spiders and bugs. But being a nature reserve, perhaps that's intentional.
The day that I visited with my parents it was very hot. We were using my mum's wheelchair, and access was no problem, the carpark and paths were all smooth gravel and there were ramps to the hides. Having had a chat with a very friendly RSPB lady in the carpark about what we could expect to see, we set off.
Titchwell Marsh is a large coastal reserve, ideal for spotting waders, marsh harriers and little birds which cling to reeds and grass (I've never seen any, they're too good at hiding). The reserve is particularly well known for avocets, bitterns and marsh harriers. As a popular reserve, it is well equipped for visitors, with a cafe, shop, several hides and plenty of staff on hand.
We headed off to the Fen Hide first, which looks out over the reed beds. We had been told by the lady at the carpark that there were a few unusual species visiting, and from the Fen Hide we could see the swarm of serious birdwatchers strewn along the main path further up the reserve, all with their telescopes pointing in the same direction, obviously trying to spot the visiting spoonbill, buff breasted sandpiper and pectoral sandpiper. It made quite a comical sight.
We didn't see a great deal from the Fen Hide. Had we had more patience and better eyes, perhaps we could have seen some of the reed-clinging birds, and there was a large reed bed in front of us. But I suspect they hide themselves well, and don't tend to oblige visitors by clinging to a reed on the edge of the reed bed. We did however see a juvenile marsh harrier, so that was one of the "sights" ticked off the list.
From the Fen Hide we headed off along the main path, towards the Island Hide in the middle of the freshwater marsh. We paused a few times along the path to see what we could see, and continued along the path just a bit to join the crowd - I didn't want to miss whatever they were seeing, but we didn't stay long or even set up our telescope as the sun beating down on the open dunes and marsh was unbearable. We went into the hide and set up there.
We could see a lot of waders from the hide, but the problem I have with birds like that is a lot of them look so similar. I soon spotted an avocet, so I was happy - they're beautiful birds, and I remembered seeing one many years ago on a previous visit to Norfolk. Then another birdwatcher showed my mum where the buff breasted sandpiper was, so we were able to focus our own telescope on that. I know it's rare in the UK, but it really wasn't a very exciting bird...small and brown. Still, we're not likely to see one again. We also saw black tailed godwits, which isn't a bird I'd ever heard of before. I was hoping to see the spoonbill, but it kept itself hidden while we were there.
There's a lot more of the reserve beyond the Island Hide, but once we had seen enough there, we decided to head back. It was just too hot, and the next hide along, the Parrinder Hide, was closed for rebuilding. We had read on the reserve map that the best place to see birds was actually the viewing platform right out on the beach, but it was twice as far again as we had already come, and if it was a platform there would be no shade, so we decided we'd had enough. We headed back past the shop and cafe, found a picnic area and had our lunch which we brought with us.
I enjoyed Titchwell Marsh, and there's certainly plenty to see there - although my dad commented that never mind all these fancy sandpipers, he would have liked to see more resident birds like a bittern. The day we visited was incredibly hot, but I liked it and was happy to see an avocet. I'd definitely recommend a visit if you're in the area.
Titchwell Marsh on the north coast of Norfolk is the most visited of all of the RSPB reserves in Britain.
The area consists of marshland and shallow lagoons with reed beds that are set just a few metres inland from the coast . Along the boundary of the reserve there is a shingle and sandy beach that runs along parallel to the reserve. The low lying land that comprises the reserve is actually below the level of the sea and there is a high sea wall with a footpath along the top of it that has so far been successful in preventing the sea from flooding across the reserve.
These current sea defences have not however always held back the forces of nature and the lagoons that we see today were created in 1953 when the sea broke through its defences. This area was then left derelict for the next twenty years until 1973 when over 400 acres of this former farmland was purchased by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) who set about creating a haven for wildlife.
Careful management by the RSPB has created a variety of different habitats including several artificial lagoons where the water levels can be controlled. To assist visitors there are also three different observation hides that look out over the reserve. Some of these are elevated to give panoramic views across the water and reed beds.
Unlike many other nature reserves this reserve is very accessible for disabled visitors, the footpaths are wide and the terrain is flat. The majority of the paths have gravel or large stones on top of them but I would however assume that the paths with the larger stones would be a greater challenge for wheelchair pushers. Having said that I have often seen people in wheelchairs on these paths.
Each year this nature reserve attracts over 100,000 human visitors that come here to see the hundreds of thousands of migrating birds that are attracted here. Many birds also spend the winter here too. Titchwell is also noted for its rare breeding birds which include Bittern, Marsh Harrier and Avocet.
There is a visitor centre next to the car park and this also contains a shop and a café. The shop sells a wide range of books, optical equipment and outdoor clothing. It is also possible to hire binoculars from here for a small fee and a deposit. The car park is also the only location on the reserve where toilets can be found. These are fully equipped for disabled visitors and they also have baby changing facilities.
From the visitor centre the footpaths are clearly visible. I usually walk around the northern boundary of the reserve on the path that is on top of the sea wall as this enables a good view across the whole area. This route can however sometimes be a problem as there is often a strong, cold wind blowing up here and on these days I take one of the lower, more sheltered routes.
I would recommend a visit to Titchwell at any time of the year, although early to mid October is probably my favourite time. This is the transitional period when the last summer visitors are leaving, whilst those birds that spend the winter in Britain are just arriving.
In early October I have often seen Snow Buntings, Shore Larks and Lapland Buntings on the beach amongst the huge flocks of Linnets and Greenfinches that gather here. This is also a good time of the year to see Short Eared Owls or Barn Owls hunting on the reserve, especially if it is approaching dusk.
The reserve is open at all times but the visitor centre is only open between 9.30am until 5pm during the summer and until 4pm during winter. There is a charge to park at the reserve for non RSPB members of £4 (6 Euros) per vehicle.
Titchwell Marsh is located close to the small village of Titchwell, from where this nature reserve derives it name. It is about five miles to the east of Hunstanton, right on the very top coast of the county of Norfolk.