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North Norfolk Coast

Designated a Special Protection Area under the European Union Birds Directive

This marine protected area has been created to protect the flourishing bird life and their habitats on the North Norfolk coast. The marine protected area extends for 40 km from the soft sands of Holme on the eastern shores of The Wash to the golden cliffs and shingle beaches at Weybourne on the northern coast of Norfolk. Along this stretch of coastline there are a multitude of habitats including intertidal mud- and sandflats, coastal shallows, saltmarshes, shingle beaches, sand dunes, freshwater grazing marshes and reedbeds. All are home to the incredible diversity of birdlife found along this coast.

Click here to learn more about sandflats

Click here to learn more about mud flats

This very special part of the Great British coast is one of the largest areas of undeveloped coastal habitat of its type in Europe and one of the most important wetland sites for waterfowl in Britain. The site is particularly important for saltmarsh, containing some of the most vibrant and extensive examples of this habitat type found anywhere in Europe.

The mysterious invertebrate world hidden within the saltmarsh and flats provides a nutritious food resource for much of the birdlife on the North Norfolk coast.

Other coastal habitats include extensive shingle deposits at Blakeney Point, gently undulating sand dunes at Scolt Head and extensive reedbeds at Brancaster, Cley and Titchwell. Freshwater grazing marsh is found all along the North Norfolk coast. The complex network of clear dykes with a rich diversity of aquatic plants make the freshwater cattle grazing marsh of Holkham particularly beautiful.

A playful dance. Image credit, B. Madden

Marsh harrier in flight. Image credit B. Madden

The shallow coastal waters along the North Norfolk coast follow a complex series of harbours and winding inlets and creeks. These waters are home to large populations of small fish including sand eel and sprat, which provide a vital food resource for tern populations. Terns use the shingle spits, bars and beaches as nesting sites to nurture their young, making them vulnerable to predators, particularly dogs.

The intertidal mud and sand flats are home to vast and diverse invertebrate populations, which in turn provide a nutritious food resource for breeding avocet and support high numbers of wading birds and wildfowl throughout the year. The remote nature of these habitats also provides a secure breeding location for pink-footed- and dark-bellied brent geese.

The rich invertebrate fauna of the sprawling saltmarsh supports breeding populations of skylark and meadow pipit. These in turn support internationally important breeding populations of marsh harrier. The mysterious invertebrate world hidden within the saltmarsh and flats provides a nutritious food resource for much of the birdlife on the North Norfolk coast.

In summer, the site and its surroundings are important for breeding populations of waders, four species of tern, bittern and wetland raptors including the marsh harrier. In winter, the site becomes important for large numbers of geese, sea-ducks, and waders using the site for roosting and feeding. The site is also important for migrating birds in the spring and autumn passage periods.

Rarely a dull moment for bird life on the Norfolk coast. Image credit Barry Madden

This Marine Protected Area is designated a Special Protection Area under the European Commission Birds Directive and UK Habitats Regulations. For more information about the protected wildlife on the North Norfolk coast please visit the Natural England Conservation Advice website.

Local Designations


North Norfolk Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Promoting an understanding and appreciation of North Norfolk's natural beauty and the importance of local sustainable development. Image credit, C. Knights More

RAMSAR Wetlands sites

Gibraltar Point, The Wash and North Norfolk have been designated RAMSAR sites to protect their wetlands and associated resources. Image Credit, S. Bosley. More

Sites of Special Scientific Interest

Gibraltar Point, The Wash and North Norfolk have been designated SSSI's in recognition of their important ecological and geological value to the UK. Image credit, C. Knights More

National Nature Reserves

Gibraltar Point, The Wash, Titchwell, Holme , Holkham, Cley and Blakeney coasts have all been designated NNR's to protect their habitats, species and geology. More

Cromer Shoal Marine Conservation Zone

Chalk beds are home to a beautiful diversity of sea-life such as sponges, algae, crabs and herring and are protected at Cromer, Norfolk. Image credit, Rob Spray and Dawn Watson. More

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