Natural England - National Nature Reserves

National Nature Reserves

A National Nature Reserve (NNR) is one of the finest sites in England for wildlife and/or geology. Almost all NNRs are accessible and provide great opportunities for people to experience nature.

NNR visitor survey

Natural England are working on a surveyexternal link asking visitors to our National Nature Reserves their thoughts of the experience.

We are initially trialling this at four of our National Nature Reserves (NNRs), after which we will launch the full survey online and at all the NNRs which we manage. This will help us improve our service to you and give you the chance to input into how we manage these special places for visitors and nature.

This survey should take no more than 10 minutes to complete.

For more information about our reserves, follow the Find out what's happening on our NNRs link below

There are currently 224 NNRsexternal link in England with a total area of over 94,400 hectares, which is approximately 0.6% of the country’s land surface. The largest is The Wash NNR covering almost 8,800 hectares, whilst Horn Park Quarry in Dorset is the smallest at 0.32 hectares.

Find out what's happening
on our NNRs

What are National Nature Reserves?

NNR thumbnail logo

From The Lizard in Cornwall to Lindisfarne in Northumberland, England’s National Nature Reserves (NNRs) represent many of the finest wildlife and geological sites in the country. Our first NNRs emerged in the postwar years alongside the early National Parks, and have continued to grow since then.

NNRs were initially established to protect sensitive features and to provide ‘outdoor laboratories’ for research. Their purpose has widened since those early days. As well as managing some of our most pristine habitats, our rarest species and our most significant geology, most Reserves now offer great opportunities to the public as well as schools and specialist audiences to experience England’s natural heritage.

How are National Nature Reserves declared?

Natural England is the body empowered to declare NNRs in England, the Reserves being a selection of the very best parts of England’s Sites of Special Scientific Interest. It is this underlying designation which gives NNRs their strong legal protection. The majority also have European nature conservation designations.

Who manages National Nature Reserves?

Natural England manages about two thirds of England’s NNRs, whilst the remaining third are managed by organisations approved by Natural England; for example, National Trust, the Forestry Commission, RSPB, many Wildlife Trusts and Local Authorities.

Of Natural England’s NNRs, about 30% are owned and almost 50% leased. The rest are held under Nature Reserve Agreements.

What type of habitats do NNRs cover?

Nearly every type of vegetation is found in England's NNRs, from coastal salt-marshes, dunes and cliffs to downlands, meadows and the subtle variations of our native woodlands. Scarce and threatened habitats such as chalk downs, lowland heaths and bogs and estuaries are conserved in NNRs

What about rare species?

Many NNRs contain nationally important populations of rare flowers, ferns and mosses, butterflies and other insects, and of course nesting and wintering birds. Examples include unique alpine plants at Upper Teesdale and the beautiful field of fritillary lilies at North Meadow, Cricklade, Wiltshire. We do not always advertise rarities, to avoid attracting too much attention to them