Natural England - Holkham: why visit?

Holkham: why visit?

Holkham NNR is one of England’s most diverse nature reserves.

Taking in a stunning 11 mile stretch of Norfolk coastline, you can explore a windswept tideline, backed by a maze of creeks and marshes, unspoilt sand dunes and tranquil pine forests.

It’s this superb mix of habitats that attracts so much wildlife to Holkham, from the large flocks of waders feeding in the rich, gloopy mud, to powerful Brent and pink-footed geese that over- winter on the reserve, and shy Natterjack toads that can be heard – if not seen – emerging from their sandy burrows on spring evenings.

There are two hides on the reserve, strategically placed to give excellent views across the Holkham grazing marshes. These give the best chance to see avocets feeding in the shallows during the summer, as well as marsh harriers that can be seen all-year round. Hundreds of geese and various ducks including shoveler can be seen from the hides in the autumn and winter.

A few facts about Holkham

  • Holkham Fort, near Bones Drove, dates back to around AD47 and is the remains of an Iceni settlement. Warriors of this tribe fought with Queen Boadica against the Romans.

  • Holkham was home to William Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester. Nicknamed Coke of Norfolk, it was through his ‘Holkham Shearings’ - gatherings of farmers and friends to discuss agricultural matters – that he helped to encourage agricultural reform in the 18th century. A memorial to him can be seen in Holkham Park to the south of the reserve. The Estate is still owned by the Coke family today.

  • Saltmarsh reclamation began on this coast at Burnham Overy in 1639 and was completed in 1859 with the construction of the Wells sea wall.

  • Vikings sailed up a creek through the saltmarshes during the first millennium and built a fort at a bleak place they called Holkham (‘ship town’ in Danish).

  •  As recently as 1986 Wells Harbour handled up to 200 large vessels and 100,000 tons of cargo (mostly animal feeds) annually. Nowadays a few crab boats and pleasure craft are all that remain although new opportunities to revitalise the harbour are being presented by the offshore wind power industry.

  • Lord Nelson spent many of his boyhood days exploring this stretch of coast.