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Arenaria interpres

RSPB Titchwell Marsh

Tags:   RSPB Titchwell Marsh 21.9.17 Arenaria interpres Ruddy turnstone

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Tags:   RSPB Titchwell Marsh nature nature reserve norfolk wild wildlife bird ruff wader

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This popular reserve on the north Norfolk coast has something for everyone. A walk from the visitor centre down to the sandy beach takes you past reedbeds and shallow lagoons, which are often full of birds. You can sit on benches or watch from spacious, wheelchair-accessible hides.

In summer, marsh harriers float over the reeds, where bearded tits nest. On the lagoons are avocets, gulls and terns. In autumn and winter you can see up to 20 species of wading birds and lots of ducks and geese.

A well-stocked shop has a wide range of RSPB gifts and books and a large selection of telescopes and binoculars. We have a servery and inside eating area selling a selection of hot and cold food and drinks, as well as snacks and locally-made cakes.

Opening times

The reserve is open every day of the year. The visitor centre and shop are open daily from 10.00 am to 5 pm (closing at 4 pm from November to February). They're closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The cafe is open daily from 10.00 am to 4.30 pm (closing at 4 pm from November to February). It's also closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Entrance charges

There is a charge of £5 per car for non members.

Information for families

There are lots of exciting activities for families to do during the school holidays. Call the visitor centre on 01485 210779 to find out what is happening today.

Information for dog owners

Dogs are only permitted on the west bank path, which is a public right of way. They must be kept on a lead and under close control.

For more information
Contact us
Tel: 01485 210779

Star species

Our star species are some of the most interesting birds you may see on your visit to the reserve.

Marsh harrier

Look for marsh harriers gliding over the reedbed with their wings held upwards in a shallow 'v'. In spring, pairs perform their breathtaking 'skydancing' displays high in the sky.


Keep your eyes peeled for bitterns making short, low flights over the freshwater reedbed. You may be lucky enough to find one fishing on the edge of a channel. In late winter and spring, listen out for the mating call: a deep, resonant 'boom'.

Bearded tit

You will often hear bearded tits before you see them. Listen for their bell-like 'pinging' calls, then watch them whizzing across the tops of the reeds. They perch up on the stems in calm weather and feed on fallen seeds on the mud at the base of the reeds.


Watch elegant avocets 'scooping up' microscopic, aquatic life in their amazing, sickle shaped beaks. They nest in mini colonies on the islands of the brackish marsh.


You can see redshanks wading in fresh and salt water throughout the year at Titchwell. Watch for their towering display flights over the saltmarsh as you walk along the main path in spring.

Seasonal highlights

Each season brings a different experience at our nature reserves. In spring, the air is filled with birdsong as they compete to establish territories and attract a mate. In summer, look out for young birds making their first venture into the outside world. Autumn brings large movements of migrating birds - some heading south to a warmer climate, others seeking refuge in the UK from the cold Arctic winter. In winter, look out for large flocks of birds gathering to feed, or flying at dusk to form large roosts to keep warm.


This is one of the most exciting times of the year. The first spring migrants, such as swallows and sand martins, can be seen over the lagoons with wheatears along the beach. In April and May, the lagoons can be full of migrating waders, including ruffs, black tailed godwits, spotted redshanks and dunlins. Marsh harriers can be seen performing their 'sky dancing' display and the reedbeds are alive with singing reed and sedge warblers. If you are lucky, you may also hear the 'booming' of the bittern, which has recently returned to breed at Titchwell.


Mid-summer is the quietest time for birds but the best for some of the more elusive reserve species. It is possible to see the rare water vole on the pools around the meadow trail and, if the conditions are suitable, up to ten species of dragonfly and damselfly. By mid-July, the breeding marsh harriers will have flying young and up to 15 birds have been seen in a day. In these quiet months, the reserve staff carry out essential management work on the lagoons. While every effort is made to avoid disturbance, it may sometimes be encountered during a visit.


Autumn is the time for waders when, with luck, over 20 species could be seen around the reserve. Species such as curlew sandpiper, little stint and black-tailed godwit stop on the lagoons to feed on their return migration from their Arctic breeding grounds to their African wintering grounds. With the high spring tides, large numbers of waders can often be seen roosting on the lagoons. September is one of the best months to view bearded tits. The young gather in small flocks and can show very well feeding on seeds blown onto the mud near the Island Hide.


Winter is the time for wildfowl at Titchwell. Large numbers of ducks and geese winter in North Norfolk and most of these species can be seen on the lagoons. The commonest species are teal, wigeon, mallard, gadwall and shoveler, with smaller numbers of pintails and goldeneyes. Offshore from the reserve, large 'rafts' of common scoters, long tailed ducks and eiders can be seen. In the evenings, thousands of pink-footed geese can be seen flying to their roost sites along the coast. Hen harriers, marsh harriers and occasionally barn owls can be seen over the reedbed at dusk. In the evenings, thousands of pink-footed geese may be seen flying to their roost sites along the coast.


Visitor centre

Information centre

Car park


Disabled toilets

Picnic area

Binocular hire

Group bookings accepted

Guided walks available

Good for walking

Pushchair friendly

Viewing points

The viewing platform on the edge of the dunes is an excellent spot from which to watch an array of waders on the beach and fishing terns, migrating skuas and wintering sea ducks, divers and grebes at sea.

Island Hide gives views over the bird-filled freshwater marsh and along the edge of the freshwater reedbed where you can watch bearded tits and water rails feeding.

We now have a new Parrinder Hide as part of this project.

Fen hide overlooks the freshwater reedbed and is the perfect spot from which to see bitterns, bearded tits and marsh harriers.

Nature trails

There are three trails on the reserve and all are accessible to wheelchairs/pushchairs.

The main path is approximately 1 km long and runs from the visitor centre to the beach.

The Fen Trail was extended in September 2012, along with the East Trail and Autumn Trail. To the end of the East Trail is 700 m and to the end of the Autumn Trail is 1.2 km.

Please note that the Autumn trail is only open between 1 August to 31 October to avoid disturbing the marsh harrier roost.

Coming back from these trails you can rejoin the main path via the Meadow Trail, which is 100 m long.

Sorry, dogs are only allowed on the main path (a public right of way).


We have a servery and inside eating area selling a selection of hot and cold food and drinks, as well as snacks and locally-made cakes.

Refreshments available

Hot drinks
Cold drinks
Hot meals
Cold meals

There is a large selection of optics and books, plus daily optics demonstrations.

The shop stocks:

Binoculars and telescopes
Bird food
Bird feeders
Outdoor clothing


10 September 2014

This is a Summary Access Statement. A full access statement is available to download from this page.

Before you visit

Entry to the reserve and the hides is free. Parking charges apply for non-members. Free parking for carer or essential companion with disabled visitor

The visitor centre and shop are open daily from 9.30 am to 5 pm (November to February closes at 4 pm) except Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The cafe is open daily from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm (November to February closes 4 pm) except Christmas Day and Boxing Day

Registered Assistance Dogs welcome. Other dogs are only permitted on the west bank path, which is a public right of way. They must be kept on a lead and under close control

Two pushed wheelchairs for hire free of charge

Check accessibility for events and activities.

How to get here

King's Lynn Railway Station is 22 miles (35 km away)

Bus stop outside the reserve.

Car parking

Eight Blue Badge spaces 130 metres from visitor centre entrance
120 spaces and a short walk along a gravel path from the visitor centre

Surface is bonded gravel

No lighting

No formal drop off point

No height restriction

Visitor centre and shop

Entry by double doors and a shallow slope. There is an entrance at the front and back to the visitor centre - both have shallow slopes. The entrance doors are manual, outward-opening light doors without a threshold.

Level, tiled floor throughout. No seating. Good lighting. Magnifying glasses, pens and paper available. Binoculars hire. Small children’s binoculars free hire. Information displayed in clear print format. Staff available to assist. Shop is in the visitor centre. Level throughout. Some tall or deep displays. Staff available to assist.

Nature trails

Three signposted trails. Mostly flat, boardwalks and rolled sand and gravel surface. A short, steep slope over the sea defence bank near the beach.

Viewing facilities

Four hides. Ramp or slope access with a mix of large windows or solid wood viewing slots which require opening - can be difficult as they are stiff. The new Parrinder Hides are spacious modern and all level throughout.

Toilets and baby changing facilities

A unisex accessible toilet in the main toilet block near car park 200 metres from the visitor centre.


Café serving hot and cold food and drinks, snacks and locally-made cakes. Step-free entry. Level throughout. Non-slip flooring. Colour-contrasted crockery. Staff available to assist. Nearest accessible toilet is 200 m from café in the car park.

Picnic area

Two picnic areas, five tables and one bench outside the visitor centre one bench with all tables having wheelchair spaces. 60m from the visitor centre toward the car park is a second picnic area with four benches and three tables with space for wheelchair access. Visitors are welcome to consume their own food and drink here.

Education facilities

No dedicated provision

Help us improve accessibility by sending feedback to the Site Manager.

For more information
Titchwell Marsh Visitor Centre
E-mail: titchwell@rspb.org.uk
Telephone:01485 210779


The 'feeding station' is warm and friendly with a reasonably-priced menu. We serve a wide selection of hot and cold snacks and light lunches. Takeaway drinks and food also available. Freshly-baked home-made scones daily. Locally-made ice-creams.

We serve our own exclusive coffee that is grown, imported and roasted by us. It's Fairtrade, organic and certified bird-friendly by the Smithsonian Institute, so now you can help save nature simply by enjoying a great cup of coffee!

Opening hours

10 am to 4.30 pm (we close at 4 pm from November to February)

Highlights from our menu

A selection of cold, filled wraps
Freshly-made sandwiches
Our famous bacon baps
Home-made cheese and fruit scones
Carrot and walnut cake, made by our local bakers, Krusty Loaf

Access to the cafe

Our cafe is on the ground floor - no stairs and easy access for wheelchairs.

Children welcome

We have two highchairs available. Children’s corner selection on the menu.

We use local ingredients

We sell locally-made Norfolk ice-creams. We use Fair Trade products where possible.

Dietary requirements

There are vegetarian, vegan, wheat-free and gluten-free options.

How to get here

By bicycle (Sustrans cycle route)
National route number 1 is within two miles of the reserve.

By train

King's Lynn - 22 miles.

By bus

On the main road outside the reserve.

By road

Take the first left after driving eastwards along the A149 through Thornham village. The reserve is signposted with a brown tourist sign.

Archaeology and history

Titchwell Marsh is a wonderful place for wildlife today but there is fascinating story to tell about how the landscape has evolved. Visitors can see remains that illustrate the two major events that have shaped the landscape - sea level rise after the last ice age and military use during the Second World War.

The advance of the sea
It wasn't always open marsh at Titchwell - there was a time more than 9,000 years ago when this area was covered in forest and was part of coastal plain that stretched out into what is now the North Sea.

Flint artefacts from this Mesolithic era have been found on the reserve, evidence that people were hunting and gathering, probably following animal herds for long distances. It has been suggested that at this time they could have walked as far as Denmark whilst staying on dry land!

A wetter climate led to the formation of peat, causing the trees to fall and be preserved in the wetland deposits. Gradual sea level rises throughout this post-glacial period then inundated and preserved the peat beds. Today the remains of the trees and peat beds can be seen eroding on the coastal foreshore at low tide.

Once the sea level rose, the coastal plains were inundated and by the Late Bronze Age, around 3,000 years ago, sea levels would have been much the same as today. Archaeologists have found evidence that people were living on the edge of the wetland at this time so there must already have been a settled community here - it would have been a good location to farm the dry land and exploit wetlands for fishing and fowling.

Today the challenges of climate change mean we expect more coastal inundation and our engineering works will ensure the preservation of important wildlife and cultural heritage for the future.

The Second World War

These wetland and intertidal areas would have been exploited by human communities for millennia for hunting and farming, but it is the 20th century that has seen the biggest changes at Titchwell and left an indelible mark on the reserve that can be seen during your visit.

During the Second World War, the quiet marshes were turned into a firing range
During the Second World War, the quiet marshes were turned into an Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV) firing range and the coast was reinforced against invasion. Part of these defences would have included a reversal of drainage and encouraging flooding as a defence against invasion - helping to re-establish wetland biodiversity.

The main banks, including the Parrinder bank were constructed for firing practice, with targets set at 1,000 yard intervals. Today these banks ensure that freshwater wildlife can be protected from inundation by saltwater. Rare breeding species such as the bittern, bearded tit and marsh harrier rely on freshwater reedbeds for there continued existence in the UK.

The remains of a 'firing loop' where tanks drove up to fire at the targets is still preserved as well as pillboxes where machine gun practice was also taking place. Many of the islands in the marsh were built to house 'pop-up' targets for gunnery practice and today these are important for breeding and roosting birds.

Occasionally the remains of two Covenanter tanks can be seen at low tide on the foreshore, their appearance depending on the shifting sands. These two were probably used for target practice.

More information about these heritage sites can be obtained from reserve staff during your visit.

Metal detecting and the collection and removal of objects from the reserve is not permitted.

Our work here

Titchwell Marsh is specially protected as part of the North Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural beauty.

The RSPB has helped create a mosaic of wetland and coastal habitats on the reserve in order to attract a diversity of bird species. These include nationally important numbers of avocets, bearded tits, marsh harriers and bitterns, and internationally important populations of wintering waders.

We are working to keep these habitats in good condition, and also to provide a key visitor attraction and a good example of our management practices.

Reedbed success

Our freshwater reedbed is important for threatened wildlife such as bitterns, bearded tits, marsh harriers and water voles.

In 2005 our three-year project to rehabilitate the reedbed for bitterns proved successful when the first pair bred on the reserve for 18 years.

Living lagoons

We are managing the freshwater lagoon and its islands for the benefit of breeding and wintering waders and wildfowl, among other wildlife.

We are also managing the brackish marsh as a saline lagoon. This provides suitable breeding conditions for avocets, as well as feeding grounds for other waders and wildfowl.

Natural habitats

We are allowing natural processes to maintain other coastal habitats, including saltmarsh, shingle and sand dunes. This provides habitat for a variety of birds, including wintering brent geese and wigeon, breeding little terns and redshanks, and high tide wader roosts.

We are also managing woodland and grassland areas around the reserve for their wildlife.

Rising tide

The coastline at Titchwell is eroding and we know that the site is becoming more vulnerable to damage caused by surge tides and storms. The RSPB is working to ensure the freshwater habitats are protected and will continue to support species such as the bittern and bearded tit.

We are examining options for flood defences at the seaward end of the reserve and will provide further information as soon as it becomes available.

Reaching people

Titchwell is one of the most-visited RSPB reserves. We will continue to maintain and improve our facilities. We will also use the reserve to demonstrate our management practices, and will continue to develop our positive relationships with key audiences and local communities.

Coastal Change Project

Titchwell Marsh is an exceptional nature reserve in a special area. It is part of a network of outstanding wildlife sites across Europe called Natura 2000.

The nature reserve has been under threat from the effects of coastal change, the impact of sea level rise and increasing storm events. The Titchwell Coastal Change Project was designed to save the reserve from the effect of these coastal changes.

We are pleased to say we have now successfully completed the project.

We have realigned the sea defences to the north and reinforced the sea banks around parts of the reserve to the west and east. The future of the reserve and its wildlife is assured for at least the next fifty years.

We could not have achieved this without support and funding received from the EU Life+ Nature Fund, WREN, The SITA Trust, Marine Communities Fund, and the many individuals and RSPB supporters who donated and enabled this project to take place.

The project took several years to plan and three years to deliver. A summary of what has been achieved appears below:

A new northern sea defence was built along the line of the Parrinder wall. The completed Parrinder wall will protect the reserve’s freshwater habitats to the south
The sea wall and west bank path were re-built and improved from the visitor centre northwards to the Parrinder wall. This sea wall will protect the freshwater habitats for years to come
Improvements were made to the freshwater marsh islands and reed bed to benefit nesting birds such as avocet and bittern
The fabulous new Parrinder hides opened in December 2010
A breach was made in the east bank to the north of the new Parrinder wall. This has allowed saltwater on to the brackish marsh which will change over time into tidal saltmarsh. The new saltmarsh will in turn protect the new Parrinder wall. This new marsh will be known as Volunteer Marsh
A section of the south-east corner of the east bank was improved, enabling it to better protect the freshwater habitats which lie to the west
The sluice on the east bank, which lets freshwater off the marsh, was replaced. This will enable us to control water levels on the freshwater marsh more effectively than we can at present
A new reedbed area was shaped and formed in the grazing meadow east of Fen hide
Two new trails were developed to the east of Fen hide. These trails will open in 2012.
The project has protected and improved the conservation value of the reserve and has ensured that it will remain one of the most outstanding and valuable wildlife sites in Europe.

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Titchwell Marsh
October 2014

Tags:   Ruff Titchwell