Sea Palling Cycle Hire is situated on the East Norfolk coast, order and is in close proximity to many places that are rich in natural history.
The dune systems with their unique flora are home to a wealth of wildlife, some very rare. The nationally rare Natterjack Toad is to be found in and around the toad pools at Winterton North Dunes and both the Adder and Common Lizard are present. Also here are the Dark Green Fritillary and Grayling butterflies, and an evening visit could be rewarded with views of Nightjars. The south dunes at Winterton are also worth exploring for migrant birds, particularly in spring and autumn, and there is always the chance that a rarity will turn up, which they often do at this site!
In the winter, the beach between Winterton and Horsey plays host to over a hundred Grey Seals which visit to have their pups. Common Cranes, Marsh and Hen Harriers, Barn Owls and thousands of Pink-footed Geese are also present in the area during the autumn and winter months and Chinese Water Deer are not an unfamiliar sight.
Martham Broad is well worth a visit, particularly in autumn and winter. Several species of duck are to be found here, including the Goldeneye and occasionally the Smew. Red-necked and Slavonian Grebes turn up here also and there is always the chance of seeing a Bittern or a Kingfisher.
Horsey Mere offers great (free) views over Broadland from the top of the windmill and the area around the mere is good for Bittern, Marsh Harrier, Bearded Reedling, Water Rail and Cranes. In the winter a good number and variety of ducks are present on the mere and in the evening the thousands of Pink-footed Geese flying over to roost provide quite a spectacle.
The Norfolk Wildlife Trust at Hickling is close by and has a great diversity of flora and fauna. The Milk Parsley growing here is the food plant of the Swallowtail Butterfly. This superb butterfly is only found in Norfolk and is our largest butterfly. Also here is another rare insect and again only found in this region, the Norfolk Hawker Dragonfly. Breeding birds include Common Crane, Bittern, Marsh Harrier and Bearded Reedling. Water Voles are regularly seen and Otter sightings are increasing. Even in winter, the reserve has something to offer, courtesy of the roost site watch-point at the end of Stubb Road. Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier (over a 100 have been recorded), Merlin, Pink-footed Geese and Cranes can all be seen going to roost and Chinese Water Deer are regularly seen.
Sea Palling itself has much to offer. Sea-watching here is good in autumn, with migrating Skuas, Shearwaters, Terns, Auks, Gannet and Sea Duck going past and Purple Sandpipers are increasingly being seen on the boulder sea defences. The minor road behind the dunes is a good place to explore in spring for migrant birds and sometimes rarities. A Red-backed Shrike took up residence for several weeks and a Hoopoe was also recorded there.
Riding a bike on our cycle routes through Norfolk offers you the opportunity of seeing our many and varied wildlife habitats.
Created by medieval peat diggings, the Norfolk Broads is a unique environment consisting of waterways, fens, marshes and wet woodlands and is a great place to visit at any time of year. The area has a wide variety of flora and fauna, with many species found nowhere else in Britain, such as the Swallowtail Butterfly and the Norfolk Hawker Dragonfly.
The Norfolk Wildlife Trust has several reserves, one of which is Hickling Broad, where both the Norfolk Hawker and Swallowtail can be found. Rare breeding birds such as Bitterns, Marsh Harriers, Bearded Reedlings and Common Cranes can be found, and in winter thousands of Pink-footed Geese can be seen on adjacent farmland. Otters have made a welcome come-back and are now regularly seen in and around the broads, and Chinese Water Deer are well-established in the area.
The area around Thetford, known as the Brecks, with its heaths, stands of pine, birch and gorse is home to several rare species. One of these is the weird and wonderful looking Stone Curlew, which can be seen at the NWT reserve at Weeting Heath. Woodlarks, Tree Pipits and Nightjars are also found in the Brecks and Muntjac and Roe Deer are relatively common.
The fluting calls of Golden Orioles can be heard (and they can be seen if you are lucky) at the RSPB’s reserve at Lakenheath, which also attracts good numbers of Hobbies in spring. Thompson Common is well worth a visit to see the Pingos. These are ponds which came about due to the action of ice, before the end of the last ice age and are a unique habitat and where the rare Scarce Emerald Damselfly can be found.
The North Norfolk coast:
The North Norfolk coastline with its shingle beaches, dune systems and salt marshes is well-known for attracting rare birds. Reserves at Cley, Titchwell and Holme are well worth a visit at any time of year, but it is in spring and autumn when avian rarities tend to appear. Hunstanton, with its cretaceous cliffs, has breeding Fulmars and you may even find a fossil!
Both Common and Grey Seals can be seen at Blakeny Point, either by walking from Cley or via a boat trip, and at West Runton the Cromer Forest Bed (a geological feature) can be seen at base of the cliffs. Some of the only rock pools in Norfolk are here and are well worth exploring at low tide.
Small ‘pockets’ of ancient woodland are still to be found in Norfolk and include woods at Wayland, Foxley, and Hockering. Foxley Wood is thought to be 6000 years old and is a remnant of what would have been covering the vast majority of the countryside in the past.
These woodlands were once coppiced, to produce shoots to make products such as baskets. This management system has been brought back in some areas in order to increase biodiversity, and as a consequence they are good places to hear Nightingales. Golden Pheasants can be found at Wayland and all the woods contain a good variety of woodland birds. Bluebells carpet the woods in spring and the Greater Butterfly Orchid can be found (one of the indicator plant species of ancient woodland).
North Norfolk Heaths and Mires:
The plant communities associated with the heaths and mires have special adaptations to cope with, in what is a relatively difficult environment. Therefore, several species are unique to these environments and a visit to places like Holt Lowes, Kelling Heath and Dersingham Bog is very worthwhile.
Holt Lowes at Holt Country Park is a unique environment consisting of heath and acidic bog. Sundews (carnivorous plants) are found here as are several species of Orchids. Nightjars can also be seen here and the Bog Bush Cricket is also present. Black Darter and Keeled Skimmer Dragonflies are also found where there are acidic bogs, and Dersingham is good for both these species.
Old Meadows and Grasslands:
Old meadows and grassland are natural in as much as they have not been sown. This makes them relatively uncommon, compared to the sown grasslands, which make up the greater part of the county and indeed the British Isles. However, defining what is a long standing grassland is another matter. One example of ‘long standing’ grassland is around the Stanford Battle area but other more accessible sites are to be found on cliff tops and commons stretches of rivers, such as the Waveney.
Plant communities found on grassland and meadows vary, especially with regard to soil type. However, many species of butterflies can be found including Large, Essex and Small Skippers, Ringlet and Meadow Brown. On chalk grassland, such as Narborough disused railway line, Grizzled and Dingy Skippers can be found.
All wildlife photographs on this website are courtesy of P Fairman Ecological Experiences, who are our recommended suppliers of wildlife centred activities in the Norfolk area.
More information is available via their website: www.ecologicalexperiences.co.uk