Top 10 Wildlife and nature in East Anglia
Minsmere has been home to the national TV nature programme BBC Springwatch for the last 2 years. Now in its third and final year, this is the time to see what attracted the producers to this little haven on the east coast. Perhaps because of its abundance of wildlife which is attracted by the various woodland, wetland and coastal habitats. It is said to be ‘one of the wildest places in the land’ and perfect to visit all-year-round. Spot red deer, common butterflies and the elusive bittern. Children can have fun in The Wild Zone with a spot of den building.
Where to stay: If you’re touring, then a camping at Mill Hill Farm will suit you. Found within a tree-lined rural setting, it has panoramic views over open farmland. The on-site shop is fully equipped for your early morning breakfast and they also allow guests to open fish on the site too. What better way to connect with nature?
Where to eat: Head to The Eel’s Foot Inn, Eastbridge where the crew of BBC Springwatch spent their well-earned rest. Expert to be served a great local ale, such as Adnams Broadside or an Aspall’s Cyder, both Suffolk brands with a national reputation. It’s even used in the food they serve!
See the seals
There’s no more enjoyable a wildlife adventure than taking a boat trip to see the seal colony at Blakeney Point. The seals are very inquisitive and often pop up and swim around the boats. Trips go from Blakeney harbour and Morston quay, usually lasting about an hour, or two in the summer when the boats might land if tides and light make it permissible.
Where to eat: Push the boat out at the Michelin-starred Morston Hall.
Where to stay: The White Horse at Blakeney is a short walk from the quay.
Head to North West Suffolk and the River Waveney and Oulton Broad, where you’ll find Carlton Marshes, an internationally important nature reserve. The 151 hectares of wetland contains a dazzling array of wildlife. Marsh harriers, teals, kestrels and hobbies dance in the skies, while at ground level the observant can see grass snakes, fen raft spiders, otters, and even Chinese water deer. Botanical life flourishes in these marshy conditions too, such as bladderwort, bog pimpernel, ragged robin and marsh marigold. The reserve is managed by Suffolk Wildlife Trust who run regular guided walks and events.
Where to stay: Woodland walk or a stroll to the beach? At Gunton Hall you can have both. Even though it’s within walking distance of the beach, it’s surrounded by 50 acres of woodland, complete with a picturesque lake and pitch and putt course. Or base yourself at a traditional holiday park like Heathland Beach, which is fun-filled for the children.
Where to eat: The Duke’s Head is Somerleyton’s village pub, and offers delicious seasonal food often sourced from the Somerleyton Estate.
Pensthorpe Natural Park is a great way to see wildlife in a visitor attraction, with a huge variety of birds and wildlife to spot. Feed the birds at one of the specialist locations, get stuck in with the wildlife tracker trail or try your hand at pond dipping. Come along and meet some of the rare and native species such as Cranes, Corncrakes and Red Squirrels or hop aboard the landrover and explore with the Wensum Discover Tour.
Where to eat: How about going to Walsingham Farm Shop stocking up on home-made cheeses, breads and savouries and having a picnic on the beach at Wells-next-the-Sea.
Beccles on the River Waveney
Travel further up-river and you’ll come to the market town of Beccles on the Waveney. You can reach it in just twenty minutes by car, but we recommend you hire a boat or canoe and do the journey via river. It’s an ideal way to enjoy the sights of this tranquil environment; the trees and reedbeds along the banks provide habitat for wildlife: waterfowl, dragonflies and other minibeasts are all easily spotted, as well as a profusion of flowers and plants.
Where to stay: Located on the edge of the Waveney Valley and in beautiful countryside, Wheatacre Hall Barns offers modern luxury in eight converted barns. A great location in which to explore The Waveney Valley!
Where to eat: Head to Beccles Farmers’ Market for fresh produce to cook in your own time or The Duke’s Head, Somerleyton’s village pub, offers delicious seasonal food often sourced from the Somerleyton Estate itself.
Bird watching in north Norfolk
North Norfolk is one of the best places in the UK to go birdwatching. There’s an array of birdlife throughout the year but possibly the best time is in Winter when north Norfolk is inundated with thousands of migrating geese and swans. There are nature reserves along the coast.
Where to eat: Try The Ship at Brancaster Staithe but this stretch of coast has many great places to eat.
Where to stay: Briarfields is next to the Titchwell reserve.
Lackford Lakes is based in the west of Suffolk and north of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk’s historic town. From iridescent kingfishers to swirling clouds of starlings, the landscape of lakes, reedbed, meadow and woodland makes Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s Lackford Lakes a wildlife oasis, offering close-up encounters with nature all year round. The reserve, trails and hides are open daily from dawn to dusk. Call in to the visitor centre for panoramic views of the reserve… coffee, cake and ice cream… and wildlife explorer back packs for young adventurers.
Where to stay: In the heart of this historic market town sits The Angel Hotel, a 4 star award-winning Georgian coaching inn formerly frequented by Charles Dickens, and boasting a unique, art-filled Eaterie.
Where to eat: One of Suffolk’s most outstanding eateries, Pea Porridge is a local favourite whose down-to-earth style and delicious food earned it a place in the Good Food Guide 2015.
The Broads National Park
The Norfolk Broads is a National Park and is a wonderful place to see nature, from otters to kingfishers. Listen out for the ‘Boom!’ of the bittern, even if you don’t see one.
Where to eat: The Lavender House at Brundall has excellent fine dining.
Where to stay: The Waveney Inn is in the Waveney Valley in the Southern Broads.
Go wild at Africa Alive!
Africa Alive! is an award winning animal park in Kessingland, close to the Suffolk coast, where you can experience the sights and sounds of Africa up close. On your visit to the 100-acre safari park meet some of the creatures that roam the wild parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, you’ll see some of the planet’s rarest and most beautiful animals including lions, rhinos, buffalo, cheetahs, fennec foxes and many more. Educational, interesting and exciting, Africa Alive! is a wonderful Suffolk family day out.
Where to stay: The Old Rectory B&B in Kessingland is Suffolk’s first winner of VisitEngland’s new Recognition of Service Excellence (or ROSE) award. Set in two acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, the Grade II listed Georgian home offers 5 Star accommodation and is ideal for exploring Suffolk’s Heritage Coastline and its finest seaside towns.
Where to eat: St Peter’s Hall is nestled in beautiful, unspoilt countryside on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, adjacent to the famous St Peter’s Brewery and close to a host of market towns.
Zoos in Norfolk
Norfolk has a number of zoos, including Amazona, home to over 200 tropical animals, and Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, with the largest being Banham Zoo, an award-winning attraction and one of the most exciting wildlife attractions in the country with over 2,000 animals from around the world. Throughout the day there are plenty of activities to thrill and entertain families, including daily animal feeding talks and displays. There are also Sea Life centres at Gt Yarmouth and Hunstanton.
Where to eat: The Inn on the Green is at nearby New Buckenham.
Where to stay: The Old Bakery at Pulham Market is an award-winning B&B.