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Thorpe St Andrew Marshes

Local access: the road works in Thunder Lane have finished and parking there and on Yarmouth Road is fine. Access around the marshes on foot is dry (apart from any rain or dew, naturally). 17 April

Thorpe St Andrew Marshes – NWT Thorpe marshes for short – is one of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s newest nature reserves, established in 2011. It's in the Norfolk Broads yet on the edge of Norwich in Thorpe St Andrew. It also happens to be my local patch – just down the road from home and the Honeyguide office, writes Chris Durdin.

Click on the red writing to see the 15-page, illustrated Thorpe Marshes wildlife report for 2016.

NWT Thorpe Marshes is also within the area covered by James Emerson's Whitlingham Bird Report 2016.

lady's smock sedge warbler large red damselfly
Wildlife in April/May: lady's smock, sedge warbler (Derek Longe) and Large Red Damselfly.

April: winter wildfowl, tufted ducks especially, are still here in the first half of the month, at least. Chiffchaffs sing and the next migrant warblers to arrive will be willow and sedge warblers. Marsh marigolds and lady's smock are the star flowers, mostly later this month. Large Red Damselfly is the first damselfly to emerge, in late April or early May.

Recent sightings


16 April: little egret, 3 buzzards, sparrowhawk, grasshopper warbler.

11 April: common scoter and jack snipe photographed (RC).

8 April: sedge warblers (2) singing, redshank, male marsh harrier (flushed snipe), buzzard over, little egret. Great crested grebe still on nest; brood of (semi-domestic?) mallards. Several small tortoiseshells. Blackcap, chiffchaffs, linnets, reed buntings, Cetti's warbler. Shovelers gone, tufted duck numbers declining, pair of teal still, gadwall present.

3 April: marsh marigolds in flower. 92 tufted ducks, but gadwall down to one, pair of shovelers still present, 3 little grebes. 6 lapwings, 2 oystercatchers.

common carder bee peacock
Sunshine brings out bees and butterflies. Common carder bee on dandelion; peacock butterfly.

29 March, guided walk: chiffchaffs, Cetti's warblers, great crested grebe on nest, little egret, 2 male shovelers, first lady's smock in flower, buzzards.

26 March: chiffchaffs singing, green woodpecker, grey wagtail.

8 March: lesser celandines flowering.

7 March: stonechat and little egret still there; oystercatchers displaying, male shoveler. Coltfoot coming into flower - see old Coltsfoot at Thorpe Marshes blog here.

21 February: 3 little grebes, little egret, oystercatcher (2 yesterday).

17 February, guided walk: little egret, 2 stonechats, 1 male shoveler, water rail heard, 2 reed buntings singing, 150 lapwings over.

10 February: black-necked grebe, present since about 1 February.

black-necked grebe with tufted ducks
Black-necked grebe with tufted ducks, 10 Feb (Derek Longe).

24 January: 95% ice cover on the Broad, with ducks (including male pochard) concentrated in the 5%.

19 January: 90% ice cover on the Broad. A few ducks on the far side (from the viewing area) only.

Canada geese, seen on the guided walk on 16 January (Derek Longe).

16 January, guided walk:
3 shovelers, 2 little grebes, Chinese water deer, lots of gadwalls, teals and tufted ducks on the Broad. Water rail and Cetti's warblers noisy today.

Left: Chinese water deer on the broad's edge, from the viewing area (Derek Longe).

Reserve under water, 14 January. Left, from the footbridge. Right: from just over the footbridge, looking along the path towards the mooring basin.

5 January: 2 stonechats. Routine numbers of gadwall/teal/tufted ducks on the Broad. Water rail seen rather than heard, for a change.

Sightings from 2012 - 2016 here.

Wildlife reports & guide

Guide: click here to see NWT Thorpe Marshes map and guide.

2016 Click on the red writing to see the illustrated Thorpe Marshes wildlife report for 2016. James Emerson's Whitlingham Bird Report 2016.

2015 Thorpe Marshes wildlife report for 2015.
James Emerson's Whitlingham Bird Report 2015.

2014 Thorpe Marshes wildlife report for 2014.
James Emerson's Whitlingham Bird Report 2014.

2013 Thorpe Marshes wildlife report for 2013.
James Emerson's Whitlingham Bird Report 2013.

2012 Thorpe Marshes wildlife report for 2012.
James Emerson's Whitlingham Bird Report 2012.

Reports are in PDF format.

Wildlife habitats

The three key habitats at Thorpe St Andrew Marshes are the ditches, gravel pit and grazing marshes - see below.

Other habitats, which are all part of the rich mix, include:

  • rough marsh of willowherb and nettles, attracting many sedge warblers
  • sallow (pussy willow) scrub, good for Cetti's warbler
  • the adjacent tidal River Yare
  • adjacent wet woodland
  • areas of reed, including a reed rond on the river, attracting reed warblers.


Many ditches – also called dykes in Norfolk – have abundant water soldier and frogbit, both aquatic plants. These are indicators of good water quality.

In the Broads, the occurrence of the Norfolk hawker dragonfly, which is the symbol of the Broads Authority, is strongly linked to water soldier. The best place to see these is over the ditches close to the cattle corral.

Water rails and water voles use the ditches, though both are difficult to see.

water soldier watermint frogbit
Ditches rich in water soldier (left), water mint (centre) and frogbit (right)

Gravel pit

Gravel extraction – as at Whitlingham Country Park across the river – has led to the creation of a lake, which has filled naturally with river water. Some may call this a ‘broad’: the true broads are man-made, too, though from flooded peat diggings, and typically are much shallower.

gulls over the gravel pit
Gulls over the gravel pit, December 2011

The gravel pit here attracts wintering ducks, especially tufted ducks (picture below), pochards and gadwalls, moving between here and the Country Park. Unusual ducks call in at times, including smew, goldeneye, red-crested pochard and ferruginous duck over the 2011/12 winter.

Gravel beaches attract ‘loafing’ ducks and wading birds, which include little ringed plovers in spring/summer. Stock doves often feed on plant seeds on the gravel.

Grazing marshes

Livestock are essential to manage the open grazing marshes habitat.

cattle at Thorpe Marshes

Without them, thick grasses and sedges would soon dominate, and would in time be taken over by scrub.

More heavily grazed and trampled areas have a distinct structure of lumps and hollows that attract feeding snipe, and have flowers such as marsh marigold and lady’s smock.

the flood

The flood: the grazing marshes include a 'flood', periodically under water, then drying out, here with a greylag goose and mallards in March 2012. The bright green shoots are emerging yellow flag iris plants.

More Honeyguide nature notes

This is an unofficial web page supporting the reserve, to show pictures, promote events and report recent wildlife sightings.

For the official NWT web page, click here or on the logo. Also, the NWT blog has reports from Thorpe Marshes (scroll down for a list and links).

For official information or policy, please contact the NWT directly.

There is no parking in the private road of Whitlingham Lane. If coming to Thorpe Marshes by car, please park on Yarmouth Road (see note above about Thunder Lane being shut from mid-February).

Friday 28 April 10am

Walk meeting point: by the bridge in Whitlingham Lane (not Bungalow Lane - the NWT wildlife events leaflet is wrong).

Look out for

velvet shank

Velvet shank: one of a range of fungi on the woodland edge, seen on the guided walk on 17 Feb.

stonechat (Ricky Cleverley)

Stonechat (Ricky Cleverley), seen fairly regularly up to March.

water rail

Water rail: often vocal, always tricky to see.

News and features

new bench

New bench (December 2016) at the viewing area over St Andrews Broad, in memory of the two young people who lost their lives in the broad in summer 2015.

NWT seeks pond-dipping volunteer: the Trust wants to use the education area at Thorpe Marshes for families and for schools, youth groups and higher education students. Some can be done by NWT's seasonal education officers, but for the pond-dipping platform to be used more often - perhaps once a month from Easter - a volunteer is sought.

Good communication skills needed. Training will be given. More information from Annabel Hill at NWT.

Changes at Thorpe Marshes, May 2016: new fences and gates are installed, plus a pond-dipping platform for education work. The shingle spit is now fenced off, on the advice of the Health & Safety Executive and police following drownings in summer 2015.

Drake domestic mallard x pintail at River Green, Thorpe St Andrew: photos here.

pintail x domestic mallard

Gallery of photos of dragonflies and damselflies of NWT Thorpe Marshes on Facebook here. Updated, 30 September 2015.

Nightingale: hear and see the bird near the reserve on YouTube here (Ricky Cleverly, 23 May).

Mediterranean gull, 1st winter

Mediterranean gull photos from suburban Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich, January 2015, here on Facebook. Seen with group, 19 Jan. Last seen 10 February, not there in second half of February.

Norfolk Hawker movie, an egg-laying female at NWT Thorpe Marshes, on YouTube here.


Monthly walks led by Chris Durdin

Friday 28 April 10am
Friday 26 May 10am
Thursday 22 June 7pm
Wednesday 19 July 7pm
Friday 4 August 10am
Friday 15 September 10am
Monday 16 October 10am
Tuesday 14 November 10am
Wednesday 13 December 10am

All walks are free of charge and last about 2 hours at a slow pace. They start from the pedestrian railway bridge at the end of Whitlingham Lane.

Simply turn up and enjoy. Remember to bring binoculars and a camera if you have them.

Boots are recommended as paths can be wet in places, though path improvements last winter mean wellies are not needed.

Talks: we can offer a talk about NWT Thorpe St Andrew Marshes. Please contact Chris.

Watching a goldeneye: some of the group on December 2015's guided walk (Derek Longe).


By Chris Durdin about Thorpe Marshes on the NWT blog.

Sedge warblers return (April 2017).

The times they are a-changin’ (February 2017).

Gathering gadwall (January 2017).

Cranes and Hickling Broad' - by Chris Durdin, but not Thorpe Marshes (November 2016).

Ovington Ramblers visit Thorpe Marshes (November 2016) [not by CD.]

Pretty damsels (September 2016).

Trapped! (May 2016).

Pop goes the weasel (February 2016).

Winter access to Thorpe Marshes (December 2015).

Willow Emeralds return to Thorpe Marshes (October 2015).

In for the count (September 2015), on Norfolk hawker and orange-tip surveys.

Coltsfoot at Thorpe Marshes (March 2015).

A Gem of an Emerald (September 2014).

Bartsia, mint and combing bee (August 2014).

Damsel delights (July 2014).

November flowers (November 2013).

Half moon highlight (October 2013).

Purple haze (August 2013).

Tree bumblebees at Thorpe Marshes (July 2013).

February at Thorpe Marshes (February 2013).

January at Thorpe Marshes (January 2013).

bee orchid

Also NWT blogs by Chris Durdin:

Cranes and Hickling Broad, November 2016.

Big Yellow bee orchids are back, June 2016.

The Meadow in the City, June 2015

comma on ivy

November butterfly: comma on ivy (1 November 2015).

Local accommodation

Coming from some distance and visiting NWT Thorpe Marshes? Options for accommodation include:

Kingfisher bungalow, self-catering chalet adjacent to the marshes.

Old Rectory hotel and restaurant

Oaklands Hotel, Yarmouth Road

Other links

More wildlife records from the Yare Valley on Yare Valley Wildlife.

Birds and beer blogspot from James, with sighting from Thorpe Marshes and other local spots.

The Norfolk Cranes' Story - a plug for the book for which I am co-author.

flea beetles

Flea beetles Altica sp (Derek Longe), 30 March 2016

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