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Rangers move back into remote lifeboat house on Blakeney Point in Norfolk to protect internationally significant seabird colonies

Duncan Halpin, Ranger, on the steps outside the iconic blue lifeboat house on Blakeney Point
Duncan Halpin, Ranger, moves into his summer residence - he lives in the old lifeboat house on Blakeney Point from March to October | © National Trust Images / Hanne Siebers

Three National Trust rangers have moved back into the historic lifeboat house on the remote shingle spit of Blakeney Point, part of the Blakeney National Nature Reserve on the Norfolk coast which is cared for by the National Trust, to monitor and protect its significant colony of terns and give them the best chance of a successful breeding season.

Blakeney Point is also home to England’s largest grey seal colony, which played a starring role in last night’s episode of the BBC’s Wild Isles.

The series has revealed over 40 per cent of the UK’s native species are in decline, and the UK is in the bottom 10 per cent of countries globally for protecting nature, which is one of the reasons why the rangers’ conservation work is so vitally important.

To do more to protect the UK’s spectacular landscapes and their wildlife, including Blakeney Point, the National Trust, the RSPB and WWF UK have launched their first-ever joint campaign, called Save our Wild Isles, which has an urgent call to halt to the destruction of UK nature and implement action for its recovery at its centre. The three charities are encouraging people across the UK to show their love of nature by committing to ‘go wild once a week’, by creating wilder spaces, making nature part of their everyday lives and speaking up on its behalf.

At Blakeney, rangers live on the spit for up to eight months each year, inhabiting the iconic blue lifeboat house to provide a 24-hour watch for the internationally important nesting site for common and Sandwich terns, as well a nationally important site for the threatened little terns, whose population has declined by 40 per cent since the 1980s.

Terns have been breeding at Blakeney Point since the 1800s, with 2021 being a particularly successful year, as the team counted 3,678 pairs.

In recent years, as many as 25 per cent of the UK’s population of Sandwich terns and 16 per cent of the UK’s little tern population have sought to breed at the Point, as its remote and wild landscape provides the perfect habitat for residential and migrating wildlife.

Duncan Halpin, National Trust Ranger for the Norfolk Coast and Broads has just moved back into the lifeboat house for his second year. He explains: “The first tern nests are expected from late April, beginning with Sandwich terns, and then from mid-May onwards little terns will arrive. Little terns are one of the UK’s rarest seabirds and are afforded the utmost protection from disturbance.

“The UK has around 1,300 pairs of little terns, and the Point can host up to 200 pairs, although this varies from year to year. With such a low population concentrated only on a handful of sites around the country, protecting these is paramount to ensure their survival.”

Throughout the breeding season, the team of National Trust rangers and around thirty volunteers will be counting nests and fledglings, warding off predators and talking to visitors to limit disturbance to the terns as they nest on the ground.

For visitors looking to enjoy Blakeney Point Duncan advises: “Please be mindful of ground-nesting birds when visiting the coast. Look out for restrictions, follow signage, and always watch your step – birds don’t obey fence lines, so walking down at the water’s edge is usually the safest thing to ensure as little disturbance as possible”

To find out how you can play your part in saving nature, visit