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Discover Heigham Holmes Nature Reserve

A deceit of lapwings in front of Eelfleet Mill on Heigham Holmes.
A deceit of lapwings in front of Eelfleet Mill on Heigham Holmes. | © Hanne Siebers

Heigham Holmes Nature Reserve is a haven for wetland birds and an abundance of other wildlife. You can visit by signing up for one of our regular guided walks.

Guided walks

Details of upcoming events and guided walks at Heigham Holmes, led by National Trust rangers, can be found on the Horsey Windpump events page.

Please note that public access at other times is not possible, as the reserve is surrounded by water and can only be accessed via a swing bridge at Martham Ferry. This all adds to the unique character of Heigham Holmes, a special place where wildlife thrives with a minimum of disturbance.


Heigham Holmes is an isolated and relatively little-known island of low-lying grazing marshland in the parish of Potter Heigham (formerly known as Heigham Potter due to the extensive amount of pottery produced by the village). Peat digging was commonplace within the area until around 1350 when increasing water levels and flooding made peat extraction dangerous and costly.

It is an area of 500 acres bounded on all sides by a flood bank, which the River Thurne flows around. The word 'holmes' is derived from the Old Norse word ‘holmir’ meaning island, and it forms part of the Upper Thurne Broads and Marshes Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), which includes Hickling Broad and Horsey Mere. Together they form part of the Broads Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

Habitat and wildlife

Heigham is considered a unique and internationally important wetland. Its mix of reed fringed flood banks, open water, grazing marshes and wet woodland are all linked by a maze of dykes and pools, which are characteristic of The Broads landscape, providing a perfect habitat for a wide variety of wildlife.

Many different species can be found here. These include marsh harriers, cranes, barn owls, and avocets, deer (red, muntjac, and Chinese water deer), otters, and adders. In winter, Heigham is home to thousands of waterfowl, including white-fronted and pink-footed geese.

Various insects recorded include the swallowtail butterfly, as well as many rare moths and invertebrates such as the reed leopard moth and the Norfolk hawker dragonfly.

Our conservation role

Whilst Heigham Holmes has an aura of peace and tranquillity, this wetland landscape is in fact carefully managed. Continuing a Centuries’-old method of land management, the marshes are summer grazed by cattle, and we work closely with a local grazier to realise the benefits of conservation grazing.

Conservation grazing creates vegetation at different heights, and small areas of bare ground. This helps to create a suitable habitat for a wide range of wildlife. Cattle dung helps maintain invertebrate populations, which in turn are an important food source for wader chicks and ducklings in the spring.

We also maintain and clear the water courses and ditches on a rotation. This allows water to move around the site and ensures effective drainage with water levels neither too high nor too low.

National Trust volunteers regularly help with the management of the reserve. In 2023, our volunteers planted an extensive new hedgerow to act as a ‘wildlife corridor’ across Heigham Holmes for birds, bats, and insects.

Image shows a group of people on a guided walk with a volunteer at Tarn Hows on a sunny day, with a view of a hill in the background

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