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Things to do at West Runton and Beeston Regis Heath

Winter sun shining on bare trees
Winter sun shining on bare trees | © National Trust Images/Justin Minns

Explore West Runton and Beeston Regis Heath and you'll discover expansive sea views and a landscape teeming with wildlife, from nightjars and badgers to adders and white admiral butterflies.

Winter at West Runton

Winter is a magical time to explore a different side to the woods and the heathland. The woods take on a whole new character, when autumn hues fade, making way for spectacular frosty landscapes.

The trees are laid bare, and there is a remarkable amount of wildlife activity. Watch out for winter migrants including redwings, fieldfares, bramblings, woodcocks and crossbills.

Walk through the woodlands

Why not take a gentle walk in the woods? There are lots of paths to follow. While you're walking, look out for rowan, oak, ash and sweet chestnut, as well as old beech trees, some of which have been pollarded.

Many of the trees you will see started growing here when myxomatosis decimated the rabbit population and the windblown seeds from silver birch grew into young trees that shaded out heathland species.

The woodlands provide cover for common birds and deer. Muntjac deer are often seen, while roe and red deer are visible occasionally.

Explore the heathland

The heaths here are diverse but the dominant plant is common heather. In the warmer months you may see lizards, adders, grass snakes, toads, green woodpeckers and, at dusk, nightjars. Butterflies are less numerous in the colder months.

Take in the views

Looking from Roman Camp over West Runton Heath the North Sea looks deceptively inviting. In the distance you can see Holy Trinity Church in West Runton.

Climb Incleborough Hill

Climb to the top of Incleborough Hill for panoramic views of North Norfolk, the coast and the North Sea, with its wind turbines and vessels. Look up and you may see birds of prey circling such as red kites and other raptors soaring overhead.

Find a piece of history

You may also come across evidence of earthworks that were constructed during WWII. These include practice trenches, weapons pits and gun emplacements, all visible on aerial photographs. It's rumoured that there were underground tunnels and possibly a command post on the top of the hill, as it provides a clear panoramic view of potential enemy activities.

Dog walker on winter heath West Runton
Dog walker on winter heath at West Runton | © National Tuts/Justin Minns

Spot wildlife

One of the aims for this area is to encourage a diverse range of plants, insects and animals. You will see many common species amongst the wildlife as well as much rarer ones, especially during the spring and autumn migrations.


Nightjars arrive in spring, making their curious churring call at dusk. If you are very lucky you might see them flying around catching insects. Other birds you may see include woodpeckers, nuthatches and finches. Buzzards and sparrowhawks are often seen soaring above the high ground, especially over Incleborough Hill.


On the heaths you could come across adders basking in the sun. Please do not attempt to handle them. Adders have poor eyesight and react to vibration, which they sense through their bodies, and they detect scent using their tongues. Common lizards and slow-worms live here too, but they're often difficult to see.

During the nesting season and on hot summer days we ask that you keep dogs on leads to avoid disturbing basking adders and ground-nesting birds such as nightjars.

A male badger (Meles meles) on farmland managed by the National Trust near Zennor, Cornwall
A male badger | © National Trust Images/Seth Jackson


You might be lucky enough to see a badger, however they normally stay in their underground setts during the day. Sometimes their presence is given away by the small pits they leave behind after digging for insect grubs and roots.


You can see several species of bat around dusk, when they feed on the plentiful insects. The most commonly seen are pipistrelles and brown long-eared bats, but you might also see a Natterer's bat. Occasionally noctules and serotines are are spotted flying high over the open areas.

Butterflies and moths

While strolling the heaths, keep an eye out for the barred chestnut moth (rare in Norfolk), hummingbird hawk moth, silver-washed fritillary and the day-flying broad-bordered bee hawk moth. Green hairstreak and grayling butterflies are also found on the heaths.

One of the most notable butterflies is the white admiral. It glides along the forest rides in July, from trees to the woodland floor. The species is still spreading northwards and climate change is thought to be partly the cause of this. You can often see these butterflies around honeysuckle where they lay their eggs, as their larvae feed on the plant.

A male Green Hairstreak in April at Rodborough Common, Gloucestershire
A male green hairstreak | © National Trust Images/Matthew Oates

The green tiger beetle

A beetle that you might come across is the green tiger beetle (Cicindela campestris). This is the only common and widespread tiger beetle species in the UK. They can be found across a range of heathlands, and can be spotted from April to September.

You can easily recognise these ground beetles by their iridescent green bodies with yellow spots. Notice their long legs, which help to make them agile when hunting for prey. Their large eyes are great for spying potential food. The larvae live in burrows and are often responsible for the little holes you may see on the heathland.

The only other tiger beetle you might see in Norfolk is the dune tiger beetle (Cicindela maritima).

Flowers to look out for

West Runton is home to many species of flowers. How many will you spot on your next visit?

You can see foxgloves both in shady woodlands and on the heaths. They flower from early summer to the autumn and the tall flower spikes are produced in the plant's second year.

The red campion has a bright rose-red flower and a hairy stem and leaves. You will spot them under hedges and in woodlands. In the woodland they usually come into flower as the bluebells start to fade.

The bugle has deep blue flower spikes and blooms between April and July. It attracts a variety of insects.

Gorse bushes cover the Main Heath and Incelborough Hill. These coconut-scented plants flower in late autumn through winter, reaching their peak in spring.

Family looking at the view from the bench near the trig point at West Runton, Norfolk

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