3rd July 2021 – Orford Ness National Nature Reserve, Suffolk

Despite the disappointing weather we had a fabulous trip to this wild and remote shingle spit, the largest in Europe – Orford Ness is an internationally important coastal nature reserve, with a fascinating 20th century military history.

You take a short boat trip from Orford Quay and, as the National Trust website says ,”follow trails through a stunning landscape and a history that will both delight and intrigue. Discover an internationally important nature reserve littered with debris and unusual, often forbidding, buildings from a sometimes disturbing past.’

Unusual structures scattered across the salt marshes and shingle beaches of Orford Ness are remnants of the island’s unique history as a test site for communications and weapons systems.

The National Trust ferry Octavia approaching Orford Quay.

With Covid restrictions you are currently allocated approximately four hours for your visit and we spent most of our time exploring the wildlife. We did, however, visit some of the military buildings where there were exhibitions of the secret military past.

The National Trust’s website gives a very good account


Currently there is also a physical and online art exhibition – Artangel’s Afterness (see the website https://www.artangel.org.uk/project/afterness/) and headsets are freely available but we preferred to listen to the sound of the birds, particularly skylark and oystercatcher.

Due to the bird breeding season we were only allowed to visit a small section of the marshes (red route on map below) but there was more than enough for us to see.

A telescope would have been useful to see the distant views of waders but many were close enough to see and photograph. There was one spectacular moment when, near the end of our visit as I was photographing a distant marsh harrier, a spoonbill flew directly overhead. I am embarrassed to say how many shots I took of this delightful bird.

Marsh harrier above one of the mysterious buildings (with another raptor on the roof)
Meadow pipit
Little egret
Greenshank I presume – however its legs were very yellow so I even considered a Yellowlegs
Marsh harrier
We had better views than this blurred photo of an avocet

Gallery of some of the buildings and landscapes on Orford Ness

As well as migrating birds the marshland and shingle beaches are also home to hares and rare plants and lichens.

Gallery of some of the photos I took:

Can’t wait to go back (even though I don’t expect to get such good views of a spoonbill again).

Gallery of just a few of the photos I took of the spoonbill!:

4 responses to “3rd July 2021 – Orford Ness National Nature Reserve, Suffolk”

  1. That spoonbill…what joy to behold…I saw them , the Roseate variety in the Pantanal…spectacular birds. That looks a great place to visit..never been there. You certainly got great results.

    Liked by 1 person

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