Cley-Next-The-Sea is a timeless North Norfolk seaside brick and flint village with a traditional red telephone box and storybook streets. The George Hotel at Cley dates back to 18th Century. The building has survived World War II bombing and the 1953 floods. In 1926 The George hosted the inaugural meeting of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust – or The Norfolk Naturalists Trust as it was called then – after their purchase of 407 acres of the nearby Cley Marshes for £5,160.
Its subsequent planning and operation has become the blueprint for all forms of nature conservation across the UK.
Over the years more and more people are spending short breaks in Norfolk, and Cley marshes has become increasingly popular with bird watchers, wildlife photographers and nature lovers. Ever watchful of the delicate balance between nature and human activity, in 2007 the Trust opened its visitor centre. The centre is eco-friendly and has a shop, viewing areas and cafe. The Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre, a courtyard and another viewing area has recently been added to the site.
As you would expect from an area of salt marshes and reed beds, many of the resident or migrating species to the Cley Marshes are seabirds and water fowl. A visitor is likely to see waders, divers, bunting, guillemots, Avocets, gulls and swans but equally likely to come across, kingfishers, harriers, owls, and bearded tits.
Amphibians and wildlife can also be found around the reserve. Toads, slow worms, grass snakes, adders, lizards, rabbits, hedgehogs, voles and weasels are just some you may come across.
The winter months are as popular with bird watchers as the summer and a great time to see and photograph some of the lesser seen species. While the marshes are a bird watchers paradise, there are a plethora of other attractions to keep everyone’s interest. The NWT regularly holds seminars on the marsh landscape, organised warden accompanied walks, and crafting. Within a short drive of Cley you will find local farmers markets and exhibitions of all kinds. Alternatively a stroll along the beach at the edge of the marshes, before stopping off to enjoy a cream tea can be just as alluring a reason to visit this stunning area of the British coastline.
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