Carlton Marshes Nature Reserve

July 13, 2023

Carlton Marshes Nature Reserve

Carlton Marshes Nature Reserve | Luxury dog friendly holiday homes under 10 mins away


Many of our guests at Suffolk Coastal Escapes are nature lovers. If this is you, make sure to include a visit to Carlton Marshes nature reserve during your stay. The reserve is 3 miles inland from Pakefield and offers a captivating experience for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike.

Spanning over 1,000 acres, Carlton Marshes nature reserve is one of the largest wetland habitats in the United Kingdom. Its vast expanse provides ample space for wildlife to thrive and visitors to explore. National Lottery Heritage Fund invested over £4 million to transform Carlton Marshes into the southern gateway to the Broads National Park. 

Water flows back onto the land, and nature is taking over once again. The investment also enhanced the facilities, created new trails, and improved access for visitors. Ensuring that guests of Suffolk Coastal Escapes can enjoy an exceptional nature experience in this remarkable conservation area.

Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a lead as there is grazing livestock on the reserve.


Lapwing at Carlton Marshes Nature Reserve | Luxury dog friendly holiday homes under 10 mins away

Bio-diversity at Carlton Marshes

Situated in the Waveney Valley, Carlton Marshes sits at the southern tip of the Norfolk Broads National Park. It comprises a jigsaw of grazing marsh, fens, peat pools, short fen meadow, tall fen, dykes, pools and scrub. Mostly man-made, these habitats have developed over hundreds of years of traditional management and now host specialised wildlife.

The flower studded marshes are drained by a system of dykes and grazed by cattle in summer. This creates a paradise for marshland birds and birds of prey including hobby and marsh harrier. In early summer you can see southern marsh orchid, marsh marigold and ragged-robin, together with the scarcer bogbean, bog pimpernel and marsh cinquefoil. Water vole may also be seen near the visitor centre and in and around the dykes, along with plants including water soldier and frogbit. These habitats are ideal for the rare fen raft spider which was successfully reintroduced to the reserve in 2012. Carlton & Oulton Marshes are also one of the best places in the UK for a range of freshwater snails which reflects the good water quality in the dykes.

Both Sprat’s and Round Water are the result of peat digging carried out long ago. The open water in both these pools is heaving with life including insectivorous bladderwort. This unusual plant lives off unsuspecting water fleas which it traps and digests in bladder-like sacs under water.

The reserve is also one of the best sites in East Anglia to see grasshopper warblers. The reed and sedge beds make ideal nesting cover for reed and sedge warblers, bearded tit, Cetti’s warbler and marsh harrier. The grazing marshes are also ideal for wintering wildfowl and breeding waders. Lapwing and redshank display through the spring and large numbers of wigeon, teal and snipe visit in winter.


Carlton marshes walks | Holiday cottages just 10 mins away

Walking Trails

Immerse yourself in nature as you wander along the well-maintained trails, taking in the serene beauty of the reserve. There are numerous trails ranging in distance from 30 mins to 2 hours. You can find a map of the trails here. There is also the option to join knowledgeable guides who will share fascinating insights into the reserve’s ecological significance. Guided walks run on Wednesdays from 10.00 – 12.30 for a small £5 charge, more information can be found here.

You can also walk along the banks of the river Waveney into nearby Oulton Broad (see Oulton Broad blog). For those looking for a challenge, you can walk along the river to Beccles, which is approximately 6 miles. You then have the option to catch the train back into Oulton Broad and take the short walk back to Carlton Marshes. 

Another option for your visit is to walk to the Waveney River Centre which is on the other side of the river.  For a small fee, the Ternpike foot ferry provides walkers a chance to visit the centre where you can enjoy lunch and refreshments.

Remember: Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a lead.


Carlton Marshes Visitor Centre | Luxury Holiday cottages just 10 mins away

Carlton Marshes Visitor Centre

At Carlton Marshes nature reserve, a state-of-the-art visitor centre awaits guests of Suffolk Coastal Escapes. The centre serves as a gateway to the reserve, providing a wealth of information about the area’s rich biodiversity and conservation efforts. Here, visitors can explore interactive exhibits, browse educational displays, and receive expert guidance from friendly staff. The centre also features a cozy café where you can grab a cup of coffee or indulge in locally sourced refreshments while taking in panoramic views of the reserve. With its warm and welcoming atmosphere, the visitor centre is the perfect starting point for your adventure into the captivating world of Carlton Marshes.

Swallows at Carlton Marshes | Luxury holiday homes just 10 mins away from the reserve


Embarking on a journey to Carlton Marshes nature reserve is an absolute must for guests of Suffolk Coastal Escapes. From the breathtaking landscapes and rich biodiversity to the captivating wildlife sightings, this hidden gem offers an unparalleled experience. Whether you seek tranquility, a chance to connect with nature, or an opportunity to learn about conservation efforts, Carlton Marshes has it all. With its newly enhanced visitor centre, now is the perfect time to immerse yourself in the wonders of this remarkable reserve. Plan your visit today and prepare to create cherished memories in the extraordinary natural haven that is Carlton Marshes.