Nature enthusiasts listen in! Here’s our guide to just a handful of the many Suffolk Wildlife Trust nature reserves near to Southwold and Dunwich.

Hen Reedbeds

Size: 110.5 acres
Park: At lay-by on A1095 and the main car park at reserve sign
Dogs: On leads (sorry, no dogs in hide)
Best time to visit: April, May

A blend of redbeds, fens, dykes and pools, established here 17 years ago to provide a new breeding habitat for bittern and other wildlife.

Star Species: Marsh harrier, bearded tit and water vole

What Can I See?

In the summertime, marsh harrier, heron, bearded tit and hobby are all out over the reeds and dykes, as reed and sedge warblers sing their hearts out by the clouds of iridescent damselfly and nimble dragonfly.

Also here, but far more secretive, are the water vole and otter. Keep a look out!

The damp woodland is filled with sallow, osier and alder, as well as fungi, fern and wetland plants.

For the best view of the largest mere, follow the way-marked trail through the reedbed to the viewing platform at Wolsey Creek Marshes. In the pools here you might see wildfowl like gadwall, tufted duck and teal, and at low tide, scan the mudflats for redshank, sandpiper, and the iconic avocet.


 

Reydon Wood

Size: 40 acres
Park: At the end of the track leading to the reserve
Dogs: On leads
Best time to visit: April, May

This typical, Suffolk ancient woodland has many large coppice stools, some of which are hundreds of years old.

Centuries of coppicing, a traditional way of harvesting wood, have allowed sunlight to regularly flood the wood floor, resulting in a unique ground flora.

Star Species: Bluebell, Common spotted and early-purple orchid

What Can I See?

Look out for early-purple orchid, violet, twayblade, primrose and yellow archangel.

Within the sunny, grassy glades you will see butterflies, such as ringlet, gatekeeper, orange tip, speckled wood and painted lady, and the open tracks are particularly rich in wildflowers, like common spotted orchid, ragged-robin and fleabane.

Birds to look out for include the tawny owl, sparrow hawk, woodcock and treecreeper.

 

Wenhaston Commons

Size: 65.6 acres
Park: Wenhaston village
Dogs: On leads
Best time to visit: April-September

Consisting of five, small, interconnecting heaths – Blackheath, Mill Heath, Church Common, Bickers Heath, and Blowers Common – this picturesque reserve is teeming with wildlife!

Star Species: Silver-studded blue butterfly, woodlark and bell heather

Spring and early summer bring the nightingale’s birdsong over the heaths, with stunning views of bell heather and coconut-scented yellow gorse. In August, amethyst shades of ling colour the scene.

At Mill Heath, you can see lots of wildflowers, including wood sage and heath bedstraw.
Blackheath is characterised by honeysuckle, bramble and gorse, and its ancient dew pond holds great-crested newt (best viewed at night by torchlight!)

Lizard and slow worm bask in sheltered sun traps, but will probably scurry off at your approach! Bright green tiger beetles can also be seen hurrying over the ground.

Dingle Marshes

Size: 650 acres
Park: Forest enterprise car park, off Blythburgh Road (for bird-hide access) and Dunwich beach car park
Dogs: On leads
Best time to visit: All year

One of the few places in Suffolk, accessible by road, where you can have a near wilderness experience.

Star Species: Bittern, marsh harrier and avocet

May is particularly wonderful, with bittern blooming and marsh harrier displaying.

The reserve attracts breeding and wintering wildfowl and wading birds, including the elegant avocet, the white-fronted goose, lapwing and redshank.

The reedbed here actually holds a significant proportion of the UK’s marsh harrier and bittern, the latter of which has only 13 blooming males left in Britain!

The site is internationally important for starlet sea anemone – less than 2cm long, found in the soft mud at the edges of the creeks, salt marshes and brackish – which reside alongside water vole and otter.

Main photo by Steve Aylward, source: EDP 24; horse photo by Suffolk Wildlife Trust; bluebell and marsh photos from wildlifetrusts.org.