Discover Suffolk: On a winning streak on the Waveney Fens

PUBLISHED: 03:06 22 March 2012 | UPDATED: 21:12 20 February 2013

Discover Suffolk: On a winning streak on the Waveney Fens

Discover Suffolk: On a winning streak on the Waveney Fens

Suffolk's marshlands make for fascinating wildlife encounters on many levels. Lindsay Want and David Falk, Manager of Suffolk County Council's countryside access project, Discover Suffolk get out and about on the north Suffolk border

Suffolks marshlands make for fascinating wildlife encounters on many levels. Lindsay Want and David Falk, Manager of Suffolk County Councils countryside access project, Discover Suffolk get out and about on the north Suffolk border





On a damp, early spring day, even things which are usually clear cut have a strange way of blurring beautifully. Looking out across the Waveney fens at Redgrave and South Lopham, all the precise, man-made categories of the natural world from skyline and tree-line to sedge and water-lines simply melt away into streaks of indefinable colour and pixellated wisps of mist. This vast, outstretched canvas builds its picture layer by layer, each brushstroke a natural habitat dependent on the next, a unique and complex creation which simply works on so many levels.


It doesnt matter who you have in tow when you visit Englands largest valley fen at the Redgrave and South Lopham reserve which straddles the Waveney, fudging the county borderlines a moment just west of Diss. With everything on offer from woods to wetland and woodpeckers to water voles, there really is something wild here for everyone.


Put Rover on a short lead and hell have fun nuzzling the blue-black peaty mounds on the pathways where the moles have brought the rich underworld momentarily to the surface. Boys, both great and small, get excited even on the approach roads, where warning signs repeatedly tell of toads travelling the extra mile to the fens fresh water pools.


The Polish Konik ponies which graze the marshes steal the show when it comes to aaah-factor, but only if you can spot them of course. Theyve taken a tip from the horizon and have a habit of blending in with the beiges of the reedy background. Above everything though, whether youre squeamish or not theres something creepily attractive about following the Spider Trail in search of rare eight-legged, stickleback-munching beasties young Fen Raft spiders which hibernate in the sedge beds.




Grey squirrels dart about the tree tops and blackbirds pick over the leaf litter for worms and snails





All a-twitter, the bird-feeding station by the car park is in full swing and nearby, parties of long-tailed tits like fluff-balls on sticks court each other in the high hedgerow canopy. Authoritative arrows point in all directions announcing trails to woodlands and the Waveney, the Great Fen and the very short, but highly intriguing, Lopham Loop. There are grassy pathways disappearing away behind the reeds over the is-it-pond-or-prairie landscape, never clear where they are really leading in a world which thrives on secrets.


It takes a moment for it all to sink in: the spongy soil under your boot the natural spring in your step, so to speak. And as the trail guide and information boards enlighten you even further on a damp, greying day, the wonder of the layered world of sand, chalk, peat and water beneath becomes crystal clear, adding very real depth to the landscape all around.


Otters make their home by the rivers and wet ditches of Suffolks Redgrave Fen. Grey squirrels dart about the tree tops and blackbirds pick over the leaf litter for worms and snails, if the hedgehogs havent found them first. By the peat pools, little brown warblers play in feathery reeds, diving about through a forest with its feet wet.


White behind and inquisitive in front, Roe deer lie up amongst the taller stems and strain their lama-like necks to glimpse passers by. A water rail squeals out from the sedge-bed like a little piggy at tea time, whilst a plump of procrastinating moorhens simply cant choose whether to follow the Waveney east to Yarmouth or the Little Ouse west to the Wash.


At Redgrave and South Lopham valley fen every layer of cover breeds and feeds a different wildlife world just waiting to be discovered. This is certainly no place for a bored walk.


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