Cley Marshes is one of the most beautiful spots on the North Norfolk Coast, and this easy walk will give you plenty to see, as well as a good blast of sea air!
The view from the Norfolk Wildlife Trust Cley Visitor Centre, across the reclaimed salt marshes towards the sea really takes your breath away, and as you take in this circular walk, you’ll come across scenery that is truly stunning. Flat, yes, but there’s something about the Norfolk coastal landscape that you just have to experience for yourself, as words just don’t do it justice.
You can enjoy the whole of the amazing Norfolk Coast Path with our Norfolk walking holidays which we can tailor to suit your needs. The enjoyment, fresh air and relaxation from walking this path is second to none.
This Cley Marshes circular walk is less than 3 miles long and will take you about 1.5 to 2 hours. It’s a bit of a stop and start walk because you can’t fail to appreciate the birds, either on the pools and scrapes along the way or on the meadows closer to the Visitor Centre. You can also pop into the bird watching hides as well, (as long as you have paid for your permit at the Centre before you depart for your coastal walk).
As far as dogs are concerned, because it is a Nature Reserve, you are asked to keep them under control at all times, so I would suggest that this isn’t the best place to walk your dog.
Length: Just under 3 miles
Ease of walk: Easy walking although once on the beach, it is very stony.
What you’ll see: Copious amounts of bird life, board walks, reeds and meadows, hides (when open), Cley beach, NWT Visitor Centre for refreshments, gifts and binoculars, World War II relics in the form of a Pill box and gun turret.
There is plenty of free parking at the NWT Cley Marshes Visitor Centre, I would suggest you start your walk here, giving you the option to stop at the Centre for refreshments when you’ve finished!
Cross the road from the car park and walk either clockwise or anti clockwise, it doesn’t make the slightest difference which way round you walk. You follow the well-trodden path in a circular direction either way.
The only very slight confusion (if walking in clockwise direction) is where to go once you get to the beach and the car park. This is a stony beach, but all you need to do is walk east on the brow of the stones, and eventually you will come across what’s left of the sand dunes and a signpost pointing you in the direction towards the pools and the path (see photo below). You'll also see the great swathes of Cley Marshes on your right.
Taking the anti clockwise direction, you’ll walk amongst the reeds , then take a left along East Bank, a raised bank with pools and meadows on either side (possibly spotting a bittern which I have certainly seen on occasion). Here you can stop at a bench and watch the amazing variety of bird species in the pools.
Continue on towards the sea wall and beach, either dipping down to walk along the breaking waves, or on the brow, taking in both the sea view and the inland view. Spot yet another pill box on the North Norfolk coast, walk towards Cley Beach car park and up onto the bank the other side of the road (the road will be on your left as you walk towards Cley village).
As you near the main road you’ll spot the iconic Cley windmill, the path bears left, going back towards the Visitor Centre, passing meadows and reed beds, and also passes the board walk towards the hides.
This is just a fantastic bird watching coastal walk, with so much going on, you'll never have a bored moment. You'll also feel completely refreshed and, at time, blown away (literally!!).
Just for interest, this is part of the devastation that the December 2013 tidal surge caused at Cley.
One minute a hide was there, the next it was completely washed away, to rest further up the coast in three separate bits.
Cley Marshes is one of the many fantastic nature reserves in Norfolk. For another beach nature reserve, you could visit the RSPB Snettisham nature reserve which will take you right up to the Wash and the mudflats where, at the right time of year, you'll catch the most incredible wader spectacular, or in the winter, the flight of the Pink Footed Geese. You'll find a timetable of dates and times for the spectaculars and more detail on all of this at our Snettisham RSPB page here.