Natural England - Ludham & Potter Heigham Marshes NNR

Ludham & Potter Heigham Marshes NNR

A traditionally-managed grazing marsh in the Norfolk Broads which supports a diverse range of wetland plant, insect and bird species.

Ludham & Potter Heigham Marshes NNR

County: Norfolk

Main habitats: Lowland wet grassland, fen meadow, open water in dyke system.

Area: 86 Ha

Why visit: Ludham & Potter Heigham Marshes NNR comprises 86 hectares of wet grassland, dissected by nutrient-poor drainage dykes which support a wide variety of plants and insects and are probably the best remaining examples of their kind in the Broads. The NNR forms part of The Broads Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Broadland Special Protection Area (SPA) and Ramsar site, and is located in the River Thurne catchment. It also lies within the boundary of the Norfolk Broads, one of Britain’s biggest and best wetlands, a mosaic of rivers, broads, ditches, wet woodland and open fens.

Star species: The dyke system, its edges trampled by cattle, supports over a hundred species of aquatic and emergent plants, along with a rich community of invertebrates. In summer, damsel flies and dragonflies, including the rare Norfolk hawker, abound. Water voles live in and around the dykes, while many birds use the grass marshes for feeding and wintering.

Managing the reserve

Grazing cattle keep the grass sward short. Trampling of the dyke edges creates a tussocky “berm” colonised by emergent and fen plants. Dykes which become overgrown or are in danger of filling in due to cattle trampling are cleaned out by mechanical digger. Water levels are controlled by sluices, excess water from nearby uplands being pumped out to the adjacent River Thurne.

Seasonal highlights

Cattle are turned out onto the marshes in spring, their grazing and trampling opening up the tussocky dyke-edges. This is a good time to see brown hares running across the marshes, while barn owls can often be seen hunting in daylight.

Summer brings fully-vegetated dykes and emergences of damselflies and dragonflies, including Norfolk hawker, as well as many butterflies, best seen from the footpaths.

Autumn is quieter, as the cattle eat out the last green vegetation before coming off in November. Marsh harriers are often seen hunting at this time.

Winter seems quieter without the cattle, but wintering birds, including whooper swans, can often be seen along with hunting short-eared owls in a good year. A yellow mechanical digger is usually on site clearing out some dykes ready for the spring.

History and culture

This is a traditionally-managed grazing marsh, with the remains of a nineteenth-century windpump, since replaced by the current electric pump.

How to get there

By rail

 Wroxhamexternal link station is the closest, approximately 10km/6.25miles away.

By bus

There are regular buses from Wroxham six days a week.

By car

Ludham village is 1km/0.75miles from the NNR, off the A1062 Wroxham to Potter Heigham road. Parking near the NNR is extremely limited.

By boat

There is a small Broads Authority mooring at Womack Water (River Thurne) which overlooks the NNR.

Visiting the reserve

There are no on-site facilities; the nearest pubs and shops are in Ludham village.


Access is via the network of public footpaths which circle and cross the Reserve, allowing excellent views of interest features.

Due to presence of grazing animals and sensitive bird species, we ask that visitors appreciate the site from the public footpaths.

Visits can be arranged in advance for specialists and small groups by contacting the Senior Reserves Manager.

School and community groups

Due to the very limited parking, access difficulties and lack of facilities, the site is unsuitable for school groups. Community groups such as natural history societies, can be accommodated if numbers are small, by arrangement with the Senior Reserves Manager (see contact details below).

Want to get involved?

There are sometimes opportunities for volunteers who are interested in species surveys. Contact  or 07899 901 566

Further information

For more information contact the Senior Reserves Manager on 01603 720788 or email



“Killer shrimp”

The invasive non-native shrimp (Dikerogrammerus villosus) has been found in the Broads.

This shrimp has become widespread in Europe and threatens our native species. There is no risk to public health or pets.

We are asking water users to be vigilant and Check, Clean and Dry equipment and clothing to help stop the spread of all invasive aquatic species.

You can find out more about killer shrimp on the Broads Authorityexternal link and GB non-native species secretariatexternal link websites.

Invasive aquatic species

Help stop the spread

Check Clean Dry logo

  Check, Clean, Dry