Upton Marshes… Wildlife Walks on the Norfolk Broads

After the walk…

I cannot resist a final glance across the marshes before clambering back aboard Grey Goose III. The sun has set behind us and there is now a hint of mist rising from the watery lowlands.  Owned by Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Upton Marshes are managed with the aim of attracting and providing a home for all sorts of wildlife and it is working. Rarely have I seen such an abundance of life on any walk.

A public footpath follows the course of the River Bure, around the edge of the marshes. Also, at Upton Dyke, Tall Mill, and the pumping station, where we are moored, paths lead into and through the marshes, to the village of Upton. Other paths and tracks provide additional access from South Walsham and Ranworth to the West, Acle to the East, and into Upton Nature Reserve. Taken as a whole this is a wonderfully wild and accessible area of about 300 hectares and much of it seems rarely visited by people at all. The result is an area so rich in wildlife that I truly feel I have been walking through one of the wildest areas I have ever encountered.

Back aboard Grey Goose III, with the light fading fast, I switch on the lantern. Within this warm glow we pour ourselves a glass of wine and recount about our walk through this wildest of places…

2 hours earlier…

St Benet's and Thurne Mill overlook the beautiful Upton Marshes

The Beautiful Upton Marshes

From the boat I can see for miles in every direction…  Thurne Church to the North, sitting atop the hill. Below it, along the River Thurne, St Benet’s and Thurne Mills seemingly keep watch along the banks of the river.  To the East Tall Mill can be seen and,  in the distance, Oby, too. North lies the remains of St Benet’s Abbey and I can clearly make out Ranworth Church to the West.

The remains of St Benet's Abbey, seen from Upton Marshes

The remains of St Benet’s Abbey, seen from Upton Marshes

Thurne Church overlooks saildboats on the Norfolk Broads

Thurne Church overlooks sailboats on the Norfolk Broads

A Heron is perched on the edge of the River Bure, searching for fish.  Perhaps my gaze is making the Heron nervous, because he gracefully takes to the air and crosses the path of a passing Marsh Harrier.

Heron searching for fish...

Heron searching for fish on the banks of the River Bure


Male Marsh Harrier in the Autumn sunshine at Upton Marshes

Heron at Upton Marshes

A Heron flies low over Upton Marshes

We  walk along the footpath from the pumping station, into the marshes towards the nature reserve and soon pass trees full of chattering Chiffchaffs.  These pretty birds seem to be enjoying a meal of berries and are swooping from tree to tree, apparently uninteresting in our passing. Perhaps they are too busy enjoying this Autumn bounty of berries?  A few yards away a young Kestrel takes to the wing…  it may be a little more wary of passing strangers.

Chiffchaff at Upton Marshes

a Chiffchaff in a berry tree

Kestrel at Upton Marshes

A young Kestrel takes fight

Bounty of berries for a Chiffchaff

A bounty of berries for this Chiffchaff…

And now the footpath becomes a secluded track, flanked by reeds and small trees and we see a Chinese Water Deer ahead, shaking itself down after crossing a dyke, and grazing on some leaves.  It is one of many animals benefiting from this wonderful wetland.

Chinese Water Deer at Upton Marshes

Chinese Water Deer shakes down after crossing a dyke on Upton Marshes

Chinese Water Deer Eating Leaves

Nibbling tasty leaves

Chinese Water Deer on Upton Marshes

Enjoying the Autumn sun

To our right, we spot another deer in a meadow, lying in the warm autumn sun.  It has spotted us and is lying low in the grass.  Don’t worry gentle creature, we will not disturb you…

Chinese Water Deer hides

Laying low in the grass

And deeper into the marshes, another deer is exploring a meadow that has been freshly cut.

Chinese Water Deer at Upton Marshes

A perfect environment for Water Deer

Chinese Water Deer at Upton

Wildlife wonderland…

As we head inland, towards the Doles of Upton Nature Reserve, the unmistakable sound of Cranes greets us.  Before long we see 2 adults Cranes with a young bird.  It appears to be a 1st winter juvenile.  I have seen Cranes at Hickling and Horsey and it is a real thrill to see them at Upton.  As they take flight a friendly pigeon joins the formation and flies with them for a while.

Cranes at Upton Marshes

Two adult Cranes and a 1st winter youngster at Upton Marshes

Cranes at Upton Marshes

The not so Common Cranes take flight over Upton Marshes on the Norfolk Broads

Cranes and pigeon

A friendly pigeon joins a family of Cranes…

Crane at Upton

Crane in flight

Crane at Upton

Coming in to land…

Now taking a path across the Marshes and towards Upton Dyke we see a Barn Owl quartering a field. The view across the Marshes here is wonderful and we stop to breathe the fresh air before before heading back to the boat.  There is a strong sense of being part of nature here.  Perhaps we have been lucky to have seen so much wildlife, certainly the marshes have seemed stunning in the warm autumn sunshine of an October afternoon.   After making our way back, we sit for a while, on the banks of the Bure, and watch the sun set over the marshes as a swan glides gently along the now golden river.  This place feels very special…

A Swan relaxing on the golden waters of the Bure at sunset…


Upton Marsh Sunset

The sun sets over Upton Marshes

From the soft glow of the cabin I see the stars are shining brightly tonight. A beautiful night sky seems a fitting end to the day… A sky so dark and inviting, the Milky Way seems to sparkle as it rises over the marshes…

The Milky Way rises over Upton Marshes

The Milky Way rises over Upton Marshes



Natural England’s map of Upton Nature Reserve, also showing some of Upton Marshes…


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3 Responses

    • Hrllo Gary, thanks very much for commenting and I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Upton Marshes is well worth a visit. I’ve been back a few times since and can’t wait to go again in the Spring. All the best John

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