Nature Reserve

Nature Reserve

During a visit to Pensthorpe you can see wetlands, hedgerows, woodland, water meadows, river banks, species-rich farmland, breck and heath – all vital habitats for a species-rich countryside. The value of the habitats here at Pensthorpe are recognised internationally by the E.U. Special Area of Conservation (SAC) designation as well as nationally with four Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) designations. All these designations encompass the River Wensum, a lowland chalk river of significant importance which runs through the heart of our reserve. The river is also a priority habitat in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. Discover more about our work with the River Wensum Restoration and Floodplain Enhancement Project. 

Bird Hides

We have seven bird hides looking out onto our diverse range of habitats, including our newest wetland hide, which overlooks a newly opened wetland area and includes extra-large, expansive viewing panels, plenty of seating and room enough to accommodate an entire classroom of students. It showcases the stories of our diverse habitats and what we do to manage them. Heritage lottery funded, it is the largest hide at Pensthorpe and provides a great learning resource from a team of award winning wildlife artists, illustrators and wildlife specialists.

Our other hides are: Wader Scrape Hide East; Wader Scrape Hide West; Woodland Hide; Farmland Hide; Garden Hide and Lake Hide.

Wader Scrape

A former favourite with BBC’s Springwatch viewers, our Wader Scrape is an insect rich habitat in the summer for breeding waders and great for migrating waterfowl in the winter. The Scrape o­ffers a chance to see avocets, oystercatchers, kingfishers, little ringed plovers, shelduck, marsh harriers, redshank and more.

Wetland Discovery Area

A newly developed area which offers an introduction to underwater wildlife and life within the wetlands and houses a large pond dipping facility, where we offer seasonal, family-friendly pond dipping sessions, led by a member of our outdoor team.

Our 49 resident flamingos can be seen in their new enclosure here, which is illustrative of tropical lagoons more commonly found in southern Spain. Visitors can also see our majestic resident Cranes including Eurasian Cranes, White-naped Cranes and red neck cranes.

Wader Aviary

Our Wader Aviary offers an ideal opportunity for keen wildlife photographers to get closer to some rare species. Visitors can expect to see turtle doves and corncrakes – both of which are part of Pensthorpe Conservation Trust’s “Actively Savings Species” conservation projects. Visitors will also see bearded reedlings, ru­ff, avocets, teal, shoveler, black-winged stilts, redshank and garganey.

Wildflower Meadow

We have one of the largest wildflower meadows in Norfolk. From the boardwalk you can enjoy its diverse selection of more than 80 different species of grasses. It is also a hive of life for insects such as bees, dragonflies and damselflies.

Woodland walks

Enjoy a stroll through the further reaches of our reserve where, depending on the time of year, you may stumble upon a blanket of bluebells or see a herd of deer crossing one our more remote lakes. You will also pass by our Woodland Hide where you can witness birds feeding close up.

Daily warden talks and bird feeds

Sit back and watch from our viewing gallery as our wardens feed our bird collection on Mill Pond. During this feed our wardens will talk about the species that live at Pensthorpe as well as any migratory species that are passing through. Feeding time 4pm (3pm in winter). During the summer time we switch this to a flamingo feed and talk.