The Reed Beds

Part of the North Norfolk Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Broads

Norfolk's dynamic coastline is unique, with a wild quality rare in England. Huge skies stretch over saltmarshes, sand dunes, shingle ridges, sandy beaches and soft cliffs. Inland, the coast is complemented by a rising backdrop of farmland, secuded river valleys, woodland, heath and open chalk downland. People live and work in towns and villages inland and along the shore.

The Broads are the largest area of lowland freshwater fen in the UK with approximately 2000 hectares of open fen remaining. 12% of this open fen is managed as commercial reed and sedge for thatching.

The Waverny estuary and reedbeds

Reedbeds are part of this rich mix. A natural crop and flood defence barrier that thrives in the wetland conditions of this low lying place, they provide employment for local people as well as a home to species that could live nowhere else - part of nature's answer to the challenging conditions of the ever changing coast.

Click to open the North Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty website.

A unique habitat

Broadland reedbedsReed beds are a unique landscape predominantly located on river floodplains and low lying coastal regions where the water constantly encroaches on the land. On this flooded land grow the plants that give the reed beds their name, Phragmites australis, or common reed, a tall, perennial, flood-tolerant grass.

Reed beds can be found all over the world, in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and North America. East Anglia is home to the largest areas of reed bed in the UK.

The beds are a highly bio-diverse landscape, a habitat for plants and animals not found anywhere else in Britain. They teem with life supporting over 700 species of invertebrates including the wainscot grass veneer moth, reed leopard moth and the rare swallowtail butterfly. Plenty of larger animals also make their homes here, water shrews, harvest mice and birds such as the bittern, marsh harrier and bearded tit. There are also seasonal visitors. The marshes are an important resting ground for many birds who stop off every year on their long migrations (find out what birds). Growing amongst the reeds you can find unique plants including milk parsley, marsh pea and orchids.

A Natural Flood Defence

The Norfolk coast is a low-lying landscape of constant change with the boundary between land and the sea forever shifting. This continuous flooding and eroding could be seen as a threat to the reed beds, but the current fears about climate change and rising sea levels are providing a new future. Marsh and reed beds have come to be seen as a natural flood defence, a good way of managing encroaching waters and protecting farmland and property.