Hilgay wetland creationHilgay wetland creation

Encouraging an exciting range of wetland wildlife to re-colonise this corner of the Fens.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust

Norfolk Wildlife Trust is working with the Environment Agency on an exciting project to re-wet the Fens. A new wetland Living Landscape is being created on two adjacent sites - Hilgay and Methwold - to protect species such as bittern and marsh harrier.

Because of changes to the management of the coastal flood defences on the north Norfolk coast at Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Cley Marshes nature reserve over the past few years, it is predicted that the site’s vital reedbed habitat will eventually be lost due to an increased influx of saline water into freshwater areas. This will gradually change the area’s characteristics, reduce reedbed habitat and eventually make it unsuitable for breeding bittern.

As a result of these changes the Environment Agency together with Norfolk Wildlife Trust have jointly embarked on a wetland creation project in the Fens near Downham Market to replace the habitat anticipated to be lost at Cley marshes.

What's happening?

The Hilgay Wetland Creation Project will create reedbed habitat on over 60 hectares (154 acres) of former agricultural site in Methwold parish, near to the village of Hilgay in west Norfolk. It is the first part of Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s ambitious Wissey Living Landscape scheme.  The construction phase began in 2010 and is now nearly complete. 

The site is primarily about reeds. Marsh harrier, water voles, otters, and reed warbler are on the site now and we hope numbers will increase after the work is completed. Although reeds have started to appear naturally on the site, the reed bed creation is being speeded up by planting reed plugs. This is done by professional teams and volunteers from Hickling, helped by more volunteers from Atkins and the Environment Agency. More than 150 wire cages, each over 20 metres long, were erected over 3km of ditches to protect the new reed plugs from browsing by geese and deer.   So far over 40,000 reeds have been planted and, once the reed beds are established, we hope they will become home to species such as bearded tit, Cetti’s warbler and bittern. 

The Methwold site will become a further 20 hectares of reed bed and 40 hectares of grassland and woodland, which already holds marsh tit, spotted flycatcher and nightingale. The project is at the design and planning stage.  Aerial photographs have been commissioned to give a bird's eye perspective of the site as it develops.

Start date: 2010

Area: 10,000 hectares

This scheme is helping species including...

Bittern, marsh harrierwater vole


Environment Agency

To find out more

Email: info@norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk | Tel: 01603 625540 |