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Cley and Salthouse Marshes

People sit in a bright and airy room with large windows overlooking the wetland; a telescope points outwards; bird ornaments are in the foreground, while menus on tables reveal it to be a cafe

Visitors in the cafe at Cley and Salthouse wetlands centre. Photo by Barry Madden

Clay & Salthouse Marshes is a 371 hectare reserve run by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust in the UK.

Cley and Salthouse Marshes

Name of organisation: Norfolk Wildlife Trust

Funding support

Number of staff: 25

Number of visitors per year: 100,000

Overall aims of the centre
1. To inspire people to learn about and understand the value of Norfolk’s exceptional coastline, wetland habitats and its conservation;

2. To help people understand the need for conservation management and its importance;

3. To provide a high quality visitor experience through interpretation, events and wildlife viewing facilities at NWT Cley and Salthouse Marshes

Description of the centre
Cley Marshes is the oldest Wildlife Trust nature reserve in the UK, having been purchased in 1926 to be held ‘in perpetuity as a bird breeding sanctuary’. Today the Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s (NWT) Cley and Salthouse Marshes reserve comprises 371 hectares of coastal shingle, saltmarsh, saline lagoons, freshwater grazing marsh and reedbeds which support breeding birds, including avocet, bearded tit and marsh harrier, as well as passage and wintering wildfowl and waders. The nature reserve is one of the UK’s most popular birdwatching sites with hides, boardwalks, an award winning eco-friendly visitor centre (opened in 2007) and the Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre (opened in 2014). Facilities include café, shop, toilets, exhibition gallery, outdoor decking viewing area and interpretation including wildlife information touch screens, remote camera viewing, video wall and information.

Visitors with binoculars standing in the tall reeds on a sunny day
Main CEPA work areas
Delivering talks and walks free of charge to local community groups.
Delivering a varied events program (approximately 200 events annually) which includes walks, talks, natural history workshops, art and nature workshops, performances and exhibitions.
Delivering education and engagement sessions to visiting early years settings / providers, Schools, Colleges and Universities.
Providing an ever changing series of short films in our Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre to engage a more casual audience.
Offering interactive opportunities for the public to engage with and learn about the area. This includes interactive touch screens and reserve cameras which can be manipulated by the user.
Provision of boardwalks, trails, hides and external interpretation to enable reserve visitors to experience and enjoy wetland wildlife

Top three successes
1. Our ongoing series of bi-weekly lunchtime talks have proven incredibly successful at engaging a more ‘casual’ non-specialist audience. This is due to their more relaxed nature, regular date and time-slot and the offer of food.

2. Our art and nature workshops are always well attended. They are usually delivered by artists who are exhibiting in our Gallery. This has worked incredibly well. Artists are asked if they’d rather pay a charge to exhibit or deliver a workshop. Most choose to deliver a workshop. This allows us to offer a varied program of workshops with little cost and input from ourselves. Attendance is usually high thanks to a high level of artist involvement in promotion.

3. Our ‘Cley Calling’ festival has been successful in attracting new audiences who may not traditionally engage with the site. During the biannual 4-day festival we extend our reach with a higher level of marketing, higher profile speakers, performers and personalities than we’d normally accommodate and more diverse events than those usually found in our events calendar.

Top three challenges
1. Don’t be afraid to trial new ideas. If they don’t succeed, then learn from them and alter future events.

2. Marketing is key; don’t assume that if you build it, they will come. We advertise across a wide variety of digital and analogue channels. This process is incredibly time consuming but ultimately pays dividends.

3. Adapting the reserve and visitor infrastructure to climate change, sea level rise and periodic storm surges with sea water flooding of freshwater marshes is an ongoing challenge—we have for example created a ‘look-out’ hide designed to allow storm surges to flow underneath it.

Interpretation techniques
Creating signage; site information; Producing written materials; Using audio-visual tools; Developing nature trails

Visitor centres
Setting up a new visitor centre; Managing / creating habitat; Running a visitor centre

Participation
Working with disabled people; Engaging young people; Engaging the local community; Working with volunteers

Education and communication
Early years education; Delivering adult education; Working with primary schools; Working with secondary schools; Developing resources / materials

General
PR and marketing; Running effective administration; Health and safety; Project planning.

David North, Head of People and Wildlife, Norfolk Wildlife Trust, 22 Thorpe Road, Bewick House, Norwich, NR11 1RY.
Email: davidn@norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk
Tel: 01603 625540
Website addresswww.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk/cley

Web cam showing wader scrape pool at Cley and Salthouse Marshes can be viewed at www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk/news-and-articles/cameras

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