Holme Dunes Norfolk Wildlife Trust
Address: Broadwater Road, Holme-next-the-Sea, Hunstanton, Norfolk, PE36 6LQ
Phone Number: 01485 525240 (There is no public telephone on the reserve and mobile phone reception is very weak)
Email: Norfolk Wildlife Trust
Opening Hours: Reserve: is open daily throughout the year between 10am-5pm (or dusk, if earlier, during winter). When the reserve is open, but the visitor centre is closed, there is an honesty box for permit fees beside the entrance door.
Visitor centre and café
1 April to 29 October: 10am – 5pm daily
2 November to 31 March 2018: weekends only, 10am – 4pm
(including 26 December & 1 January)
Café closes 30 minutes before the centre closes
There is no public access telephone and mobile phone reception is poor.
Guide dogs, on leads are permitted.
Website: Holme Dunes
Map Reference: TF 714449
Google Map: Holme Dunes NWT
The reserve was visited and assessed over a number of days during March 2017 by Peter Bangs.
Holme Dunes is a very large reserve situated where the Wash meets the North Sea. It has a range of habitats including Mudflats, foreshore, sand dunes, dune slacks, scrub, pines, saltmarsh, freshwater and grazing marsh. It is a nationally and internationally important conservation site, with designations including NNR, SPA,SAC,SSSI and Ramsar. It is an important breeding site for many wetland birds, a wintering site for many thousands of wildfowl, and a seasonal migration stopover point for many other birds – sometimes in huge numbers.
The main access point for the reserve is via the Visitor Centre. One part of the reserve, Holme Marsh, can only be accessed via Holme village. Thornham Harbour – the eastern end of the main reserve, can be reached from the visitor centre by walking along the sea wall, but can more easily be accessed from Thornham village. These two areas are dealt with separately and each has an entry of its own.
Holme next the Sea, Norfolk.
At the northern end of Beach Road in Holme, just before the public toilets, turn right onto Broadwater Road. Follow this road for about 1.5 kms until you come to the visitor centre – a white house. The first part of this road is tarmac surfaced and has speed humps. The second part is gravel surfaced. Please obey the speed limits. At peak times permits are issued at a ticket box beside the road. At other times please drive up to the visitor centre.
Public Transport links
Nearest bus stop on A149, at western end of Holme village, by the junction with Beach Road. This is approximately 3 kms from the reserve. The bus route is the Coasthopper, run by Stagecoach
Tel: 01553 776 980 Disability helpdesk Email Telephone: 01553 776 980
Buses run from Kings Lynn (change may be needed at Hunstanton) or Wells. At the bus stop there are raised paved areas (on each side of the road) to assist in boarding/alighting from the bus, but these are short and just end in an uneven grass verge. The road leading from the A149 towards the reserve (Beach Road) is narrow and twisting – in places a single-track road with a few passing places. There is no pavement, and for much of its length not even a grass verge. For this reason it is not a suitable means of access for wheelchair users.
Plenty of parking is available in the NWT’s car park – on the left near the end of track, adjacent to the visitor centre (white house).
There is no designated disabled parking in the main car park which has a firm well drained surface – but see Hides section. Usually plenty of room to drop off passengers near the visitor centre, and by the path leading to the hides.
Note that the toilets are only open when the visitor centre is open. There are two unisex toilets just near the visitor centre and car park. These are waterless toilets – but definitely not smelly! Each has a wide access door with level threshold, and plenty of room inside, on a concrete floor, but they are not equipped with support bars to assist transfer from a chair. Hand hygiene is provided by hospital-type hand gel dispensers.
The nearest fully accessible toilets are on Beach Road, just where you turn off to go down to the reserves. There is a RADAR scheme toilet within that facility, as well as two unisex WCs.
This is where you obtain a reserve permit – unless the Ticket Box beside the access road was staffed on your way in (busy time only). When the visitor centre is closed there is an honesty box for reserve permit fees next to the door. There is a raised patio outside the visitor centre, with tables and benches available even if the centre or café is closed. The patio is accessed via a few steps, or a sloped ramp, from the car park level.
There is a small shop selling gifts, ice cream books etc., and also a screen with recent sightings. There are some tables and chairs in a small exhibition area off the shop, and leading on from that a small café. Note the café has restricted opening times.
The door to the visitor centre is 87cms wide, with a threshold of two very small steps each about 3cms high.
The door from the patio directly into the café (with no threshold step) is only 76cms wide, but that is just one half of a double door. The other half is easily opened with a push bar – but from inside. If access via this door is a problem then the café can be easily accessed via the visitor centre/shop. Once inside the visitor centre or café the floor is smooth and level throughout.
There is a large information/interpretation board, with a reserve map, in the main car park, and at a few other locations.
There is a leaflet available with a map of the reserve, but there are none specifically for the disabled, or access.
Trails & Paths
This is a large reserve, with many paths. Lengths and other dimensions are given for each easily demarcated path. Most of the paths have a ‘natural’ surface – of grass over mainly sand. In some places the path is bare sand, which can be loose at times. Near the visitor centre the paths have been consolidated with rolled stone. The Coastal Path public footpath that passes through the reserve has a mix of board walk and rolled chalk where it runs along the dune ridge.
After passing the Ticket Box (where permits are issued at busy times), and just before the reserve gate, is the Saltings car park on the left, with room for several cars. Until recently this has been a very waterlogged site, but it has now undergone extensive improvement, with surface drainage and extra gravel surfacing. From the back of this car park is a short but fairly steep slope up to the Coastal Footpath. There is a slightly longer path from near the Ticket Box, but neither is likely to be easily accessible with a wheelchair, due to a combination of loose sand, steep slopes and steps.
But access may be suitable for those who can walk short distances and manage the short slopes. Once up on the Coastal Path there are extensive views over Lavender Marsh. This is a coastal salt marsh, with many creeks. They fill at high tide, and at high Spring tides the whole marsh is inundated. If you access the Coastal Footpath from the Saltings car park and turn left, you will find a bench seat with back rest after about 50 metres. From this bench there are good views over the marsh and creeks, and you can watch as waders and wildfowl move backwards and forwards overhead, to and from the grazing marshes inland.
It is almost a kilometre along the Coastal Path towards the visitor centre.
The path surface is a mix of rolled chalk and board walk, about 150cms wide. The path is undulating, with some steep gradients in places. From its elevated location there are good views over much of the reserve. About 50 metres before you get to the pine trees there is a point where you can get off the track and see across the beach to the sea. This is a very good spot for sea-watching. It could also be accessed from the visitor centre end of the path. To do this follow the path towards the pines from the visitor centre. This path is quite steep, and may not be accessible to wheelchair users without assistance.
Once over the crest of the dunes descend to a new section of board walk (installed May 2017, to bridge an area of soft sand), and turn left. The sea watching spot is about 60 metres beyond the end of the board walk.
If you can manage the gradients and distance it is possible to be dropped off at the Saltings car park and meet your transport again at the visitor centre car park, but note there are no seats other than the one already mentioned. The distance is about 1.5 kms.
Path B – White Post Trail
From the visitor centre take the path that leads past the toilets towards the pines. Before the path rises into the pines there is a path on the left, with a map sign beside it. This leads into the area of vegetated dunes inland from the Coastal Path. It is just about manageable in a wheelchair, especially with assistance. There are one or two areas of soft sand, but they can be by-passed. The beginning of the path is the most difficult. The surface is grass over sand, and the path is mostly over 1 metre wide. It is quite level, but in places there are some gentle cross slopes – mainly due to rabbit activity. The path takes you into a mix of habitats, with grass of varying heights, bramble and some hawthorn and buckthorn scrub.
After about 250 metres there are the remains of some old wartime buildings. Beyond these the path continues, and remains quite flat. Some paths go off to the left, leading down into some dune slacks. These paths are too narrow for wheelchair use, and in places have short steep slopes. Various paths lead off to the right, but again are mostly too narrow for wheelchair use, and quite steep. When you get to a point where the main path is very obviously not accessible, a path leads off to the right, across wide grassy dune slack, before rising up to meet the coastal path. Unfortunately this path steepens and becomes very narrow as it egresses onto the coastal path. So for most wheelchair users it is a case of retracing your route back towards the visor centre. There are no seats along this path.
There are three hides, all accessed via a path leading off to the south from the main gravel entrance road. Disabled drivers are allowed to park in the entrance to this pathway, so long as they do not obstruct either the path or the access road. (See photo.)
There is room for one car only, so where possible please drop off here and park in the main car park.
From the visitor centre to the path leading to the hides is c100 metres. It is just beyond the NOA car park, with its post and rope boundary. From the beginning of this path to Hide1 is c120 metres.
There is one short section of board walk, about 10 metres long and 110cms wide.
One section of the path, as it goes through some gorse, is only just over a metre wide, but most of it is about 150cms.
The path to Hide 1 is mainly grass over a stone foundation, and is firm and well-draining. Over the years vegetation has encroached from one side and the path has migrated somewhat off the stone foundation. There are plans to re-align the path by cutting back this vegetation and using marker posts to aid future maintenance. [On a visit in early August 2017 it was noticed that this path had been both widened and re-aligned.]
The entrance to the hide is firm rolled stone, and it is under cover. There is a very small threshold lip. The door opens inwards, but this is a large hide, with plenty of room to manoeuvre.
This is a magnificent hide – for all users, though unaccompanied wheelchair users may struggle to reach the flap latches. It is large with a smooth concrete floor and lots of room. There are four large viewing ‘windows’, two facing forward and one angled to each side. The bench seats are fixed, but one part of each section hinges up to allow access for a wheelchair, or to allow birders to slide onto the benches rather than have to climb over them to sit.
The hide gives really good views over the Broadwater, with muddy margins in places, and across them to the grazing marshes.
There is ample room for wheelchairs, though probably not room for two wheelchairs to be side by side. The knee space extends across the whole width of the hide. The shelf provided is 23cms deep, 79cms off the floor, 26cms below opening. The bottom edge of the window s 102 cms from the floor. The height of the slots off the floor does mean that wheelchair users will have a restricted view of birds that may be close to the hide. The windows have at least 380mm gap, and for some positions much more. Most of the flaps are about 110cms wide, with the exception of one forward facing flap (where there is no hinged seat for wheelchair access) where the flap is 220 cms wide. The flaps are reasonably light and varied in configuration – some have a drop-down flap plus a lift-up one, others the bottom flap just lifts up, and the top flap is fixed. Although the fasteners are easy to grip, they are at 170 or 175cms off the floor. This may put them out of reach for many wheelchair users.
There are no ground-level obstructions. On each section there is a lift-up hinged seat, but there are no seats with backrests. This is a large hide with masses of seating, and room for tripods behind.
Hide 2 is a small hide, not designed for wheelchair access. It is about 56 metres on from Hide1. The path is grass over soil, with much mole activity. As a result is is quite uneven.
Probably not worth even trying to access in a wheelchair – especially as Hide 2 is not wheelchair accessible, and the path on to Hide 3 is certainly not accessible in a chair!
It looks out over Christie’s Pool, and the water is right in front of the hide. This gives excellent close views of any birds present, like the Little Grebe that was there when the survey was carried out.
There are no gaps between seats and all seating is fixed and you have to climb over the seats in order to sit down. If you can access it a good little hide with close views of birds.
Roughly half way between Hides 2 and 3 is a viewing screen that looks over a reed bed. There is no seating, and the screen needs some maintenance, but could potentially be a rewarding birding spot.
Hide 3 is virtually identical to Hide 1.
It is about 140 metres on from Hide 2, so nearly 200 metres from Hide 1. The path is uneven grass over soil which can be quite wet in winter. The lowest, wettest, parts are bridged with four board walk sections which stick up above the path by up to 30 cms. The hide looks out across one end of Hun Pool, where there was a snipe in the margins on the day of survey.
There are also extensive reed beds, with regular sightings of marsh harriers, sometimes quite close to the hide. On the day of survey a bittern could be heard booming.