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Just a mile or two inland from Cromer is the hamlet of Lower Southrepps. It is a pretty village of red-brick and flint cottages with some well-designed newer properties. It is not generally well-known that the village also has its own nature reserve.
The Southrepps Commons Nature Reserve consists of 12.4 hectares of reeds, grasses and woodland. There is a stream running through the site. Approximately half of the reserve has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation. The reserve is very popular with botanists because there is such a wide range of species and habitats.
The site is administered and cared for by the Southrepps Commons Trust. The hardworking volunteers that have given their time over the years have created a reserve that is certainly worth visiting. Access to parts of the reserve is provided by an excellent and extensive system of boardwalks, thus making wheelchair access possible.
The volunteers have an ongoing programme of works that was decided upon after consultation with Natural England. The main commitment is a four-year cycle of mowing. In the autumn the grass and reeds are cut and removed to prevent enrichment of the soil. This is hard work that would not be possible without the full support of the local community, many of whom give up their free time to help complete the annual task. Without this effort every year the reserve would soon return to being just dense scrub. The willow, thorn and alder would soon take over and the site would become impenetrable and of little use. The stream, ponds and ditches also require regular maintenance to keep the reserve in tip-top condition to maintain a habitat that is ideal for such a diverse range of species.
Sedge and reed warblers, reed buntings and other woodland birds – 75 species of birds have been recorded – make this wildlife haven their home. You may also see water voles, muntjack and roe deer. In the summer months this place is a real delight with much colour being provided by the plants and the satisfying buzz of many different flying and hovering insects. I cannot recommend the reserve highly enough if you are a serious wildlife watcher, photographer, artist or a family that just enjoys a stroll in lovely surroundings.
A comprehensive leaflet is available at the entrance to the reserve for a small fee. It contains a clear map of the entire Commons plus some very informative text.
Where is it?
Lower Southrepps is off the A149 Cromer to North Walsham Road. A small car park has been created at map reference : OS -TG262351. This is at the start of a section of the boardwalk that will take you on a 2-mile waymarked walk. In the village of Southrepps (approx 1.5 miles away) you will find the welcoming Vernon Arms public house. The beer is first rate, as is the food. The hosts, Paul and Debbie make everyone welcome. There is always a roaring log fire during the winter months. The village also has a post office and a well-stocked village shop. The beautiful church of St James is also worth a visit.