Carlton Marshes Nature Reserve

Marsh harrier - Andrew Parkinson/2020VISION

Marsh harrier - Andrew Parkinson/2020VISION

Carlton Marshes nature reserve Suffolk Wildlife Trust

By Steve Aylward

Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Chinese water deer by Brian Block

Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Lapwing by Mark Hamblin

Carlton Marshes nature reserve Suffolk Wildlife Trust

By Steve Aylward

Fen raft spider on dew covered nursery web

Fen raft spider nursery web - Vincent Forte

Carlton Marshes nature reserve Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Carlton Marshes by Steve Aylward

Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Swallows by Alan Price

Suffolk Wildlife Trust Carlton Marshes

Carlton Marshes new visitor centre in construction (photo: Cowper Griffith Architects)

Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Scrape creation at Peto's Marsh, Carlton Marshes - John Lord

Carlton Marshes Nature Reserve

With the National Lottery Heritage Fund's investment of over £4 million in our vision for 1000 acres of wildness, the transformation of Carlton Marshes into the southern gateway to the Broads National Park is complete. As water flows back onto the land, nature is taking over once again.


Carlton Marshes, Burnt Hill Lane, Carlton Colville NR33 8HU

OS Map Reference

A static map of Carlton Marshes Nature Reserve

Know before you go

405 hectares

Entry fee

Free. Charges apply for school visits to the education centre.

Parking information

Free car park

Bicycle parking


Grazing animals

Cattle graze mainly between April and November.

Walking trails

Wheelchairs and pushchairs can use a firm path around part of the marsh including easy access gates. 

Oulton Marshes address: Church Lane, Oulton, NR32 3JP

View trail map


Wheelchairs and pushchairs can use a firm path around part of the marsh including easy access gates. Parts of this reserve are accessible by mobility scooter. Fully accessible Visitor Centre.

Carlton Marshes has good public transport links with buses stopping near the end of Burnt Hill Lane on the A146 and Oulton Broad South and North stations being a 20 or 30 minute walk respectively.

The reserve can also be accessed from The Ivy House Country Hotel and The Waveney River Centre - both offer overnight accommodation and support the work of Suffolk Wildlife Trust. 

No drone flying without express permission.
(Permission will only be granted in exceptional circumstances)


On a lead
A Public Space Protection Order requires dogs to be kept on leads.


Visitor centre
Bird hides
Picnic area
Accessible toilet
Baby changing facilities
Outdoor play area
Disabled parking
Accessible trails

When to visit

Opening times

Daily dawn to dusk

Best time to visit

All year round

About the reserve

An astounding 28 species of dragonfly have been spotted here. Carlton Marshes lie in the Waveney Valley at the southern tip of the Norfolk Broads and is part of the Suffolk Broads. It comprises a jigsaw of grazing marsh, fens, peat pools, short fen meadow, tall fen (called 'tall litter fen'), dykes, pools and scrub. Mostly man-made, these habitats have developed over hundreds of years of traditional management and now host specialised wildlife.  

This reserve is the Broads in miniature. Flower studded marshes drained by a system of dykes and grazed by cattle in summer, creates a paradise for marsh land birds and birds of prey including hobby and marsh harrier. In early summer there is a fabulous display of southern marsh orchid, marsh marigold and ragged-robin, together with the scarcer bogbean, bog pimpernel and marsh cinquefoil. Water vole may also be seen in and around the dykes along with rare plants including water soldier and frogbit. These habitats are ideal for the rare fen raft spider which was successfully reintroduced to the reserve in 2012. Carlton & Oulton Marshes are also one of the best places in the UK for a range of freshwater snails which reflects the good water quality in the dykes.

Both Sprat’s and Round Water are the result of peat digging carried out long ago. The open water in both these pools is heaving with life including insectivorous bladderwort. This unusual plant lives off unsuspecting water fleas which it traps and digests in bladder-like sacs under water.

The reserve is also one of the best sites in East Anglia to see grasshopper warblers. The reed and sedge beds along the river wall make ideal nesting cover for reed and sedge warblers, bearded tit, Cetti’s warbler and marsh harrier. The grazing marshes are also ideal for wintering wildfowl and breeding waders with lapwing and redshank displaying through the spring and large numbers of wigeon, teal and snipe in winter.

Contact us

Environmental designation

National Park
Natura 2000
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

The story of Carlton Marshes

This wonderful animation tells the story of Carlton Marshes past and present – many thanks to Tim Britton and Heritage Fund:

Explore Carlton Marshes from the air

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School visits at Carlton Marshes

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