Big blue skies, endless sandy beaches and a myriad of waterways and walks to explore, Norfolk’s landscape is one of the county’s greatest attractions. While early autumn and spring breaks at Heacham Manor are traditionally the season to catch a peek of the migratory birds which pitstop here, en route to warmer climes, August is also a prime month to enjoy the beautiful flora and fauna that are native to the North Norfolk coast.
Talking of birds, Heacham Manor is perfectly positioned within easy reach of RSPB Snettisham and RSPB Titchwell, where you can nest up in a wooden hide and enjoy nature’s incredible displays. In late summer, you might be lucky enough to catch an early morning ‘spectacular’ when thousands of wading birds take flight as the tide rolls in and pushes them off the mudflats, after a good night’s roost. It might seem early to think of winter, but the northern-breeding waders and seabirds are already heading south and this month you might spot avocets and curlews with their downturned bills, knots, shelducks and even a marsh harrier if you’re lucky.
The Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) is the oldest wildlife organisation of its type in the UK and cares for more than 50 nature reserves and sites of habitation for bitterns, common cranes, marsh harriers, beard tits, swallowtails and Norfolk hawkers – you might be lucky enough to spot these rare species if you visit its sites and the NWT organises regular events, so take a look at its calendar.
While out and about on the coast, look out for the purple blooms of sea lavender which is in full bloom this month. Not actually a lavender at all, but a member of the statice species the plant grows in salty, alkaline or semi-desert environments. Although in decline, you might also spot the lemon yellow, four-petalled horned-poppy which grows in shingle spots and whose blooms only last for a single day. Another sea bloom is viper’s-bugloss, a hairy plant with vibrant blue flowers which grows on chalk grassland, sand dunes and cliffs – it is so-called because the flowers’ long red stamens look like snakes’ tongues and the fruits are said to resemble adders’ heads.
As magnificent as feathered displays are, there are plenty of smaller creatures to spot this month. From the green-eyed Norfolk Hawker dragonfly to ladybirds – known locally as bishy barnabees – and beautiful butterflies, the area is a spotter’s delight and the chorus of grasshoppers and crickets provides a relaxing soundtrack to a walk on a warm summer’s day.
After dark, you might hear and see bats circling overhead as they swoop for insects – up to 3,000 in one night! Nestled in woodland, hedgerows, grassland and farmland, up to a dozen species of bats have been spotted in Norfolk in recent years and you can learn more about them here.
Of course one of Norfolk’s most famous creatures to spot is its seals! Head to Hunstanton and walk along the promenade to take a Seal Safari on The Wash Monster, one of our sister companies, where you will see large colonies of common seals on the sandbanks. Despite their sizeable stature, the animals are surprisingly fast-moving and will often keep pace bobbing alongside the boat giving you a bird’s eye view of them and their young pups which are born between June and August.
Back on dry land, once you’ve enjoyed your trip on The Wash Monster, walk the promenade to Hunstanton’s Sea Life centre where The Seal Hospital cares for young, vulnerable rescued pups which have been separated from their mothers. Learn how the centre raises the pups until they are ready to be released back into the sea.
Norfolk has plenty of beautiful walks to explore and there are several routes within easy reach of Heacham Manor. Don’t miss Ringstead Downs, one of Norfolk’s last remaining chalk grassland areas and a Site of Special Scientific Interest which is an idyll of plant and animal species including birds and rare butterflies.
Just a short drive from Heacham Manor, Sandringham is home to 243 hectares of Royal parkland with two way marked nature trails and woodland paths to explore. Planted with Corsican and Scots pine, oak, sweet chestnut and birch trees, the woodland is home to numerous species of animals, birds and plants.
Heading inland, Pensthorpe is an incredible natural oasis with 700 acres of wetlands, woodland and meadows teeming with species of flora and fauna to spot on its trails. Established as a 200-acre site by visionary conservationist Bill Makins, the park has grown in recent years to 700-acres and this month there are a Badger Watching Evening and Creatures of the Night Tour, when guides will teach you to spot and identify owls, bats and moths.
Further along the coast, Holkham is an unmissable destination for any nature lover. Working to become the first carbon negative estate – meaning it will emit no greenhouse gasses at all – by 2040, learn about its WONDER plan which is changing the way the land is managed, along with employing sustainable practices across the estate and Holkham National Nature Reserve. Hop aboard a tractor trailer for The Grand Tour to learn about the estate’s work.
With a wealth of nature to see and experience, August is a superb month to grab your binoculars and explore why Norfolk is an incredible Area of Outstanding Beauty.