HOLKHAM is the most extensive, diverse and dramatic nature reserve on a coastline famous for nature reserves. Windswept tidelines, a maze of creeks and saltings, miles of dunes and sandspits, shady pinewoods, green pastures and marshes: the mix of habitats and the blend of wildlife unite Holkham’s National Nature Reserve a unique place, somewhere to catch your breath in a busy world.
As with so much of the English countryside the look of the Norfolk coast is an intimate blend, part wilderness and part working landscape. From Burnham Overy to Wells the low-lying marshes north of the coast road used to be tidal saltmarshes, separating offshore shingle and dune ridges from the main coastline. The tidal creeks were large enough to allow ships to load cargo from a staithe at Holkham village. From 1639 onwards a series of embankments were constructed by local landowners, including the Cokes of Holkham. By the time the Wells embankment was completed in 1859 by the 2nd Earl of Leicester about 800 hectares of saltmarsh had been converted to agricultural use.
In the late 19th century the 3rd Earl of Leicester planted pine trees on the dunes, creating a shelter-belt to protect the reclaimed farmland from wind-blown sand. Today the ribbon of mature woodland still separates seascape from farmscape. The fields and dykes, ridges and trackways have become part of the natural mosaic. Nature moves on; Thomas Coke, the great agricultural pioneer whose memorial can be seen above the treeline in nearby Holkham Park, would hardly recognise the place.
Holkham National Nature Reserve is owned by the Earl of Leicester and the Crown Estates and is managed by Holkham Estate.
Information courtesy of Holkham National Nature Reserve.
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