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NWT Cley Marshes
Nature reserve
Simmond's Scrape, Cley Marshes - - 1062772.jpg
Looking north across the reserve
Country England
Region East of England
County Norfolk
Coordinates 52°57′32″N 1°03′22″E / 52.959°N 1.056°E / 52.959; 1.056
Biome Reed bed
Animal Eurasian bittern, Pied avocet, Western marsh harrier
Founded 1926 (1926)
For public Open year round
Protection status

Cley Marshes is a 176-hectare (430-acre) nature reserve on the North Sea coast of England just outside the village of Cley next the Sea, Norfolk. A reserve since 1926, it is the oldest of the reserves belonging to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT), which is itself the oldest county Wildlife Trust in the United Kingdom. Cley Marshes protects an area of reed beds, freshwater marsh, pools and wet meadows and has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Special Protection Area (SPA), and Ramsar Site due to the large numbers of birds it attracts.

The reserve is important for some scarce breeding species on the islands, and western marsh harriers , and is also a major migration stop-off and wintering site. There are also several nationally or locally scarce invertebrates and plants specialized for this coastal habitat. It has an environmentally friendly visitor center and further expansion is planned through the acquisition of neighboring land and improvements to visitor facilities.

The visitor center is built on environmentally friendly principles. Its roof is covered with living sedum plants, rainwater is collected for re-use, and the building's energy profile is reduced using solar water heating, wind turbines and geothermal heat pumps. It has won a number of awards including the Emirates Glass LEAF architectural award for the sustainability category.

Over the long history of the reserve, it has had only three wardens, all from the same family. Robert Bishop was warden from 1926 to 1937, and was followed by his grandson, Billy, from 1937 to 1978. Billy's son, Bernard, who was appointed in 1978, is still managing the reserve.

The site has a long history of human occupation, from prehistoric farming to its use as a prisoner of war camp in the Second World War. The reserve attracts large numbers of visitors, contributing significantly to the economy of Cley village. Despite centuries of embankment to reclaim land and protect the village, the marshes have been flooded many times, and the southward march of the coastal shingle bank and encroachment by the sea make it inevitable that the reserve will eventually be lost. New wetlands are being created further inland to compensate for the loss of coastal habitats.

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