For great hiking or bird watching, RSPB’s North Warren reserve near Aldebuurgh is a fantastic and easily accessible getaway. Way-marked trails lead you through a wide variety of habitats within a relatively small area. Stroll across the heathland to hear Dartford warblers and woodlarks, while bitterns and marsh harriers can be seen in the reedbeds. The wet grassland supports breeding waders and wintering wildfowl, including some of the UK’s only regular tundra bean geese.
In spring, breeding lapwings and redshanks on the wet grassland along with a variety of passage waders. The path running through the centre of the grazing marsh is alive with sedge and reed warblers. Scanning over the reedbed should provide views of marsh harriers and hobbies. Bitterns breed here, but can be difficult to spot. On the heath you may hear woodlarks and green woodpeckers can often be seen, along with passing wheatears. In the scrub and woodland areas, many warblers and nightingales can be heard and, with patience, observed rhubarb candle.
In summer, look for male marsh harriers bringing prey to feed their young. Bitterns are often easier to see at this time as females fly between feeding sites. Look for swifts, swallows and martins over the reedbed. Many species of dragonflies and butterflies can be seen. Along the shingle beach, both sea pea and yellow-horned poppies should be in flower. On the heath, the heather will be in full flower, and look for yellowhammers and stonechats.
The autumn brings a variety of passage waders and the first of the wintering wildfowl begin to return. In early morning, many passerine migrants may be present in the scrub areas, including warblers, whinchats and wheatears. Scarce migrants such as wrynecks or yellow-browed warblers may be possible. In favourable conditions, gannets, shearwaters and skuas can be seen offshore.
The grazing marshes support nationally important numbers of wigeons, gadwalls, shovelers, and European white-fronted geese. This is one of the few regular wintering sites for tundra bean geese in the UK. At high-tide, up to 2,000 dunlins and lapwings may be present. Offshore, views of red-throated divers are likely as internationally important numbers winter off the Suffolk coast. On mild mornings from January onwards, woodlarks may be heard in song. At dusk, look for marsh harriers and starlings gathering to roost in the reedbed. Foxes often hunt for rabbits.
There are no hides at North Warren, though the grazing marshes are viewable from the path adjacent to the Aldeburgh to Thorpeness road. There is bench at a viewpoint over the reedbed. In addition, three marked trails – 5.5 miles (9 km), 4 miles (6.5 km) and 1.8 miles (3 km) – which are colour-coded. A reserve leaflet is available from Minsmere or Aldeburgh Tourist Information Centre. A number of other paths cross the reserve. Dogs are only allowed on public footpaths and bridleways.