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Orford is a true historical gem with its Norman castle, ancient church, and internationally important coastal nature reserve at Orford Ness.

With this post we hope to capture the wildlife and seasonal changes as well as the hive of human activity that takes place here.

What am I looking at? 

Orford Ness is the largest vegetated shingle spit in Europe, making it a globally important rare habitat.

Owned by the National Trust, the landscape is constantly evolving as tides carry pebbles down the coast – a process called ‘longshore drift’ – which changes the shape of the river mouth every year.

Behind this bank, marshes and lagoons have formed. Look out for the dazzling purple display of sea lavender that flowers in the salt marshes in late summer.

What lives here

Orford Ness attracts a wide variety of birds, mammals, moths and butterflies. So called ‘Ness Hares’ can be seen scattered across the shingle bank, famed for typically being bigger, fatter and healthier than their mainland cousins.

Marsh harriers nest in the reed marsh and can be seen flying over wet pasture in the late afternoon.

Looking back…

  • Prosperity brought to Orford from fishing and wool trading in the 16th century was hampered when the growing shingle spit of Orford Ness cut off the port
  • The village is thought to date back to Norman times, but the famous Orford Castle was commissioned just after by Henry II and completed in 1173.
  • Built to assert Henry’s authority over powerful Suffolk Barons, the castle keep remains today. Originally there would have been a surrounding wall or ‘bailey’.
  • The strange pagoda-like structures on Orford Ness were used during the Cold War to develop and test nuclear bombs.

Walks and more

If you are looking for more than a stroll around the castle (which we highly recommend!) then Orford is the perfect place to take on some slightly longer walking routes. Read our Orford Explorer Guide for more information.