Robin's Website

Roydon Common

Roydon Common is a 194.9ha (482 acre) biological Site of Special Scientific Interest east of King's Lynn in Norfolk. It is on the northern side of Roydon Common and Grimston Warren Nature Reserves and is a living landscape rich in wildlife and history. The photographs on this webpage were taken in February, 2019, and are from one of three walks around an area of the common typified by birch woodland and grassland and accessed from a small car park near the small village of Roydon, 2 miles eastwards along a straight minor road which runs from the A148 near Knights Hill, King’s Lynn. During the time of the visit, the nature reserve was being grazed by a herd of British White cattle. This breed was chosen for their calm nature as well as for their ability to manage well on rough grazing land.

As early as the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, farmers were grazing their livestock here and a combination of grazing, burning and felling trees created a heathland. The remains of Bronze Age barrows are still found here. Right up until the 20th century, heathlands were important for a range of wild produce, such as gorse for kindling and crating hot fires for baking ovens, bracken for animal bedding, eat for fuel and rabbits for meat. The locals had the right to graze sheep, cattle and geese on the common land. It was these traditional uses that maintained the open heath. Once these activities came to an end, areas of the heath were rapidly colonised by birch woodland, reclaimed for farming or planted with conifers.

Above: Running along the edge and, in-part, through Roydon Common and Grimston Warren Nature Reserves is a track which was at one time a railway line.

As well as being a National Nature Reserve, Roydon Common is a Grade I Nature Conservation Review site and a Ramsar site (designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands). On a wider local level, it is part of the Roydon Common and Dersingham Bog Special Area of Conservation. Across England, more than 75% of heathlands have been lost since 1800. Roydon Common has been managed by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust since 1963. In 1999, a 40ha block neighbouring conifer woodland was secured by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. This was originally heathland and since then, work to clear the conifers has seen rare ‘specialist’ species, such as nightjars and woodlarks, now nesting amongst the re-established heathers and heathland plants. A further block of 69ha of conifer plantation was secured in 2004 at neighbouring Grimston Warren with a view to restoring, recreating and reconnecting the areas heathland on a landscape scale.


Roydon common is described by Natural England as "one of the best examples in Britain of a lowland mixed valley mire". In the woodlands, open heather-clad heath and primeval-looking bogs here, it may at first seem largely devoid of wildlife here to the visitor. However, the rich mixture of wet and dry habitats on this reserve, including wet acid heath, calcareous fen and dry heath on acid sands, hides an astonishing diversity of birds, plants and animals, including many which are nationally rare. Of note here is the black darter dragonfly, which is only known at a handful of sites in East Anglia (seen on the wing from July to October, often on the wettest areas of heath where bog asphodel grows). Another uncommon dragonfly species which can be found here is the broad-bodied chaser. Also seen here are bees, beetles, reptiles and amphibians. Brown hares can often be seen and the area is a good hunting ground for kestrels, buzzards, hen harriers and merlins (the latter two during winter months only).


Uncommon plant species here include black bog-rush, bog asphodel, common cotton-grass cranberry, marsh fern, all three species of sundew and sphagnum moss. In the grassy clearings here, on the drier ground, may be found many species of flowers which, in turn, attract butterflies such as green and purple hairstreaks and brown argus.


Back to Top