Carlton and Oulton Marshes lie within the Waveney Valley at the tip of the Norfolk Broads and are an important feature of the Suffolk Broads.
Although just a stones-throw from the busy town of Lowestoft, the site is a relative wilderness where birds like Marsh Harrier, Hobby, and Barn Owl hunt over a network of dykes, grazing marsh and turf ponds.
The site is home to an exceptional range of freshwater life with many priority species making use of the extensive network of clean water habitats. The carnivorous aquatic plant Bladderwort Utricularia sp. grows within the dykes, whilst higher on the banks, plants that are rare in most of the country like Tubular Water-dropwort Oenanthe fistulosa are a common sight. The dykes are also home to the rare Shining Ramshorn Snail Segmentina nitida, Fen Raft Spider Dolomedes plantaruis and Water Vole Arvicola amphibius.
In 2011 a series of shallow turf ponds were excavated within Oulton marsh – these were designed and funded through Freshwater Habitats Trust’s (then Pond Conservation’s) Million Ponds Project. Following this work, Suffolk Wildlife Trust employed Suffolk Aquatic Invertebrate recorder Adrian Chalkley to assess the biological value of the new turf ponds. This work showed that creating shallow ponds within the marsh was a excellent way to improve overall biological diversity of the site, providing habitat that supports new freshwater species not found within linear wetland features such as dykes.
The creation of a further 16 turf ponds through the Flagship Pond project in 2016 will undoubtedly add value to the site, adding to the diversity of pond-types, and support species requiring early successional habitats. Water quality across the site was tested which highlighted the low nutrient status of ponds and dykes within the reserve, contrasting with the often high levels of pollution found on waterbodies flowing past the site like Oulton Dyke. Upskilling for staff and volunteers in identifying and recording priority species such as Fen Raft Spider will enable better monitoring in the coming years.
Accessibility: Some Flagship Pond sites are accessible to the public, and some are not. If in doubt, consult maps for rights of way, look online for site information, or contact the site manager, and follow any instructions on site. It is up to you to check whether you require permission to visit and access the ponds on a site.
Site owners/managers: Suffolk Wildlife Trust