Norwich nature reserve Water vole by Terry Whittaker 2020VISION
Water vole by Terry Whittaker 2020VISION

The Geoffrey Watling Charity donation brings Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s new nature reserve vision a step closer to reality.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust have announced a £60,000 boost to their public appeal to create a brand-new nature reserve for Norwich.

This week, Norwich-based The Geoffrey Watling Charity made a generous donation of £30,000 towards the appeal. The donated amount will be matched by long-term NWT supporters, Aviva, resulting in a total contribution of £60,000 towards the creation of a new site for wildlife and people based at Sweet Briar Marshes.

In February this year, NWT launched a public appeal to raise £600,000 (see note 1) to create a new nature reserve on the City’s Sweet Briar Marshes. NWT’s vision is to support rare and vulnerable wildlife found at the site, such as water vole, water shrew, orchids, reed bunting, willow warbler and snipe, as well as creating an urban green space to enable local communities to benefit from better access to nature.

The public appeal has now reached over £200,000 in donations, of the total £600,000 needed.

This week trustees from The Geoffrey Watling Charity visited the proposed site with NWT CEO, Eliot Lyne, to celebrate their significant donation to the nature reserve appeal.

The Geoffrey Watling Charity distributes grants to organisations throughout Norfolk and the Waveney District of Suffolk. They have been valued supporters of NWT’s work for many years, to date contributing over £200,000 towards the charity’s wildlife projects.

Alan Watling, Chairman of the trustees for The Geoffrey Watling Charity, said: “We are glad to be able to help Norfolk Wildlife Trust with it ambitions to safeguard Sweet Briar Marshes as a wild space for all of the City’s residents.

“It is a remarkable opportunity for the Trust to connect Norwich communities, that have had such a difficult time over the past few years, with this wonderful haven for wildlife so close to the heart of the City. We wish the Trust luck with their appeal.”

Eliot Lyne, NWT CEO, added: “The Geoffrey Watling Charity are continuing in their fine tradition of supporting communities across Norfolk and beyond, by bringing our vision for a new nature reserve for Norwich closer to reality. We are incredibly grateful for their generous donation, which will go a long way in supporting Norfolk’s wildlife and people.

“Sweet Briar Marshes is an incredibly special place for wildlife, something rarely seen in such urban surroundings. This gives us a brilliant opportunity to protect Norfolk’s special wildlife whilst providing urban communities with better access to nature.”

The 90-acre site, found running along the River Wensum close to the city centre today provides a haven of wildness and peace.

Increasingly surrounded by urban development, Sweet Briar Marshes is in danger of deterioration and fragmentation and could be lost as a vital home for wildlife.

When the site came up for sale, Norfolk Wildlife Trust saw an opportunity to create a flagship nature reserve for the City, its wildlife and residents. Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, which aims to improve the natural world and strengthen communities across the UK, intervened to support NWT and purchased the land earlier in 2022, giving NWT the opportunity to buy it back if it can raise the funds needed.

You can give to the appeal, by:


donating in person at an NWT visitor centre

calling 01603 625540

All donations up to £300,000 will be matched by Aviva, making every penny donated work twice as hard.

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