It’s always good to hear what other people think of our reserves and to see how they help out. With that in mind, I asked one of our guides for Havergate Island, Steve, to summarise Havergate for me and talk about what it has to offer, and the different trips we are running this year with his help.

So, carry on reading if you want to find out more...

Suffolk is a fascinating place to visit an RSPB nature reserve as it gives you two locations, only a few miles apart, that offer completely different experiences.  On the one hand you have Minsmere, which covers a huge area, has lots of hides, trails, variety of species and habitat, a great visitor centre and plenty of visitors.  Just down the coast however, you have Havergate Island.  Small, with limited access and always an adventure to visit, Havergate attracts the intrepid explorer, those seeking a peaceful location to watch wildlife and even the odd “Island-bagger”.

I volunteer as a wildlife guide at both reserves and having the opportunity to spend time at such different locations makes it all the more interesting.  Havergate always seems just that little bit special somehow, being Suffolk’s only island, so it only seems right at the start of the new year to talk about the various ways you can get out to visit.

Photo credit: Steve Everett. RSPB Boat with Orford Ness in the background

You join the boat for Havergate at Orford Quay.  Orford’s a lovely little village, steeped in history from the castle built by Henry 2nd in the 12th century to the evocative ruins of wartime secrets on Orford Ness.   It’s always a bit exciting getting on a boat to visit somewhere and few visitors have had the chance to see this part of Suffolk from the water, so there’s normally plenty to talk about on the trip downriver.  Did you know for example that there were a couple of proposed schemes (in the 19th century) to turn the river between Havergate & Orford into a port facility for Navy & commercial vessels?  Difficult to imagine nowadays that, had things been different, the busiest container port in the UK (Felixstowe) might instead have been a few miles up the coast on the River Ore.

You land on Havergate at a jetty roughly halfway down the island, but what happens next depends on which trip you’ve joined.  Some trips are self-guided, where you’re free to stroll the tracks and explore the hides by yourself.  These are the trips for those who enjoy some quiet birding, or wish to sit in one location and wait for the wildlife to come to them (and yes, if you’re really lucky, sometimes the hares will do exactly that).  There’s always a guide or two on the Island to help out, point out the unusual and round up anyone who’s got lost, but otherwise, the island is your own. 

Photo Credit: Steve Everett. Jetty leading onto Havergate Island

Some trips are more of a themed event – these trips are guided, with a more organised tour of the hides, explanation of the work being done, the history and species visible.  If you’re new to birding or simply like to be part of a group, these are the trips for you.  It’s all pretty relaxed, so don’t worry about being marched around military style, the advantage is that you’ll be with someone who can help you spot elusive species and answer questions.


Photo Credit: Steve Everett. Lazy Hare on Havergate

This year we’ll also be running some river trips – these will give you a longer trip on the river looking for wildlife and will include a short visit to the island.  At least one of the guides will be on each of these trips to help point things out and answer questions and will give a different perspective on the area.  Where we go will doubtless depend on the state of the tide, but this will definitely be the trip to choose if you enjoy being out on the water.

Whichever trip you choose, remember to bring your camera and share your memories of the day using the various options available on these pages.  You’re now a member of the small and exclusive Havergate Islander club.