Nature and Geography
National Nature Reserve
The National Trust has carried out a huge number of improvements over the past 25 years to enhance the Ness as a wildlife habitat for which it is internationally recognised. The visitor experience is left deliberately basic, with access only possible by the 12 passenger ferry Octavia. The Ness has proved to be of particular interest to photographers, pop video directors, artists and documentary makers looking for a strange and atmospheric location. The marshes on Orford Ness have been used as grazing land for centuries. Today, the National Trust flock of more than 150 rare breed sheep play an important part in maintaining healthy habitats for the many species of wildlife that live on the Ness. The grazing animals maintain a mosaic of different vegetation types and heights which support a great variety of wildlife.
Shingle that makes up 40% of the site is actually flint that was formed in the Cretaceous period 140 to 60 million years ago. The beach profile is continually changing. Orford Castle was built for Henry II in 1170 when Orford was a port and open to the sea. It’s likely that the marshes forming part of the Ness were drained and reclaimed during this period. The remainder of the Ness consists of rivers and tidal saltings.