The Wash and North Norfolk coast is one of the most important marine areas in the UK and European North Sea. This Marine Protected Area encompasses the largest embayment in the UK, The Wash, which is fed by four rivers: the Witham, Welland, Nene and Great Ouse.

The Wash hosts one of the largest areas of intertidal flats in the UK, second only to Morecambe Bay, and is connected to the North Norfolk coast through a complex and dynamic sediment transfer system.

It is managed for the benefit of all interests by the Wash and North Norfolk Marine Partnership and their Wild Recreation Guide is the key to enjoyment without making an adverse impact.

While marine tourism is welcome, visitors should be influenced by the guide, stay more than fleetingly and leave with just fond memories.

Wildlife Recreation Guide


  • Be considerate of others; many local people make their living through wildlife watching tours but if wildlife is disturbed then it makes it harder for tours to operate and, in turn, affects local livelihoods
  • Launch from designated ramps and, after doing so, move your vehicle from the launch area
  • Please use designated car parks, to avoid blocking access points
  • Abide by speed restrictions (this information can be obtained from the local harbour)
  • Always give way and stay clear of larger craft that can be harder to manoeuvre


  • Use recognised launch sites, to help protect important shoreline and bankside habitats
  • If you see seals and/or rafts of birds, reduce to a no-wake speed
  • Keep your distance from animals in the water (let them decide how close they want to be)
  • Be careful not to stir up the seabed when anchoring
  • Be aware of your wash and keep it to a minimum near the shoreline, to prevent erosion of banks and disturbance to wildlife

Protect against invasive species

These are introduced animals or plants that harm their new environment. Aquatic invasive species can also cause damage to your craft and/or equipment, and they can disrupt your boating activity.

To protect against invasive species:

  • Check your craft and equipment (including clothing) for any visible biofouling, remove and dispose in the bin
  • Clean your craft and equipment (including clothing). Be sure to flush the engine with fresh water to remove any hidden biofouling
  • Dry your craft and equipment (including clothing) – some species can live for many
    days in damp conditions

Protect against pollution

This is the introduction of harmful materials into the environment.

To protect against pollution, please consider the following:

  • Engine – it is illegal to let fuel enter the water; maintain your engine to prevent unwanted leaks. Install a filter into the bilge line, or use a bilge sock, to absorb oil before pumping it out
  • Fuelling – have a spill-kit ready and use a fuel collar to absorb any fuel that may blow back up the fuel line
  • On-board – secure all items to prevent them going overboard
  • Heads – where possible, use onshore facilities, otherwise install a holding tank (avoid discharging into estuaries and enclosed waters)
  • Galley – opt for reusable containers and avoid single-use plastics
  • Cleaning – use eco-friendly alternatives for cleaning. Avoid using products that contain bleach, chlorine, or microbeads
  • Waste disposal/Recycling – when you return to land, please use the appropriate bins to dispose of waste items (recycling as much as possible)
  • Upcycling – find ways to upcycle old equipment e.g. Sails and Canvas welcome old sails and turn them into reusable bags

To find out more, please see the Wild Recreation Guide on The Wash and North Norfolk Marine Partnership website.

Pontoon Users Marine Wildlife Protection Voluntary Code of Conduct

The Wash which is a very unique part of the British coastal ecosystem of national importance. The area provides a very special home to rare plants and animals including 3 species of legally protected marine mammals including the Harbour Porpoise and both species of British Seal ( the Common or Harbour Seal (Phoca vitulina) and the Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus) and many species of birds including many rare migratory wading birds.

We hope that you will take away very many special memories of your time here at this very interesting part of the Wash Ecosystem. To help us protect this environmentally important part of our county’s waterways, we ask all boat users to follow the Voluntary Code of Conduct during your use of the pontoons and the surrounding intertidal areas.

In order to protect the haul out areas and seal colonies and migratory birds resting in the area. User Marine Wildlife Protection Voluntary Code of Conduct for all Commercial Vessels and Leisure boat users:

  • If seals are encountered during your use of the river. Particularly females and pups, or enter the water or appear to move away we ask that you adjust your Vessels course and reduce your speed to slow. So that they are avoided at all times.
  • Vessel speed is limited to 10 knots on the intertidal area of the River, and you must reduce your speed in the presence of seals, particularly when approaching the 100m buffer limit.
  • When transiting you must change your course to avoid flocks of birds being disturbed. Where possible, the distance to flocks while transiting should be kept at 300m to rule out any disturbance where not absolutely necessary. The distance can be reduced to 100m where necessary. Where flocks of shelduck, and particularly if their flightless young are present on the intertidal area, the distance to flocks should be maintained at 300m.
  • In general we ask that during your stay at the pontoons that you never throw any waste or litter over the side and always take litter home or to the designated waste collection locations.
  • We also ask dog owners to ensure that their dogs are kept under control to reduce the risk of them coming into contact with any hauled out seals on the river bank.