Situated north of the village of Surlingham and south of the River Yare, it comprises 68 acres (28 hectares) of mixed wetland habitat including shallow open water (the remnant of Surlingham Broad), dykes, reed and sedge fen, and small areas of willow carr, as well as deciduous woodland on the southern margin of the reserve.
A footpath of about 1¼ miles circumnavigates the reserve from Surlingham Church, and a hide overlooks the Broad.
Notable amongst the breeding birds are gadwall, shovellers, and reed, sedge, grasshopper and Cetti's warblers. Marsh harriers are regular visitors but have not bred to date. Migrants include Jack snipe and green sandpiper, and winter visitors include hen harriers and bearded tits.
The reserve also supports several species of dragonfly, and a variety of butterflies, various other insects and invertebrates, and many species of wild flower and particularly aquatic plants.
Purchased in 1984 as a potential habitat for marsh harriers and bitterns, the reserve was immediately isolated from the River Yare to prevent pollution, and water levels are now carefully managed by the use of sluice gates. Selected parts of the reed beds are cut annually. Recently a small number of highland cattle have been grazed on the fen to improve habitat quality.
The naturalist Ted Ellis is buried at the nearby ruin of St Saviour's church.