Spiders the size of your hand thriving on Norfolk Broads

A fen raft spider resting in it's web above a ditch at RSPB Cantley Marsh in Norfolk.

A fen raft spider resting in its web above a ditch at RSPB Cantley Marsh in Norfolk. - Credit: RSPB/Matt Wilkinson

People with arachnophobia might want to steer clear of a nature reserve in Norfolk as one of Europe's largest spiders is thriving there. 

The fen raft spider, which can have a leg span of up to 7cm, is spreading across Mid Yare National Nature Reserve near Brundall. 

A report by the RSPB found the species is now present in 111 one-hectare grid squares at Buckenham and Cantley Fens.

This year the charity is also hoping to carry out a survey of the arthropod in Strumpshaw Fen.

The fen raft spider is a striking creature with a dark body and cream stripes down the side; they are very large and can sometimes reach up to the size of the palm of a hand.

They were once commonplace on the waterways but numbers dwindled before thousands of spiderlings were released close to Strumpshaw Fen in 2012.

The species are European natives but are not overly common.