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RSPB Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project

October 24, 2007 by  

AN AMBITIOUS £12million project is planned to recreate the lost landscape of Wallasea Island.

The RSPB today announced details of the Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project, to return the farmland back to coastal wetland to attract rare birds back to an area that has not nested in for about 400 years.

The charity hopes to raise enough money to buy three quarters of the island, farmed by Wallasea Farms.

advertisementThe cash will also fund engineering work to let water back on to the land through a series of pipes in the current sea wall.

Wallasea is eight miles north of Southend, and could provide a 1,800-acre paradise for fish and birds with its planned saltmarsh, creeks, lagoons and mudflats.

It will also provide an open space for recreation with ten miles of foot paths and cycle ways.

Project manager Mark Dixon said: “The island used to be made up of five separate islands and we want to take it back to that.

“By letting sea water in through pipes in the current sea wall we will create shallow wetlands a couple of feet deep.

“The water will go in and out with the tide.

“It will be a giant wilderness. It will prepare the land for climate change, suck up carbon and provide a space for people to enjoy, and be fantastic for wildlife.”

The charity hope to attract rare birds like the spoonbills, Kentish plovers – which have been absent for 50 years – and black-winged stilts, which have only bred in Britain three times.

Otters, saltwater fish such as bass, herring, flounder and specialist saltwater plants, including samphire, sea lavender and sea aster, could also flourish.

The plans will not affect the homes and caravan on the eastern side of the island.

An agreement has been signed between the farm and the RSPB to buy the land in two years time, if planning permission is granted and the cash is raised.

Mr Dixon said: “From the farm’s point of view, they are surrounded by 12 miles of sea wall.

“They know in the medium term the sea level will rise and their land is not going to be viable. It could breach and they could lose their land overnight.

“This is a way of safeguarding the land for wildlife “There used to be 30,000 hectares of this wetland landscape in the area, now there is just 2,000 hectares.

“Four hundred years ago most of it was surrounded by a sea wall and claimed for agriculture and industry.

“It is our hope to recreate the lost landscape, with millions of birds feeding and nesting and tens of thousands of fish breeding there.” Wetland restoration began on Wallasea last year, when Defra breached sea walls on the northern edge of the island.

It is managed by the RSPB and the area of wetland will be increased sixfold when this latest project is complete.

The £12million bill, the RSPB’s most costly and ambitious scheme, is mainly to cover the research and engineering costs of allowing water back on to Wallasea to create the marshes.

Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB’s conservation director, said: “Our plans for Wallasea reflect the very great difficulties climate change will cause but also the RSPB’s determination to find ways of combating them.

“We will be providing new sites into which wildlife can move when sea level rise swallows up their existing habitats.”

The charity hopes local people will help them realise this dream by donating money as well as getting corporate sponsorship from industry and corporations.

Donations can be made via the RSPB website.

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