How nature finds a safe haven by the ‘Port of Britain’
PUBLISHED: 10:17 07 March 2018 | UPDATED: 10:17 07 March 2018
In his latest Wild in Anglia adventure Nigel Pickover tells how a wildlife conservation project and a booming commercial operation have triumphed alongside one another.
At one edge of this special place a giant beast has arrived from the Far East after a journey of thousands of miles.
Just yards away a group of feathered friends have flown in after another epic trip, this time from the icy lands of the tundra.
My visit was to Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s Trimley Marshes reserve - an inspiring conservation triumph in a location which has some scratching their heads in disbelief.
The amazement continues when people discover that this is a project less than three decades old.
The aforementioned ‘beast’ is one of many giant container ships - laden with thousands of ‘boxes’ or containers which have travelled the seven seas to reach Suffolk and UK plc.
The birds are noisy, hungry, geese - there have been seven varieties in residence recently and some have come from Greenland and far-flung parts of Scandinavia.
And many other rarities are to be found here, on the waters of a small reservoir and its associated scrapes and marshes ... to the delight of both ornithologists and wildlife lovers.
Despite the proximity of some of the world’s biggest ships at the Port of Felixstowe, this is a wildlife haven where paradoxically you can still enjoy the feeling of being away from it all and in nature’s care.
It left me thinking that vast areas of fenced-off docks and the ships therein might actually enhance the ‘wild’ experience by forming a gigantic ‘safe’ barrier at one of the reserve.
The establishment of the Trimley reserve came as the Port - motto ‘The Port of Britain’ - became more and more successful, needing extra space.
The important Fagbury mudflats site was eventually consumed by concrete - but in 1990 the Trimley Marshes site, sitting next to the port’s fences, began.
Trimley has proved to be a worthy successor to Fagbury, it’s a marvellous place for birds and visitors alike.
There are close-up views of the Port and its vessels, and views of the River Orwell estuary, including the River Stour, Harwich (Essex) and Shotley (Suffolk).
I loved the peace and tranquility of the bird hides, I could have stayed all day, but a walk along the flood protection banks close to the Orwell, beckoned.
Here you can get the best of both the reserve and the River Orwell which lies the other side of the flood bank. Stand on top of the bank and you gave fascinating views in every direction, the port, the river, the reserve and all its activity and the Shotley peninsular across the water.
The reserve, its hides and reservoir, are two miles from free parking opposite the farm at the end of Cordy’s Lane, Trimley St Mary, Suffolk. The first part is a 30-minute walk along a track, following signs, skirting the port boundary to reach the river and bird hides next to it.
Trimley rail station is 500 yards from the Cordy’s Lane car park - a real boost to those who want to leave the car at home. You can also reach the reserve, as I did, via Grimston Lane and Thorpe Lane, Trimley St Martin and walking along the sandy beach at Trimley foreshore. In my walk of five miles I met not one person!
The reserve is almost 200 acres and created from arable land. The reservoir is the focal point, as a refuge for wildfowl and rare nesting birds, but also for storage and distribution of the reserve’s water.
SWT says there have been seven species of geese on the reserve, all busily grazing on the short grassland on the marshes and at the lagoon fringes. These include brent and barnacle geese, bean geese, a record number of pink foots and white-fronted geese from Greenland. There have been a record 881 roosting oystercatchers so far this winter.
The maturing reedbeds are now routinely visited by bittern in winter, joining water rail and reed bunting and impressive numbers of warblers in summer.
It’s also a home to avocet, ringed plover and tufted duck - rarer migrants like pectoral and stilt sandpipers drop in. I saw dozens of pairs of lapwing.
A round walk takes visitors to most of the reserves key spot and will take three hours or so.
And if you want to make a full day or weekend out of a trip to the Felixstowe peninsular there won’t be disappointment.
At the other end of the port, there’s a popular, free, viewing area so visitors can watch the big ships come in to both Felixstowe and Harwich port opposite. The town boasts unique shops and popular restaurants. At Felixstowe Ferry, two cafes sell fish and chips and fresh fish can be bought from a stall at the side of the River Deben.
This is a showpiece Suffolk Wildlife Trust project and we are so lucky to have it in our midst. One downside - around the lagoon washed by the tidal River Orwell plastic bottles and other plastic litter was in abundance - another reminder of the huge task we face in cleaning up our rivers and seas.
The site is open all year, the visitor centre is open most Wednesdays and at weekends. More info: www.suffolkwildlifetrust.org