A Suffolk wildlife charity is aiming to raise £1million to create a new nature reserve in the county - describing the venture as an "amazing opportunity". 

Suffolk Wildlife Trust wants to turn the 300-acre site on the banks of the River Deben - which will be named ‘Martlesham Wilds’ - into "a wild place that will be of immense value to local people and wildlife", as the land opposite the Sutton Hoo Anglo Saxon burial site is rich in nature and history. 

East Anglian Daily Times: The site of the proposed Martlesham Wilds nature reserveThe site of the proposed Martlesham Wilds nature reserve (Image: Steve Aylward)

The charity’s chief executive Christine Luxton said creating a nature reserve would enable the trust to manage the site, close to Martlesham Creek, and provide more space for nature, a place where plants and birds can thrive. 

The Deben is a popular feeding ground for a variety of bird species, including shelduck, curlew, lapwing and redshank, while the estuary is recognised as internationally important for waders and wildfowl. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Lapwings are regular visitors to the River DebenLapwings are regular visitors to the River Deben (Image: Darin Smith)

The proposed nature reserve has been the site of an organic farm for many years, home to an array of plants, animals and invertebrates and the trust will begin ‘wilding’ the reserve once the agricultural tenancy ends in October. 

Mrs Luxton said: “Basically, Suffolk Wildlife Trust has nature reserves around the county which are all open for people to visit and we have got this amazing opportunity to create a new nature reserve and it is on the banks of the Deben, but it is not very often that a new nature reserve is created.” 

East Anglian Daily Times: Redshank is another species that could make its home at Martlesham WildsRedshank is another species that could make its home at Martlesham Wilds (Image: Tom Marshall)

She wanted Martlesham Wilds to become "a fabulous and accessible wild space on the doorstep of Woodbridge and Martlesham", in the same way that Carlton Marshes was a "spectacular landscape-scale wetland" on the edge of Lowestoft. 

She said: “Martlesham Wilds will be a place where nature can thrive.  

“As thickets of hawthorn, blackthorn, gorse and wild rose establish on the dry, sandy soils, they will support growing flocks of linnets and yellowhammers. 

“Dartford warblers will move in and in time we hope turtle dove and nightingale will return. Small mammals will thrive in the dense undergrowth and insects will abound. 

“Grass snakes, slow worms and common lizards will expand into the new areas of habitat and barn owls will come a regular sight at dusk. 

“This ‘wilded’ land will become part of a connected landscape of ancient woodland, scrub, grassland and salt marsh, linked by the River Deben."

East Anglian Daily Times: Another view of Martlesham WildsAnother view of Martlesham Wilds (Image: Steve Aylward)

The initial ‘wilding’ will involve stepping back to allow natural vegetation to become established, with tree and shrub seedlings appearing and hedges thickening and starting to spread across fields, with wildflowers and grasses growing from seeds long buried in the soil. 

Cattle or ponies will then be introduced to graze the land, which will help to develop and maintain the mosaic of grass, scrub and woodland habitats needed to support the diverse wildlife. 

The new nature reserve will also be on the route of the new England Coast Path, linking the Suffolk coasts and beyond, which will enable walkers to enjoy the new wildlife habitat. 

East Anglian Daily Times: The location of the proposed new Martlesham Wilds nature reserveThe location of the proposed new Martlesham Wilds nature reserve (Image: Suffolk Wildlife Trust)

Due to the need to act quickly to acquire the land, the trust used a £1m philanthropic loan from lifelong supporters Pam and George Ford, who lived at Walberswick and it is this money that the charity is hoping to raise through donations from Suffolk residents. 

Mrs Luxton added: “Opportunities to create outstanding new spaces for wildlife don’t come along very often and this was one that could not be missed.” 

The charity has given itself a year in which to raise the £1m and as of Saturday (November 5), £92,984 had been raised towards this goal. 

To donate to the Martlesham Wilds appeal, please visit https://www.suffolkwildlifetrust.org/martlesham-wilds