A new ferry that is set to make a 'top secret' Suffolk nature reserve more accessible has been launched.

The 12-metre long landing craft-style vessel has been built for heritage conservation charity National Trust's Orford Ness and will provide step-free access to the former military site, which is now a haven for wildlife.

Currently, visitors must take a ferry to visit the site, which can be difficult for people with mobility issues during low tides because of the steep and slippery steps.

READ MORE: National Trust makes it easier to visit Orford Ness

However, the newly-built craft aims to make it easier for wheelchair users, families with buggies and those unable to use the steps to access the Ness for the first time.

The 12-metre craft has been built in Portsmouth by boat builder PDL Marine.

As well as providing better access for visitors, the new landing craft will also provide greater flexibility for staff and volunteers bringing large equipment and vehicles on site.

READ MORE: Caterpillar poisonous to humans and dogs closes Orford Ness

Accommodating up to 12 passengers per crossing, the craft will also provide more flexibility for staff and volunteers to bring large equipment and vehicles onto the site, which was used as a bomb testing facility and in the development of radar.

The craft is designed to transport a vehicle and a trailer weighing up to four tonnes.

READ MORE: Orford news

In June, Glen Pearce, property operations manager at Orford Ness, said that while Orford Ness had been made more accessible with mobility vehicles, an accessible toilet and paths, using the ferry was simply not possible for many visitors.

He added: "We’re really pleased that after many months of planning, work is now underway on the new specially designed craft that will enable so many more people to visit in the future.”

A spokesperson for the National Trust said: “We’re thrilled to have taken delivery of a new vessel this week which both greatly enhances our operational capabilities and will provide visitors who are unable to transit in and out of our transport boat Octavia the opportunity to explore Orford Ness for the first time.

"Orford Ness is now closed to visitors for the winter and we will spend this time training staff and finalising our plans to ensure we’re offering a brilliant experience and a safe crossing and landing.

"We look forward to launching the new craft at some point in 2024 when Orford Ness has re-opened.”

READ MORE: Suffolk news