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Work begins on final phase of record-breaking Essex coastal wetland habitat restoration project at Wallasea Island

PUBLISHED: 22:11 25 May 2018 | UPDATED: 22:11 25 May 2018

Aerial view of Wallasea Island  PIC: David Wootton

Aerial view of Wallasea Island PIC: David Wootton

DW Photography

Work has begun on the final phase of the Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project, a coastal wetland restoration initiative that will see an area twice the size of the City of London on the Essex coast transformed into a nature reserve for rare and threatened birds and other wildlife.

Sea defences at Wallasea IslandSea defences at Wallasea Island

This week, contractors BAM Nuttall broke ground on earthworks that will see the creation in 2018 of three new areas of coastal wetland habitat – 55 hectares of brackish marsh, 82 hectares of freshwater marsh, and 132 hectares of tidal saline lagoon.

Added to the 399 hectares already restored at Wallasea Island since 2011, the RSPB says the new habitats will complete the UK’s largest coastal wetland restoration, and the largest mosaic of habitats of its kind in Northern Europe.

The work has been made possible by grants from Viridor Credits, Enovert Community Trust, and Bannister Charitable Trust.

Wallasea Island Wild Coast project manager Chris Tyas, of the RSPB, said: “After nearly ten years since the RSPB first purchased the land at Wallasea Island with the aim of restoring the coastal wetland that once existed here, it’s fantastic to finally be embarking on the final phase of habitat creation – the last piece of the puzzle that will complete the picture of Wallasea Island as a coastal wetland for the future, for wildlife and people.

“There is a lot happening this year – building new bunds and sluices to control the flow of water from the estuary into and out of the new lagoons and marshes.

Since 2009, when the RSPB purchased 670 hectares of arable farmland in the Crouch-Roach Estuary with the aim of restoring it to coastal wetland, nearly two thirds of that area has been turned into bird and wildlife-rich habitats.

The first phase of the project saw a pioneering partnership between the RSPB and Crossrail to bring more the 3 million tonnes of soil excavated from beneath London to Essex by ship to raise the height of the land, build new water banks and create new tidal lagoons, islands and areas of saltmarsh.

Less than three years after the sea wall was breached to allow tidal water onto Wallasea Island for the first time in 400 years, and according to the RSPB, a wealth of birds and other wildlife, such as curlew, lapwing, brown hare, shrill carder bee and skylark, have already begun to benefit.

For more information about the Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project and nature reserve, including how to visit, see www.rspb.org.uk/wallasea

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