Suffolk Wildlife Trust awarded £4m for huge new reserve
- Credit: John Ferguson
Heritage Lottery Fund grant means go-ahead for Carlton Marshes extension
Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s visionary plan to create a vast new nature reserve on the southern fringes of East Anglia’s wild and watery Broads is to go-ahead thanks to a grant of more than £4million, it is revealed today.
In a “defining moment for Suffolk’s conservation efforts”, the trust has been awarded £4,063,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) - one of the largest grants ever received by a wildlife trust. It will enable the trust to complete the purchase of 348 acres surrounding its Carlton Marshes nature reserve near Lowestoft, creating a 1,000-acre landscape-scale wildlife wonderland that the charity says will become a “gateway to the Broads National Park.”
The project, supported by the elder statesman of nature conservation Sir David Attenborough, will be the biggest habitat restoration and wetland creation in the National Park for a decade. It is being seen as a major boost for the region’s tourism industry and a massive fillip for nature education in the area.
It is hoped the immense new wetland will become a National Nature Reserve in the next five years – reflecting the ecological importance of the site’s habitats as well as the social and cultural impact it will have on a broad swathe of north Suffolk and south Norfolk.
Trust chief executive Julian Roughton said the HLF award was a “defining moment for the county’s conservation efforts.” It was one of the most significant events in the charity’s 56-year history and would enable the trust to create “a place where wildness spreads as far as the eye can see.”
A new visitor centre - due to be completed by 2022 - new walkways and boardwalks and hides would help even more people “explore the landscape and discover the wonders of the natural world. This nature reserve will be a flagship conservation story for the UK showing how nature can be brought back,” said Mr Roughton.
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HLF’s decision follows nine months of community and stakeholder consultation by the trust – work that was also funded by National Lottery players. The whole project will cost about £8m, with a further £4m coming from the trust through legacy gifts, volunteer time and the continuing £1m public fundraising campaign – which is now just £95,000 short of its target.
Stephanie Hilborne, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts - the umbrella organisation that unites all 47 county wildlife trusts - said: “Players of the National Lottery are helping Suffolk Wildlife Trust give a new lease of life to wildlife in a spectacular large-scale habitat restoration project. This will make a vital contribution to nature’s recovery in the UK and is also an investment in the health of our society and in our economy.”
Robyn Llewellyn, head of HLF in the East of England, added: “This is wonderful news for nature at the southern tip of the Broads – and it’s also so much more than that. Creating a new destination on the edge of Lowestoft will increase the opportunities for people in the town to visit the landscape on their doorstep.
“It will also be a magnet for visitors, from birdwatchers to holidaying families, bringing them further along the coast from the well-established tourist hotspots in Suffolk and Norfolk and boosting the local economy.”
To donate to the continuing £1m public appeal and help raise the last £95,000 of match-funding, visit www.suffolkwildlifetrust.org
Landscape-scale vision will become stunning reality
When Sir David Attenborough backed Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s ambition to extend its Carlton Marshes nature reserve, the revered naturalist and broadcaster said it was “vital that we restore our land on a landscape scale so that it can support more wild plants and animals.”
The trust’s plan - now becoming a reality thanks to a £4million Heritage Lottery Fund grant - does exactly that.
Carlton Marshes’ 627 acres will become a 1,011-acre wildlife paradise with the 384-acre addition of Peto’s Marsh and Share Marsh - wetland wildness that will stretch a full two miles from north to south beside the River Waveney and the Oulton Dyke. The trust says it will eventually mean “the whole of the western fringe of Lowestoft will have been transformed into a water-filled landscape.”
More than 150 acres of marsh, fen meadow and shallow pools will be created, with thousands of metres of soft muddy edges where wintering wildfowl and nationally declining waders such as lapwing and redshank can feed. A seven-mile network of restored freshwater ditches will be among the best in the UK and will allow Broadland specialists including water voles, the nationally rare fen raft spider and a wide variety of plants such as bogbean, bladderwort and water soldier to spread across the landscape.
Wetland birds such as marsh harriers and bitterns will have the chance to bolster their populations while potential colonists such as purple herons, common cranes and spoonbills may be attracted to the vast new habitats.