Diggers break ground at site of new multi-million pound nature reserve
- Credit: John Ferguson
Work has officially begun on a ground-breaking project to restore a precious corner of East Anglian wetland and create a new nature hub spanning 1,000 acres.
Diggers have broken ground at Carlton Marshes near Lowestoft, where Suffolk Wildlife Trust will carry out its visionary plan to create a vast new nature reserve on the southern fringes of East Anglia’s wild and watery Broads.
The work follows a £1million public fundraising appeal and the award of £4million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, which have together enabled huge investment in the land.
The project, supported by Sir David Attenborough, will be the biggest habitat restoration and wetland creation in the National Park for a decade. It has been described by the charity as a “southern gateway to the Broads”.
Once finished, the nature reserve is likely to attract around 120,000 visitors per year, with annual spending in nearby B&Bs, pubs and cafes forecast to reach in excess of £1million – supporting dozens of local jobs.
As of today, contractors have begun work to create swathes of wetland habitat on the new land of Share Marsh and Peto’s Marsh.
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This will involve the digging of shallow pools, which are excellent for supporting wading birds, and the creation of what will be one of the biggest reedbeds in Suffolk.
A seven-mile network of restored freshwater ditches will be among the best in the UK and will allow 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.
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It is hoped the newly transformed wetland will become a “breath-taking panorama of wildness stretching from horizon to horizon”, which will also see an increase in birds such as marsh harriers and bitterns visiting Carlton Marshes.
The work, which was initially going to take place over a three-year period, should now be finished within six months – in an effort to reduce disturbance to both wildlife and visitors.
Matt Gooch, Broads manager, said: “After all the work behind the scenes, and the generosity of National Lottery players, donors and backers, it feels like we are now almost in touching distance of what will be a truly spectacular reserve.
“The restoration will, of course, take time, but the positive impact it will have for wildlife and for visitors will last for generations. It is a very exciting time.”
Work on the reserve’s visitor centre is also due to begin this year, and the finished site should be open by mid way through 2020.
Julian Roughton, chief executive of Suffolk Wildlife Trust, said: “The restoration of this special corner of East Anglia will bring rich rewards not just for Suffolk’s wildlife but also for the local economy.
“The 1,000 acres of reedbed, fen and wetland scrapes will support some of East Anglia’s iconic species such as fen raft spider, marsh harrier, bittern and crane.
“The wildlife and special landscape of the Broads attracts people from across the UK and our new visitor centre for Carlton Marshes, with its views and walkways across the marshes, will enable more people, from near and far, to explore this area and discover the wonders of the natural world.”
As the reserve undergoes changes in the coming months, visitors are asked to look out for signs and information boards at the site.