Volunteers repair breach at marshes

VOLUNTEERS from Southwold and Walberswick have completed the mammoth task of filling a breach caused by last year's storm surge, allowing 100 acres of the picturesque Blyth Estuary to be reclaimed from the sea.

Mark Lord

VOLUNTEERS from Southwold and Walberswick have completed the mammoth task of filling a breach caused by last year's storm surge, allowing 100 acres of the picturesque Blyth Estuary to be reclaimed from the sea.

The Blyth Estuary group has been spearheading the repair work at both Tinkers and Delacroix marshes, which were breached by the surge on November 9 last year.

The repairs are being carried out by volunteers after the Environment Agency (EA) announced last September that it intends to no longer maintain flood protection at the Blyth Estuary, affecting large areas of Southwold, Walberswick and Reydon, because it claims the costs of repairing them are greater than the benefits.

“We have been campaigning to persuade the EA to repair these walls for six months since the sea came in,” said John Huggins of the Blyth Estuary Group.

The volunteers have successfully plugged the main breach using more than 2,000 sandbags which were taken up river in a flotilla of small boats provided by local river users.

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A small handful of experienced river users then set about the tricky task of filling a hole that sees the tide surge in and out twice a day.

Mr Huggins added the water dropped on the Tinkers and Delacroix marshes by 15cms in 48 hours.

He said: “This has proved that the walls can be repaired and the harbour preserved.

“Ironically it is only as a result of this local voluntary effort that the EA can complete its works further downstream.

“Without draining the water from Tinkers Marsh it would not be possible for the EA to stabilise its defence works at Palmers Lane which provides the only physical link between the two communities of Walberswick and Southwold.”

Charles Beardall, of the Environment Agency, said: “We supplied the 2,000 bags used in this repair and we will be encasing the sandbags in clay to strengthen them and ensure the marsh drains so we can complete the repair work in Palmers Lane.”

Walberswick landowner Andrew Blois, whose land is at threat from flooding, said: “I am enormously thankful for the sterling effort that has been put in by everyone to make this happen.

“By sealing this breach we now have the time and space to breathe, in order to properly contemplate the future of our estuary and community.”

Dr Beardall said that repairing the wall at Tinkers Marsh was not the best use of the money available to the EA and that concentrating on Palmers Lane, the Reydon Wall and other areas were more of a priority.

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