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Wallasea Wetlands Creation Project - Wallasea Island, Essex

The Western half of the site - aerial shot
The Western half of the site

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Wallasea wetlands

  • Wallasea Island is situated on the East coast of Essex and adjoins the Crouch and Roach estuaries. These estuaries have both Special Protection Area (SPA) and Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI) status.  
  • In July 2006 Defra completed a 115 hectare wetland on the North shore of the island to replace similar bird habitats, lost to port development during the 1990s.  The project started in 2004 and the site was flooded to create the wetland in July 2006.  It will be subject to monitoring until 2011, by which time the site should become a fully functioning natural wetland SPA.
  • Monitoring will investigate impacts on the local countryside and estuaries, and the rate at which wildlife colonises the new habitat.  Monitoring results will be posted on the website at www.abpmer.net/wallasea/
  • Defra own the land and following a competitive tender process, RSPB took over management of the site in April 2007. 
  • The wetland comprises saline lagoons, mudflats and saltmarsh which provides a feeding and roosting habitat for birds.  It will also improve flood defences and mitigate the effects that climate change will have on the coast. 
  • The site has created open spaces and 4km of footpaths.  Wildlife is already using the site – including Brent geese, Oystercatchers, Grey plovers, Dunlins, Shelducks, Curlews, Avocets and Little Terns and Otters.  The wetland also provides a nursery habitat for fish such as bass, herring and mullet.  

Live webcam

For the live webcam at Wallasea Island – www.abpmer.net/wallasea/

Birds that use the wetland – Shelduck, Avocet, Lapwing and Redshank (photographs by Chris Gibson, Natural England)
Birds that use the wetland – Shelduck, Avocet, Lapwing and Redshank
(photographs by Chris Gibson, Natural England)

Background information

  • In 1997 the House of Lords, after receiving an opinion from the European Court of Justice, decreed that an area of marine wetlands, mudflats and saltmarsh of international importance for birds, that had been left out of a Special Protection Area (SPA) to allow for port development at Sheerness and Felixstowe, should be replaced.
  • The replacement involved “Managed Realignment”, a process of creating new counter walls some distance behind an existing sea wall which is then breached, to allow the tide back onto its old flood plain.  A team of specialists from different organisations provided the information to help choose a suitable site.  In 2004, after consulting with the public and local interest groups, Wallasea was chosen as the most suitable site. 
  • Wallasea Island was chosen because it is on an estuary big enough to attract the large number of birds using the wetlands that had been destroyed.  More than 600,000 tonnes of non-polluted navigation dredgings that would otherwise have been dumped at sea have been used to create the habitat.
  • The sea walls on the North shore were also in poor condition.  Without intervention there was a high risk that the walls would fail resulting in flooding the island and causing damage to the estuary.  Therefore, the best way to protect Wallasea from flooding and ensure the creation of new habitat was through a properly designed realignment scheme.

Related news releases

(links to Government News Network)

The Eastern half of the site - aerial shot
The Eastern half of the site

Contact information

Chris Tyas, Essex Area Manager of the RSPB, who has over

25 years of practical experience of managing such sites, is the contact and can be reached by phone on 01621 862621, by post at 1 Old Hall Lane, Tolleshunt D’Arcy, Maldon, Essex CM9 8TP, or by email at chris.tyas@rspb.org.uk

Page last modified: 23 October 2008
Page published: 23 October 2008