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Nature helps protect wetland one year after storm surge

Last modified: 05 December 2014

Saltmarsh, mudflats and creeks, Titchwell Marsh

Coastal saltmarsh at Titchwell helped protect the reserve from the impact of the storm surge

Image: Andy Hay

Work to repair and improve sea defences at Titchwell Marsh nature reserve has been completed one year after the largest storm surge event in more than 60 years hit the North Norfolk Coast.

Thanks to £15,000 from Norfolk County Council’s Coastal Fund and £3,000 each from The Paul Bassham Charitable Trust and The Lesley Mary Carter Charitable Trust, together with money donated by RSPB members to a national storm surge appeal which raised £185,000, the RSPB has been able to reinforce the sea wall against erosion after the battering it received during the storm surge last December.

The storm, which caused extensive flooding up and down the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts, damaging thousands of properties, had a big impact on many coastal nature reserves and important wildlife habitats.

Only the completion of coastal realignment work carried out in 2011 saved Titchwell’s important freshwater reedbeds, where bitterns, marsh harriers, avocets and bearded tits nest, from being inundated by the sea.

By moving the nature reserve’s main sea wall further inland the Titchwell Marsh Coastal Change Project created a coastal saltmarsh to act as a buffer to absorb and dissipate the sea’s energy and gave the seawater somewhere to go. The sea wall was also reinforced and made taller so that when the tidal surge caused by last December’s storm reached the wall the sea was kept out, with only a small amount of seawater “over-topping”. (note 1.)

Natural coastal features like saltmarshes, sand dunes and shingle banks can all help to reduce the impact of coastal flooding at the same time as providing important habitats for wildlife.

At the time, RSPB Futurescape Officer Lotte Large wrote: “last night nature helped protect us from the storm”.

One year on, Laurence Rose, the RSPB’s Senior Sites Manager at Titchwell Marsh, said, “This year’s repairs and the increasing protection provided by the saltmarsh as it matures, should ensure that Titchwell remains a safe home for rare wildlife, as well as a place for people to come and enjoy seeing birds, otters and water voles, for many years to come.”

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