You will find out about all the exciting stuff going on with the RSPB in the east of the UK. We cover our sites in the following counties: Norfolk, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, and some of our great Lincolnshire ones. So if you are if you have never heard of the Strumpshaws and Snettishams or Stour Estuary or Sutton Fens here is you chance.
Author: Jim Scott
RSPB Snettisham sits on the edge of The Wash: the UK’s most important inter-tidal wetland site nationally. At peak times, The Wash can hold between 400 – 450, 000 waders and wildfowl. Up to a third of these can occur on our reserve.
However, the site isn’t just of national importance. Internationally, The Wash is important for 16 species of birds: pink-footed goose, dark-bellied brent goose, shelduck, pintail, oystercatcher, ringed plover, golden plover, grey plover, lapwing, knot, sanderling, dunlin, black-tailed godwit, bar-tailed godwit, curlew, and redshank. Three of these species: pink-footed goose, knot, and bar-tailed godwit, occur at Snettisham in internationally important numbers; with a further six species: shelduck, oystercatcher, avocet, grey plover, sanderling, and black-tailed godwit, occurring in nationally important numbers.
We certainly don’t do things by halves! We are also home to two of the UK’s most incredible wildlife spectacles:
Whirling Wader Spectacular
The mudflats of The Wash provide breakfast, lunch and dinner for thousands of wading birds. Yet, when the water rolls in on a high tide, up to 50, 000 wading birds are displaced, leaving the mudflats and landing in the lagoons behind the shingle bank.
As the birds take-off in their masses, they turn and tumble, and whirl and ripple in one of nature’s most impressive sites.
This wild optical illusion can be seen from mid-July to late May, but the best period is from August to January.
For the best experience, time your visit to coincide with a tide high enough to cover all the mudflats. We recommend visiting three different spots to get the most from your visit.:
To access a high-tide timetable visit www.rspb.org.uk/snettisham
Early September, pink-footed geese start to arrive from their breeding grounds in Iceland and eastern Greenland. Patiently, they wait for the first sugar beet harvests of the year, looking to refresh and feed after miles of migration.
Numbers peak between mid November to mid-to late January. At dawn, cackling orchestrated calls fill the sky. Look overhead and you might see tens of thousands of geese flying in V-shaped formations, making their way from The Wash to the sugar beet fields. At dusk, they return to the mudflats for the night.
To see the goose spectacular, it’s best to get to RSPB Snettisham by dawn. It's early, but it's worth leaving your duvet for! Avoid up to five days either side of full moon as the spectacular is not as reliable in this period.
For the best views, of the geese, stand on the beach between the wader watchpoint and Rotary Hides. The first groups to leave each morning may give an indication as to the best places to stand later during the spectacular.
We are currently crowdfunding to raise money to rebuild the hides at Snettisham lost in the 2013 storm surge. To donate to our #SnettsHide appeal please visit crowdfunder.co.uk/snettishamhide where there are many exclusive rewards on offer.
Why did the RSPB decide to use crowdfunding?
We decided to research alternative ways to fund projects; when we looked into crowdfunding, it seemed to tick all the right boxes for us. We know that Snettisham is an extremely special place for lots of people and rebuilding the hide was something many people told us that they, as individuals, would be willing to get behind and support.
As crowdfunding typically raises small amounts of money from a lot of people we thought that it would be an excellent way to fund a project that had a lot of support from our community. We want to create a project for people to be a part of and feel a sense of ownership towards; ultimately an opportunity for people to be able to contribute towards something tangible that they can use in the future.
Why did the RSPB decide to use Biotope to create the design?
Tormod Amundsen, the founder of Biotope, is a Norwegian architect who has a passion for nature (especially birds). He uses his skills to help create buildings that are welcoming, functional and social - places where visitors feel welcome and can engage in conversations. These buildings are ‘hides’ when we need to prevent disturbance in order to get closer to nature, and alternatively they act as shelters when disturbance is not an issue but wind and rain might be. Crucially, they are also functional. They haven't been designed to look flashy. So whilst the building will blend into it's surroundings, we will not be spending any great cost where there will be no added function: this is important for us as a charity, and is an aspect of design some architects fail to appreciate.
Biotope is perhaps unique in bringing these two areas together. Our visitors won't only be inspired and motivated by the clever design of the building, but they can also be blown away by the unexpected and beautiful views too.
This hide will also be designed to be a sociable place - it’s OK to talk here, in fact it’s encouraged! Inspiring people to talk about nature and enjoy each other’s company on our sites is key to a good experience for many visitors.
When will the hide be built?
We would love to build the hide by the end of 2017 but this all depends on whether we raise enough money through the crowdfunding campaign.
What happens if the crowdfunding target isn’t hit?
If we don’t reach our crowdfunding target there are other options. Once we have community support behind us (i.e. donations from crowdfunding) we will be able to approach a local charitable trust who give grants to charities in Norfolk for projects that merit support. We may also consider a further application to a grant funder.
Why does the RSPB need another hide at Snettisham?
The aim of this project is to replace the two hides we lost in the 2013 storm surge with one larger, flood resilient shelter. If adequate viewing shelters are not provided there will continue to be a risk of disturbance to wildlife at one of our most iconic reserves. There is a risk that frequent disturbance events over a prolonged period can affect the breeding success and the viability of the roost - we must always think about the wildlife first.
The new hide will enable fantastic views of the spectacles Snettisham offers - improving visibility of wildlife for all our visitors including birdwatchers, photographers, walkers and wildlife lovers. It is important that we are able to offer visitors the opportunity to learn about and enjoy the special landscape of The Wash and the wealth of wildlife that makes this reserve such an important and special place.
The hide we would like to build is bold and innovative, comprising flood resilient elements with the need to accommodate a high number of visitors at high tide spectacle times.
£120,000 seems like a lot of money?
We’ve worked really hard alongside our architects, Biotope, to design a hide that works both for the reserve and our visitors. We set Biotope a challenging brief to design a flood resilient hide that can accommodate around 80 people (approximately the overall capacity of the two hides we lost in 2013), that would provide excellent, panoramic views of the roost bank, whilst remaining stable on a pretty unstable shingle surface. Importantly, the hide also had to ensure that different users, with different interests, could use the hide together.
This has resulted in a large structure, around 74sqm, with huge glass windows, giving those excellent views, and a dedicated photography pit. It also includes a reinforced concrete raft foundation to spread the load onto the very loose beach deposits. The ground beams and low level photography pit will serve to anchor the hide into the ground during storm surges.
With the predictions of more frequent surge tides hitting our reserve over the coming years there’s every chance a less stable structure would be lost or destroyed beyond repair.
Construction costs aren’t cheap, especially when constructing a building on shingle. We’ve had to think very carefully about the construction method and our contractors will need to use specialist machinery during construction so as not to damage the sensitive shingle flora.
What is the total cost of the project?
The overall total cost of the project is £140,000. Before crowdfunding, we received a generous grant of £20,000 from a community landfill trust. This meant we were able to reduce the crowdfunding target to £120,000.
This total cost of the project includes the costs of interpretation, access and seating, which will all be required to make the hide complete.
Where will the money actually go?
The money raised through crowdfunding will be used to fund the project to rebuild the hide. Any money we raise over the target will be used at the Snettisham reserve to enhance the visitor experience, for example better interpretation or upgrading pathways. This will allow us to use our core funds to protect the habitats and wildlife of Snettisham.
Will it spoil the experience at Snettisham having a new, big structure on the landscape?
The hide has been designed with the landscape in mind using materials that complement the reserve such as timber that will weather to a silver/grey colour. We hope that overtime the structure will blend naturally with the landscape and continue to provide outstanding viewing.
Is the hide accessible to all?
The hide itself has been designed to be accessible, apart from the photo pit area which is accessed via steps. We have therefore designed a dedicated universal photo area to the North East corner of the hide to ensure all users are able to get the best vantage point for taking photographs.
At this point in time there is no standard wheelchair access proposed to this hide due to the distance and terrain involved in reaching the wildlife spectacle that can be seen from this point. However, off road/all terrain mobility scooters will be able to access the hide. Access to the hide is by a combination of concrete path, shingle and boardwalk.
The present arrangement for disabled access to the reserve is that visitors with disabilities can drive along a private road (due to an agreement between the RSPB and beach property owners who own sections of the road) to reach a car parking area 100m before the first hide (one of three currently on the reserve). From this point there is a concrete pathway designed for wheelchair use to access the first two hides. Both of these hides are equipped with wheelchair bays.
Can I donate if I don’t want to use the crowdfunding website?
You can make an offline contribution to the project by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org, calling: 01485 545263 or popping in to the visitor centre at RSPB Titchwell Marsh. Most of our rewards are only available through the crowdfunder website. However as mugs and T-shirts are unlimited, if you are unable to make a pledge through the crowdfunder website, we can accommodate offline pledges in exchange for these rewards.
Where can I donate online?
If you'd like to gain exclusive rewards and donate to our project, please visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/snettishamhide . Keep up-to-date with all the latest rewards and information by following #SnettsHide and checking out our RSPB Norfolk Facebook page and RSPB in the East Twitter page.
What else can I do to help?
If you love Snettisham and want to support our crowdfunding campaign in additional ways, you can let your social media followers know about your support by liking, sharing and retweeting the #SnettsHide posts. You can also sign up to our Thunderclap to show that you're part of the #SnettsHide crowd.
Who can I contact for more information?
Contact us at: email@example.com or call: 01485 545263.
Author: Emily Kench. This item originally appeared in the July edition of Let's Talk magazine.
Snettisham is special. As the sun rises and sets, it touches vast mudflats that divide the sea and inland lagoons. When the sea rolls in on a high-tide, the mudflats disappear – blink and you’ll miss it – the tide doesn’t hang around in north Norfolk.
As the silt is submerged, whirling waders abandon their feast of worms and cockles and take to the skies. Spinning overhead, trying to make hasty decisions between dipping in for a last bite or heading to drier land, groups of knot, avocet and bar-tailed godwit spiral between the two.
Back in December 2013, the waders of The Wash probably didn’t have a lot of time to think about a final bite. A spring tide coupled with a storm surge tearing down the North Sea, and backed by the wind, left this wonderful home for wildlife a little-worse-for-wear. The tide tumbled in breaching the shingle bank and seawater forced its way into the lagoons. At their fullest extent, the depth of the water was over 12 feet higher than normal.
The scenes were bleak. Boardwalks were washed away, two of the lagoon’s islands were lost and three out of four hides on the reserve became unusable. Yet, the storm surge hadn’t just impacted Snettisham, other important RSPB nature reserves Titchwell, Minsmere, North Warren, Dingle Marshes, Strumpshaw Fen and Havergate Island had also bared the brunt.
In light of the devastation, the RSPB launched an appeal - and using money generously donated by supporters - were able to utilise these funds where they were most urgently needed: protecting wildlife. Dedicated volunteers and partners worked hard to repair the damage to the reserve’s habitats, and in time nature once again flourished.
Yet the reserve is not just special for wildlife, it is also incredibly special for its visitors. Whilst the homes of wildlife residents were quickly restored, visitors to The Wash have had to be slightly more patient, but four years later, and that is about to change.
How can you help?
The RSPB now wants to replace the destroyed hides with a single new building which will be bigger and better, stand-up to future storm surges and help to inspire a whole new generation of nature lovers with the sights and sounds of The Wash. On Monday 10 July, the RSPB launched a special 28 day Crowdfunding campaign to help raise the funds needed.
In exchange for pledging money to the Crowdfunding appeal, the RSPB will be offering ‘money can’t buy’ rewards which include some fantastic products and experiences, many of which have been donated by local businesses, artists, photographers and volunteers. The RSPB hopes that these rewards will inspire people to donate and together we can build a hide that offers unparalleled views of the wildlife of The Wash. This will be a building that inspires not only those who love Snettisham already, but a whole new generation of nature lovers and future wildlife champions.
To find out more visit: crowdfunder.co.uk/snettishamhide or call: 01485 545263
Follow the Crowdfunding progress on Twitter and Facebook by searching #SnettsHide