The project was one of the most ambitious habitat enhancement projects ever undertaken on the Suffolk coast. The partnership project undertaken by the National Trust at its Orford Ness site and the RSPB at its nearby Havergate Island nature reserve was shortlisted as a finalist in this year’s highly coveted Natura 2000 Award.
David Mason (National Trust), Aaron Howe (RSPB), Grant Lohoar (National Trust) attended the award ceremony along with 23 other finalists from around the European Union.
Ninety-three entries involving major projects across Europe were originally submitted and judges have shortlisted 23, with the Suffolk scheme battling it out with entries from Portugal, Latvia, Cyprus, Hungary and Denmark in the awards’ Conservation category. All 23 of the shortlisted projects are up for the Natura 2000 Citizens’ Award, with Europe’s public being invited to chose the winner. In addition, the awards’ judging jury will choose winners in each of the competition’s five categories.
A grant totalling about £900,000 of European Union LIFE+ funding was made available for the Herculean amount of enhancement work at Orford Ness and Havergate. The scheme, which took four years to complete and was finished in 2014, was also supported by funding from other sources, including the SITA Trust, a Biffa Award (for Havergate), the Environment Agency and the National Trust’s Neptune Coastline Fund. The Suffolk project has enhanced the rich mosaic of wetland and shingle habitats on Orford Ness and Havergate by improving water management and reducing disturbance to wildlife. The logistical difficulties encountered in getting heavy machinery onto both sites were huge and added considerably to the challenge. On Orford Ness, the site of the former military airfield that was drained and levelled in 1913 has been enhanced with low earth bunds holding water in about four hectares of deepened scrapes, linked by a 2.6km network of new ditches with 18 water control structures. Other work has included the installation of a 3.9km network of shallow footdrains to enhance the breeding and feeding opportunities within grassland areas for declining species such as lapwing and redshank. On Havergate, new islets covering about six hectares have been created and the ditch network that transports water around the lagoons has been improved. Six sluices were also rebuilt on the island in a project which has benefitted any species, including the rare starlet sea anemone and a wealth of birds that breed or overwinter on Havergate and use it on migration.
Thank you to everyone who helped to make the project a success. This was a major achievement for the wildlife, landscape and people of the Alde-Ore Estuary. You can find out more on the awards here:http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/awards
Over the last 2 months on Havergate we have been cracking on with the new hide (being built to replace main hide and Gullery hide which were both destroyed during the tidal surge) As you can see from the photo we have had to get a lot of equipment and material out to the island but with the help of volunteers and the ferry we are just about there. At the other end of the island we have also been making progress on the volunteer accommodation hut. Again this was damaged with the tidal surge so we have had to completely gut it and replace the flooring and walls. Just a freshen up with paint and some new furniture to go in and we will be ready to welcome our first volunteer at the end of May.
Currently Havergate is awash with Gulls squabbling on the lagoon islands and everywhere else really, it is quite an experience to hear and see! Havergate has Greater black backed, lesser black backed and herring gull nesting as well as black headed and common. The short eared owls have moved on, common gulls have turned up and the hares are still chasing each other around. The sea campion and thrift are threatening to make an appearance, just some more warm weather and the island will be full of colour again.
At the end of March we hosted our annual hare weekend. However unfortunately due to bad weather we had to cancel the Sunday trip. On the Saturday visitors enjoyed watching and photographing the hares, 2 of which very obligingly sat pretty much all day out in the open moving only an inch or so to make themselves comfortable.
The hares on Havergate island were introduced in the 1930s probably as a food source for the farming community living there at the time. The population has always stayed pretty steady at about 30 hares only really suffering major loss during the large tidal surges. However the population always seem to recover and steadily rise again.
Hares breed between February and September so it’s not surprising we have already spotted a Leveret (baby hare). We guess it is about 4 weeks old and we often see him sunning himself on the shingle next to the huts. Sorry about the picture I only had my phone on me! But you can see how well camouflaged they are
Here are some interesting facts about the Havergate hares put together by Sue one of our havergate guides.