Did you ever notice the inspiration that comes from a good walk? While tramping the field paths of Canewdon with the all-weather dog this morning, I was cogitating about the possible subjects to blog about this week. The sky was slowly turning from pale pink to blue as suddenly something caught my eye. A shaft of sunlight lit up an object, that was coloured gold with tints of pink and blue, perched in the top of the hedgerow . Now even this bad birdwatcher knows the corn buntings currently jangling from every available perch are not the most colourful, so it was definitely not a red-list species that I'd spied!Alas, it turned out to be another one of our old foes, a shiny balloon - escaped from the clutches of some Disney fan, on a day trip to Southend perhaps? Now I blogged about these before, probably this time last year, so I'll not subject you to another of those rants. But it turned my head to the subject of resources, and the old reduce, re-use, recycle message that has been around since the heady days of Anita Roddick refilling our Body Shop bottles with shampoo and body lotion.The recycle message is one that permeates the Wild Coast Project at all levels. It helps that we live in Rochford District Council, which is the best in the UK for recycling. The most obvious example of our belief in this ethos is in our beneficial re-use of the material arising from the Crossrail tunnelling under London. This clay, a by-product of Europe's largest engineering project, will allow us to restore the marshland landscape to its former medieval glory. But we employ this recycling mode in other areas of our work too. Just last summer , we teamed our volunteers up with the Art Factory from Benfleet to create our 'people perches' from flotsam and jetsam washed up from the river tides along the coastline of Wallasea Island. These are now being put to good use by weary walkers along the seawall path - and no doubt more than a few jangling buntings and other perchers!Most recently, our fledgling Community Learning team have been helping young library visitors to save wildlife by the careful recycling of household items that often cause great harm and suffering to creatures in our countryside. Although to bystanders, it may have looked like a cross between a christmas pantomime and the unpacking of a shopping bag, the youngsters and their families entered into the spirit of this message wholeheartedly and will think twice before dropping litter again, I'm sure.Looking to the future, I hope that we will be able to develop our facilities with more than an eye to the environmental impact of buildings and equipment used. If any of you readers see any really good, green ideas on your travels that you think might suit the Wild Coast please drop me a line.
The picture below is of 'one that got away' - a people perch which lives outside my office, with assorted other articles retrieved from the island edges!
Any of you who have been watching the Wild Coast Project for a while, may by now be wondering when something BIG is really going to happen - and who can blame you , as it's been talked about for around ten years so far!! So today, as the sun is shining and corn buntings appear to have decided it's Spring ( they are calling from every possible perch!) I thought I'd run over what we can expect to see happen this year.
BAM Nuttall, Crossrail's contractor, will soon be back in action, continuing the construction of the unloading facility which they began last Autumn. This long conveyor belt will reach across the marsh, about half way along the northern coast of the island, running past the webcam mast mentioned in this blog a couple of weeks ago. The temporary jetty is currently being fitted out at Tilbury Docks and will be floated round to the River Crouch when its ready, in time to connect with the conveyor belt and before the first ships arrive. This summer will see the huge Crossrail tunnelling machines churn into action deep under London, and the resulting clay will be shipped to Wallasea for placement in the eastern end of the island - the part known as 'cell one'. The design for the landscape is divided into 5 'cells', roughly following the contours of the original marshland islands which existed hundreds of years ago, before enclosure by man.
Cell 5, the one passed by on the way to our car park,is already under development, though it may not look like it! This area includes the wild bird cover area, much celebrated this winter as it provided food and shelter for so much wildlife, including hundreds of farmland birds who would normally be forced off the island in the cold season. 'Cell 5' , the name of which has caused some merriment to those not 'in the know', will be further developed later in the year, with the construction of a large area of wet grassland ( an area to be grazed), a dog exercise area and a saline lagoon reaching south from the sluice just beyond the by then enlarged car park .This lagoon should attract lots of birds when full of water and will be an extra place for us all to walk round and enjoy. Staff and volunteers will be on site at our forthcoming events over the year, available to answer any questions you might have. But in the meantime, watch the webcam for action, the blog for news and on a good day come down and see for yourself!
It may have escaped your notice, but yesterday, was World Wetlands Day! World Wetlands Day has been celebrated on or around 2 February globally every year since 1997, and Wallasea Island will eventually be a prime area to celebrate this habitat.Freshwater wetlands are rich and diverse habitats. Although they were once common in our landscape, a long history of drainage, development and pollution means that only a small percentage still remains. These remnant wetlands may sometimes be small or isolated, difficult to manage or have limited natural ecological functioning. Even so, many still support some of the most interesting and important wildlife and habitats in the UK, and provide opportunities for people to understand and enjoy our wetland heritage. Wet grasslands in the UK provide valuable habitat for indigenous plants, birds and invertebrates. They develop in land which is periodically flooded or waterlogged and where management for agriculture (grazing, mowing or a combination of the two) promotes vegetation dominated by lower growing grasses, sedges and rushes. They do not include reed-dominated habitats. A large number of bird species of conservation concern are dependant or partly dependant on the UK's remaining wet grasslands, particularly breeding waders and wintering wildfowl. Species such as lapwing and black-tailed godwit are high priorities for conservation action by the RSPB on such habitats, as are other characteristic non-avian species such as water vole, of which there is a significant population here on Wallasea Island.Climate change and sea level rise will create additional significant pressures (and opportunities) to such habitats in the future, and will require new approaches to wetland conservation.Here at Wallasea, our plans include a large area of wet grassland, towards the western end of the site, on which we hope to graze rare breed sheep, just as the land was managed hundreds of years ago through parish grazing rights.The World Wetlands Day theme for 2012 is Wetlands and Tourism and is linked to the theme for the next meeting of the Conference of the Parties, COP11: Wetlands, Tourism and Recreation, which will take place in July 2012, in Bucharest, Romania. Wetland tourism has benefits both locally and nationally for people and wildlife – benefits such as stronger economies, sustainable livelihoods, healthy people and thriving ecosystems. At least 35% of Ramsar Sites around the world record some level of tourism activity and this percentage is consistent throughout all regions. Of course it is important to consider tourism in all wetlands – not just those designated as Ramsar Sites – since the Contracting Parties to the Convention are committed to managing all wetlands.It is worth noting that tourism is one of the many services that wetlands deliver. Ensuring well-managed tourism practices in and around wetlands and educating tourists on the value of wetlands contributes to their health and the long-term benefits that wetlands provide to people, wildlife, economics, and biodiversity.Culture is an attribute of all the activities of each society, as they evolve through the ages. As wetlands, since ancient times, have been inhabited and used in many ways by human beings, there are strong cultural and spiritual values associated with many of them.It has become clear in recent years that nature conservation cannot be practiced successfully without regard to the welfare of local populations and without ensuring their active participation. This is the reason to include culture in wetland management activities, attempting thus to reconnect people to wetlands and leading to an integrated approach to the natural and cultural heritage. In addition, such an approach creates highly interesting destinations that may draw visitors and provide economic benefits to local populations through mild tourism activities. Also, some of the cultural aspects incorporate traditional knowledge that may be useful to contemporary conservation and merit to be preserved and to be taken into account.All of this will be seen as the Wild Coast Project develops, starting with the work on what we call 'cell 5' - the area to the south of the track driven along to reach our car park. Construction of a saline lagoon and large expanse of wet grassland will be among the first 'attractions' witnessed by visitors later this year and we hope to have some interesting livestock grazing there soon, which will be an added attraction in this mainly arable area.