Strumpshaw Fen RSPB reserve, wide angle scenic of reedbed

Saltwater devastation - Strumpshaw Fen

Tim Strudwick has been site manager of Strumpshaw Fen in the Norfolk Broads for 10 years and has been working for the RSPB for 20 years.

Tidal disaster at Strumpshaw

"A lot of time and money has been spent at Strumpshaw. The RSPB came here 30 years ago when it was overgrown and polluted. I and others have worked hard to get this place so great for wildlife. 

Today, you can have a walk around woodlands, orchid-rich meadows and reedbeds where you might spot kingfishers, the secretive Chinese water deer, or marsh harriers.

In spring and summer, it's teeming with dragonflies and butterflies. So over the years, we've seen species come back and this is how I'd like to keep it.

But in November 2007, there was a big tide. Water in and around the site rose four feet in 24 hours. Salty seawater rushed in and most of the fish in the reedbeds were killed overnight – hundreds of thousands of dead fish floating all over the site greeted us the next morning. It was heartbreaking.

The birds here are dependent on the fish for food, what were they going to eat now? My first thought on seeing all this was that we would have to just give up our work trying to help the very rare bittern."

What happened next

"Over the next five months, we pumped out the saltwater and got the freshwater levels back. It will take three or four years to get the fish populations back and even then, we just don't know how much valuable aquatic insect life we lost on that night.

Sadly, that November flood was meant to be a once in a hundred year event, but I do worry the same could happen again as our climate is getting so unpredictable. However, I really do hope that in a few decades, our site will still be wonderful."

Tim Strudwick, Site Manager of Strumpshaw Fen