Titchwell Marsh Coastal Change Project

This important project will protect freshwater habitats on Titchwell Marsh nature reserve from destruction due to erosion and rising sea levels.

Minsmere RSPB Reserve, Avocet chick Recurvirostra avosetta wading in shallow water


This important project will protect the vital freshwater habitats within our Titchwell Marsh nature reserve from destruction by the sea. In addition, it will compensate for the unavoidable loss of valuable brackish marsh habitat from this same reserve. The text below gives you a brief summary of the project; you can find out more by looking at the maps, publications and other documents in the Downloads section. 
Titchwell lies towards the western end of the beautiful North Norfolk coast. It forms a key part of the North Norfolk Coast Special Protection Area (SPA) - a 25 mile (40 km) long strip of land that has been identified under the EU's Birds Directive as one of the most important places for birds in the whole of Europe. In turn, this SPA is part of Natura 2000 - a unique, continent-wide network of key biodiversity areas that are managed to provide benefits for both wildlife and people.
The freshwater and brackish habitats at Titchwell are currently protected by seawalls. However, these walls will almost certainly fail within the next few years if nothing is done to prevent this. There are three main reasons for this:
  • Firstly, the coast at Titchwell is currently eroding and the mean high water mark is gradually moving landwards
  • Secondly, climate change is causing sea levels and storminess to increase
  • Thirdly, the wall system is not strong enough to cope with the increasing pressures that will be placed on it due to these two factors.
Failure of the wall system would result in the freshwater and brackish habitats at Titchwell gradually turning into tidal saltmarsh. This would greatly reduce the value of the reserve to many of the birds that currently use it. 
The birds that will benefit from the project include several that are covered by the EU Birds Directive - either because they are listed on Annex I of this directive as requiring 'special conservation measures', or because they are classified as 'regularly occurring migratory species'. To learn more about the 'Directive species' that will be helped by the project, please follow the links on this page.


  • The main objective of the project is to protect the 12 ha of freshwater marsh and 17 ha of freshwater reedbed at Titchwell from the sea. An important secondary objective is to compensate for the unavoidable loss of the brackish marsh at Titchwell.
  • We will achieve the main objective by carrying out a major 'managed realignment' project, and the secondary objective by creating new habitat both within and close to the Titchwell reserve.
  • The managed realignment project will involve three main steps, as follows: firstly, we will replace the seawall that lies to seaward side (north) of the freshwater habitats at Titchwell with a new, much bigger and stronger wall.
  • Secondly, we will strengthen the seawall that lies to the west of the freshwater habitats and also helps to protect them from the sea.
  • Finally, we will breach the seawall that lies to the east of the brackish area on the reserve (which is located between the freshwater habitats and the sea), so that the inevitable inundation of this area happens in a controlled and predictable way.
  • Our compensatory work will also involve three main steps: firstly, we will re-profile and enlarge the islands in the freshwater marsh at Titchwell, thus providing 0.87 ha of new or improved habitat for breeding avocets and other waders.
  • Secondly, we will improve existing islands and create new ones in a 15-ha lagoon on our Freiston Shore nature reserve. This reserve is located on the edge of The Wash SPA, about 18 miles (30 km) north-west of Titchwell.
  • Thirdly, we will create a new 7 ha lagoon with islands and pools on our Frampton Marsh nature reserve, which is close to Freiston Shore.


Key Dates

  • August 2008: LIFE funding confirmed, making it possible for us to go ahead with the project
  • Autumn 2008: Work at Frampton completed
  • Spring 2009: Work at Freiston completed
  • July 2009: Planning permission secured for work at Titchwell
  • August 2009: Engineering work started at Titchwell
  • October 2009: End of the first engineering season; work to rebuild the Parrinder Wall (to the north of the freshwater marsh) almost completed
  • August 2010: Work on the West Bank (to the west of the freshwater habitats) started; work to create and improve islands in the freshwater marsh carried out
  • September 2010: Work on the West Bank completed
  • August 2011: Work on the new Parrinder seawall completed and improvements to southern end of east wall completed
  • September 2011: Breach made in east wall allowing sea water into what was the brackish marsh


Planned Work

The main engineering activities that remain to be carried out are the replacement of a sluice in the East Bank at Titchwell, so that we can control water levels in the freshwater reedbed and marsh and the finishing off of the reedbed creation area at the southern boundary of the site.


All project actions are being implemented by the RSPB. However, we are maintaining close links throughout the project period with relevant staff from Natural England, the Environment Agency and the Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk, and with members of the communities living close to Titchwell.


Half of the cost of the project is being covered by the European Commission, through its LIFE+ financial instrument. Additional funding is being provided by Waste Recycling Environmental Ltd (WREN), SITA Trust and the Crown Estate. We are very grateful to all of these bodies for their invaluable support.


Coast on a stormy day

Helen Deavin

Programme Development Manager, Reserves

Tagged with: Country: England Habitat: Marine and intertidal Habitat: Wetland Project status: Ongoing Project types: Site protection