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Fen is RSPB?s 200th Reserve

A successful appeal has secured a stunning area of Norfolk Fen

The RSPB has announced the purchase of its 200th nature reserve.

Sutton Fen in the Norfolk Broads is a timeless and beautiful corner of the English countryside and home to a stunning array of birds, insects and plants. This landmark purchase was made possible by the generosity of RSPB supporters who donated money to an appeal launched in late October. Together with a grant of £465,300 from the Tubney Charitable Trust, £50,000 from Garfield Weston Foundation and a very substantial legacy bequeathed to the RSPB by the late Miss Lucy Frances Leake, their donations have enabled the RSPB to secure this site for nature conservation and for future generations to enjoy. Sutton Fen is the latest of three recent major land acquisitions, which bring the RSPB’s motto, ‘for birds, for people, for ever,’ powerfully to life. For birds: Hesketh Out Marsh.

Thousands of wintering birds are set to benefit from the creation of a huge new wetland along the Ribble estuary in Lancashire. The RSPB will begin work in March to re-flood 170 hectares of farmland at Hesketh Out Marsh, which was reclaimed from the sea 25 years ago. The result will be a mix of saltmarsh, saline lagoons and muddy creeks, providing a wetland haven for thousands of wintering birds such as black-tailed godwits, dunlins, avocets, redshanks and wigeons. Sea level rise means the UK’s saltmarsh is vanishing at the rate of 100 hectares a year. As well as helping to replace this lost habitat, the new marsh at Hesketh will also act as a natural flood defence.

The land has been bought thanks to funding from Environment Agency and the Northwest Regional Development Agency through the Lancashire Rural Recovery Action Plan. It will eventually become one of the RSPB’s Ribble Estuary nature reserves and part of the proposed Ribble Estuary Regional Park.For people: Saltholme.

The 380-hectare Saltholme site is situated near the mouth of the River Tees in north east England and within easy reach for millions of people. With around 100,000 visitors expected every year, the site will be one of the largest tourist attractions in the region, offering people the chance to get close to nature. The RSPB is working with the Teesside Environmental Trust to transform the former industrial site into a new kind of nature reserve. Regional Development Agency, One NorthEast, is investing £2,300,000 in the project, through the Tees Valley Partnership. The European Regional Development Fund is contributing a further £1.4m through the Government Office for the North East.

At least twenty-three new jobs will be created as a result and visitors to the site will bring an additional £1.4 million-a-year to the local economy. The creation of lakes, pools, grasslands and reedbeds will attract new, exciting and rare wildlife to the area, boosting the Tees Valley’s biodiversity. It is hoped new species of birds like bittern, marsh harrier and avocet will join more familiar wildlife such as kingfishers, swans, herons, butterflies and dragonflies. An iconic ‘Wild Bird Discovery Centre’ will be at the heart of the site, providing a family-friendly experience of wildlife, and facilities for recreation, education and local community activities.For ever: Sutton Fen.

Sutton Fen is one of the finest examples of unpolluted valley fen in Western Europe and one of the most important nature conservation sites in the UK. Bitterns, marsh harriers, garganey and Cetti’s warbler are among the birds, which flourish here, alongside a nationally important population of insects, including Norfolk Hawker dragonflies and swallowtail butterflies. Cranes are known to have bred nearby and the RSPB hopes they can be encouraged to use the site in the future. The fen is also a haven for plants once found all across the Broads but now restricted to this one site. With its natural beauty, unique mix of plants and breathtaking variety of birds and insects, Sutton Fen was somewhere the RSPB felt it had to protect. Graham Wynne, RSPB chief executive, said: “We are delighted that Sutton Fen is our 200th reserve. The chance to give long term protection to a site as magnificent as this only comes along once in a generation. Sadly, such sites are becoming increasingly rare, so it is wonderful to have the opportunity to look after what is nothing less than a national treasure.”

He added: “Taken together, these three new reserves are a fabulous example of how the RSPB works to live up to its motto, providing space for wildlife and for people in a changing world. It is work that does not stop with the end of the Sutton Fen appeal. We continue to need the support of our members, who are the real driving force behind everything we hope to achieve.”

4th July 2014