The Picnic District 5 – Wallasea Island

Our district has three scientific claims to fame . First of all, the remains of the most important ship in the history of science- Charles Darwin’s Beagle – lie in the river mud near Paglesham. Secondly, due to the connection with the physicist Lord Rayleigh, the town of Rayleigh lends its name to more scientific terms than any other place in the world (for example Rayleigh Scattering, which explains why the sky is blue). The third reason is the Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project:

Wallasea Island Wild Coast project is a landmark conservation and engineering scheme for the 21st century, on a scale never before attempted in the UK and the largest of its type in Europe.

The aim of this project is to combat the threats from climate change and coastal flooding by recreating the ancient wetland landscape of mudflats and saltmarsh, lagoons and pasture. It will also help to compensate for the loss of such tidal habitats elsewhere in England.

Once completed, this will provide a haven for a wonderful array of nationally and internationally important wildlife and an amazing place for the local community, and those from further afield, to come and enjoy.

Although the reserve is planned to be in development until around 2025, you’re welcome to come along and view the progress as each phase comes to life and the marshland naturally regenerates. The current sea wall access along the Allfleets Marsh Trail sea wall is a wonderful place to come to relax and enjoy, whether for walking, cycling, birdwatching, painting, photography or simply taking in the sea air.

Over the coming years, the scheme will create a varied wetland landscape with more than nine miles (15 km) of new and improved access routes, and eventually a range of visitor facilities.

We’re not sure if the RSPB are actually keen on picnics – nobody wants litter here. But a flask of coffee and maybe a banana wouldn’t go amiss. To get to the project you have to drive past Canewdon. Beware of lorries and tractors on the winding country lanes! When you get there, all you can do is walk along the sea wall for a mile or two. That’s it. You can see the existing marshland on one side with some fields and an impressive expanse of bare earth on the other side. The construction vehicles look absolutely tiny in this vast area. It’s probably not very exciting for children, but if you want to see some wading birds, hear some beautiful birdsong and get some fresh air, it’s certainly a tranquil place to visit. One day, when the existing sea wall is deliberately breached and the new habitats created, it will be much more spectacular.

When you get there, go past the notice board up to the sea wall
When you get there, go past the notice board up to the sea wall
To your left is marsh and seawater. To your right is dry land (but only for now).
To your left is marsh and seawater. To your right is dry land (but only for now)
Earth which has been excavated from the Crossrail project in London is brought by sea to Wallasea Island. This is then used to raise the ground level on the island  in varying ways that will  create small islands and lagoons when the sea wall is deliberately breached in future years.
Earth which has been excavated from the Crossrail project in London is brought by sea to Wallasea Island. It is being used to raise the ground level on the island in varying ways that will form small islands and lagoons when the sea wall is deliberately breached in future years, creating a huge haven for wildlife.
There are signs warning you to keep to the sea wall - don't wander off into the construction area!
There are signs warning you to keep to the sea wall – don’t wander off into the construction area!
The construction area is a vast expanse of bare earth!
The construction area is a vast expanse of bare earth!

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