Salt water threat to wildlife

CONSERVATIONISTS have voiced concerns of an environmental disaster after heavy seas flooded important freshwater wildlife habitats with saltwater. An 800-metre stretch of a shingle bank was breached at Dingle Marshes, between Dunwich and Walberswick, as a high tide – whipped up by strong winds – pounded the coast.

CONSERVATIONISTS have voiced concerns of an environmental disaster after heavy seas flooded important freshwater wildlife habitats with saltwater.

An 800-metre stretch of a shingle bank was breached at Dingle Marshes, between Dunwich and Walberswick, as a high tide – whipped up by strong winds – pounded the coast.

There is also a risk the adjoining Walberswick reedbeds, the biggest in Britain, could be flooded.

Alan Miller, warden at Dingle Marshes, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), said: "It is the worst breach in the sea wall anyone can remember since the early 1990s. The reedbeds will take five or six years to recover and that's as long as we don't get another breach."


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He added: "This is a potential disaster for bitterns and other wildlife dependent on freshwater."

Many fish had been killed and these would reduce the food supply for rare bitterns – found in greater numbers on the Suffolk coast than in any other part of the country. Endangered water voles had also been "doomed" by the floods.

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Environment Agency staff arranged emergency repairs to avoid further damage.

Meanwhile, the heavy seas early yesterday also resulted in dozens of beach huts being buffeted in Southwold – leaving many beyond repair.

A combination of strong north-westerly winds and high tides led to huge waves smashing over the concrete wall.

Throughout yesterday owners of the tiny wooden huts had the heartbreaking task of salvaging what they could from what remained of their seaside retreats.

One owner, who was carrying deck chairs and other personal belongings from the wrecked remains of her hut, said: "This has all come as something of a shock. I could not believe the scene of devastation when I arrived here."

For Paul Denny, of Reydon, near Southwold, the scene rekindled memories of the great floods that devastated the area in 1953.

"This is not on the same scale as that terrible event but once again we are seeing the power of the sea," he said.

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