East Atlantic Flyway
East Atlantic Flyway: England East Coast Wetlands is part of the Tentative list of United Kingdom in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.
East Atlantic Flyway: England East Coast Wetlands comprise coastal wetlands that are important for migratory waterbirds. It includes a large number of nature reserves on the east coast of England between Hull and Whitstable.
Map of East Atlantic FlywayLoad map
The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.
Large areas of England East Coast have recently been chosen to make up a new TWHS focusing on migratory birds, as part of the East Atlantic Flyway. Although there is no precise map yet of the proposed site, and boundaries could change of course in the future, I had a closer look at maps that were published in different news websites, and believe we visited at least three areas to be considered under this proposal. The purpose of our visits was each time on another aspect of the place (we are more “history” than “birds” fans), which may be of interest for some other visitors as well, as travelling to the UK to see merely the same as Wadden Sea in mainland Europe may not be so appealing.
End of June 2020, we went to the area near Bradwell-on-Sea, with the purpose of spending a day by the sea in a not-so-crowded place (that was just the end of first Covid lockdown in the UK) and visiting the grade I listed chapel of Saint Peter, one of the oldest churches in England. It turned out that the church had not re opened yet, so our day focussed mainly on walking along the sea (there is a signed path “St Peter’s way”), collecting shells, enjoying fresh air and sun. The coast here is low land, muddy areas - and birds? Well, like at any similar stretch of coast, nothing outstanding I would say. There is a power station just by the Chelmser estuary, that would not fit well with a natural WHS I believe.
Still looking at the map, it seems that a long stretch of the Stour river valley would be part of the proposal as well, not limited to the estuary only, but going quite deep inland, so likely including the “Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”. This a very green vale, an iconic English countryside landscape, which inspired John Constable for some of his most well-known paints (actually Flatford mill was our prime objective for this visit!). We really enjoyed the walk through meadows from Flatford mill to Dedham along the meandering Stour river (Dedham is interesting as well as a “wool town”, with a remarkable gothic church and nice houses). It is possible to imagine this area as a resting place for migrating birds, but again this aspect of nature was not outstanding at the time of our visit. The area is free to access (but car park is charged GBP 5 at Flatford mill, free for National Trust members) and walks are very well sign-posted, but there are many visitors there, including foreigners (coming for Constable obviously – there are boards showing copies of his paintings in the very places they represent).
Finally, our best bet for ticking this TWHS is the Orford Ness nature reserve. This is managed by the National Trust (NT) and is of interest for both nature and history lovers. This is a long, narrow stretch of land between the Alde river and the North Sea that can be accessed by foot only by the small ferry operated April to October each year from Orford harbour. It is recommended to book the ferry in advance during high season (via NT website) ; in April 2022, it was fine for us. You have to pay both the ferry and the entrance fee. The area along the Alde river is made of ponds and marshes. As you walk through, there are different points along the path where you can stop and watch birds. Volunteers from the NT handily provided binoculars at some of them. This is a famous place for birds nesting in springtime, and access to some areas may be restricted at that time. The area along the sea is very different : it is a large deposit of shingles, from which the vegetation is almost completely absent (see picture). It was used for military purposes as well, in particular after WWII as ballistic test centre for nuclear weapons (this is the “history” side of the site – and again was our initial reason to visit). These activities have now ceased, the buildings are not maintained anymore. Most can not be entered, but a few are still used as viewpoints, very welcomed in that flat-land landscape. One of them holds a small exhibition about the experiments from that time.
This review is obviously a very partial one. This TWHS is made of a great variety of areas, protected and managed by different organisations. Blakeney nature reserve, Norfolk, is very famous for seals (and birds) and looks a good place to visit as well. Contrarywise, some areas are not so interesting and might be dropped ; others may be added (what about RSPB Rainham marshes along the Thames estuary?) : I would say this proposal is not “mature” yet. Finally, the natural values here are quite similar to the ones at Wadden Sea, so the UK should work with the other three countries (NL, DE, DK) and propose this coast as an extension (this is no more than the opposite side of the North Sea). Migratory birds flyways should be seen as a whole, otherwise we will end up with many individual sites along the way (just like the Roman limes, “cut” into small pieces). For these reasons I voted this TWHS down, but would still be happy to see it inscribed once these weak points fixed.
2023 Added to Tentative List
The site has 30 locations