Forth Reserves Warden, Allison Leonard, gives an update on the Skinflats Managed Retreat Project.

We are now well into our second week of work and things are going well (despite the weather not being a co-operative this week). 

The diggers have been busy building up the southern embankment on site using clay 'borrowed' from on site, this is the largest of the three areas that need to be raised and so required the most material. The embankments will be built up in layers with each layer being compressed to ensure it is as robust as possible and then all of the top soil which was removed at the start replaced to allow the site to green up as quickly as possible once the work is complete.

Material being 'borrowed' for building up the southern embankment (Photo credit: David Palmar)

All this 'borrowing' of material has meant we have been able to create a whole new lagoon on site (complete with it's own island) which being slightly higher up the site will hopefully retain water at low tide, adding just a little bit more habitat to the reserve. 

 The new lagoon from above (Photo credit: J Leonard)

The next step of the project is not to start creating the channels which will join up when the sea wall is breached.  We have been really lucky with the timings of this part of the project as this week we have had the lowest high tides of the year allowing the diggers a long working window out of the saltmarsh to create the channel.  The diggers began by removing the top layer of saltmarsh, which will be put aside to be replaced on the edge of the breach when it is complete.  Then began the task of digging out the huge volume of clay which needs to be removed to create a channel 25m wide and 2m deep, all of this material is being used to block old drainage ditches which will no longer be required.  All the back and forward movement by the dumpers to shift the material has meant the site is getting a little muddy but we were never going to be able to do all this work without making a bit of a mess.

Diggers starting to create the saltmarsh channel (Photo Credit: J Leonard)

The next stage of the project is to remove the existing infrastructure associated with the regulated tidal exchange.  The existing pipe will be welded shut, the concrete headwall removed and then the channel filled in.  Once that is all done we will be ready to breach the seawall.  At the moment we're not sure exactly when that will be (mainly due to waiting on the specialist equipment needed to deal with the old RTE structures) but it will be in the next few weeks. 

This project has been generously funded by EcoCo LIFE and the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative.