The project was one of the most ambitious habitat enhancement projects ever undertaken on the Suffolk coast. The partnership project undertaken by the National Trust at its Orford Ness site and the RSPB at its nearby Havergate Island nature reserve was shortlisted as a finalist in this year’s highly coveted Natura 2000 Award.

David Mason (National Trust), Aaron Howe (RSPB), Grant Lohoar (National Trust) attended the award ceremony along with 23 other finalists from around the European Union.

Ninety-three entries involving major projects across Europe were originally submitted and judges have shortlisted 23, with the Suffolk scheme battling it out with entries from Portugal, Latvia, Cyprus, Hungary and Denmark in the awards’ Conservation category. All 23 of the shortlisted projects are up for the Natura 2000 Citizens’ Award, with Europe’s public being invited to chose the winner. In addition, the awards’ judging jury will choose winners in each of the competition’s five categories.

A grant totalling about £900,000 of European Union LIFE+ funding was made available for the Herculean amount of enhancement work at Orford Ness and Havergate. The scheme, which took four years to complete and was finished in 2014, was also supported by funding from other sources, including the SITA Trust, a Biffa Award (for Havergate), the Environment Agency and the National Trust’s Neptune Coastline Fund. The Suffolk project has enhanced the rich mosaic of wetland and shingle habitats on Orford Ness and Havergate by improving water management and reducing disturbance to wildlife. The logistical difficulties encountered in getting heavy machinery onto both sites were huge and added considerably to the challenge. On Orford Ness, the site of the former military airfield that was drained and levelled in 1913 has been enhanced with low earth bunds holding water in about four hectares of deepened scrapes, linked by a 2.6km network of new ditches with 18 water control structures. Other work has included the installation of a 3.9km network of shallow footdrains to enhance the breeding and feeding opportunities within grassland areas for declining species such as lapwing and redshank. On Havergate, new islets covering about six hectares have been created and the ditch network that transports water around the lagoons has been improved. Six sluices were also rebuilt on the island in a project which has benefitted any species, including the rare starlet sea anemone and a wealth of birds that breed or overwinter on Havergate and use it on migration.

Thank you to everyone who helped to make the project a success. This was a major achievement for the wildlife, landscape and people of the Alde-Ore Estuary. You can find out more on the awards here:
http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/awards

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