£1m plan to conserve Cley marshland takes firm step forward

Cley Marshes, Cley-Next-The-Sea.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY


An ambitious project to conserve a cherished north Norfolk habitat has taken a step forward after the first set of plans for the much-loved land were submitted.

Marsh harrier and avocets at NWT Cley Marshes. Pic by Steve Bond, May 2009

Marsh harrier and avocets at NWT Cley Marshes. Pic by Steve Bond, May 2009 - Credit: Steve Bond

An application to build a bird watching hide and shelter, along with upgrading work to a popular footpath, has been put forward by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) as part of its wider vision for 143 acres of Cley marshes – the stretch of land it is striving to buy through a £1m appeal.

The swathe of marshland, made up of reedbeds, pools, dykes, lagoons, saltmarsh and shingle, is the last piece in a jigsaw that would connect 8km of coastal nature reserves, stretching from Blakeney Point to Salthouse Marshes.

The NWT launched its seven-figure appeal in July 2012 and as it submits its first plans for the important site, known as Pope's Marsh, its fundraising target has reached another major milestone.

Nik Khandpur, head of fundraising, said: 'We have just announced that we're at the £600,000 mark so we're really pleased. I think there's a huge sense of 'wow, what a response' – we're absolutely delighted.'

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The charity hopes the application, to build a bird hide on Pope's Marsh, erect a bird watching shelter and upgrade the footpath on the overlooking East Bank, shows that the project is making definite headway, while providing a physical marker for supporters.

'It's a signal. It's saying to people this is what we intend to do,' Ms Khandpur added.

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'We want to use every opportunity we have got to keep talking to people about what our plans are. The planning permission is another way of putting things in the public domain.'

If the buying bid is successful, Pope's Marsh will expand Cley Marshes by a third and create an important habitat for rare species, including marsh harriers, bitterns and avocets along with otters, water voles and thousands of migratory birds.

Once bought, the NWT aims to improve access to the area while carrying out a programme of restoration work to protect the important habitat. Coupled with its conservation plans, the charity also wants to build an education centre, which would sit alongside its popular visitor hub on the Cley coast road, where people could learn more about the north Norfolk coast and its teeming wildlife. The next big step for the project will come in September when the trust will find out if it has successfully secured £1.5m from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Ms Khandpur said: 'When we talk about this whole thing, the path, the hides, the restoration plan, education centre and the actual purchase of the land, we're looking to the Heritage Lottery Fund to help us across the board.

'If we got that funding in place we'd really be able to move forward with it. We'd still have to fundraise but there'd be that sense of being almost there.'

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