Naturalists fear storm surge took heavy toll on wildlife at precious coastal habitat

The marshland at Cley was flooded at the weekend. Picture: Ian Burt

The marshland at Cley was flooded at the weekend. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

The tide swept over Cley Marshes on Friday night, leaving much of one the country's oldest nature reserves under water.

The bird breeding sanctuary is home to an abundant array of species including pink footed geese, bitterns, eels, voles and brown hares.

The reserve, which is managed by Norfolk Wildlife Trust remains closed, but a damage assessment is due to take place this week once the flooding recedes. However, it is hoped to re-open the visitor centre as soon as Coast Road – which was also flooded between Cley and Salthouse – is cleared. The marsh was previously deluged by the 2013 tidal surge, but the damage is not believed to be as severe this time.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust CEO Brendan Joyce, said: 'Once we can regain access to the site, a clean-up operation will commence and we will be able to better assess the effects on wildlife and damage to fences, paths, hides and other infrastructure. We have been here before so we have an inkling of what to expect. Whilst there will be a lot to do to recover the site, I am confident that we will once again bounce back and have Cley and Salthouse in shape again soon for wildlife and visitors.'

The flooding is expected to have an impact on plant and invertebrate life, reducing food sources for wildlife on neighbouring Cley and Salthouse Marshes.

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Sarah Whittley, who owns the Pinkfoot Gallery in Cley and has published a book of photographs of the village, said: 'All the fresh water life will be at risk and a lot of small mammals killed. It is amazing that this habitat can exist so close to the sea. These sort of floods are bound to happen, but 2013 was supposed to be a one in a 50 year event and now we have had this four years later.'

Check the Trust's website for further updates.

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