PHOTO GALLERY: Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s �1m appeal to buy land between Cley and Salthouse

It was a vision which began with a group of 12 friends 86 years ago and now a wildlife group is appealing to nature lovers to come forward to help raise �1m to conserve a section of north Norfolk's coastline.

The Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) yesterday launched its biggest-ever appeal – the Cley Marshes Land Purchase – to raise funds to secure the land adjoining the marshes.

The aim is to secure conservation for the last stretch of 8km (about five miles) of coastal nature reserves from Blakeney Point to Salthouse Marshes – which has been owned privately.

Brendan Joyce, NWT chief executive, said: 'When this land on the north Norfolk coast suddenly came on the market, all eyes fell on Norfolk Wildlife Trust.

'Situated next to the trust's world-famous nature reserve, Cley Marshes, with Salthouse Marshes on the other side, it spurred much excitement and expectation among our membership, the Norfolk public and birdwatchers around the world, wondering what the trust would do.

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'We rise to the challenge to protect Norfolk's wildlife but we need everyone's help to make this possible.'

The privately-owned land of about 58 hectares (143 acres) has been used for commercial wildfowling, and was put on the open market in April this year. The NWT have secured it through a special finance facility offered by UK charitable grant-making organisation, The Esm� e Fairbairn Foundation.

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Mr Joyce explained that although the Foundation has purchased the land the trust will immediately take over its management and the NWT will have to raise �1m in 22 months to complete the purchase.

He said: 'Without them there was a real danger we would not have been able to secure the land.

'We never thought the landowner would sell so we were surprised when it went on the open market and we were really excited.

'The worst-case scenario, if we didn't raise any money and we could not buy the land from the Foundation, is that it could go back on the open market.

'As there was competition for this bit of land, failure is not an option for us.'

Securing the land means the NWT will be able to expand their Cley Marshes nature reserve by one third creating more reedbed, grazing marsh and freshwater for the rare marsh harriers, bitterns, bearded tits, otters, water voles and avocets which live in it.

It will also improve the environment for the thousands of migratory birds which use it and create more areas for the 100,000 people who visit each year.

Mr Joyce added: 'We would also like to extend the visitors' centre and create more facilities, especially for the education outdoor learning opportunities.

'We hope this appeal will capture people's imaginations and we really do think it will excite a lot of people that will be encouraged to send donations.'

Cley Marshes is where the Wildlife Trust's movement began when a group led by Dr Sydney Long had a vision of a county trust to purchase and protect the site and others like it.

The Esm�e Fairbairn Foundation was established in 1961 by Ian Fairbairn as a memorial to his wife Esm�e. Today it is one of the largest independent grant-making foundations in the UK.

? For more information or to donate please visit or call 01603 625540.

? As well as asking for donations NWT wants to hear why Cley is special to you. Share your memories by following the link in the top right-hand corner.

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