RSPB launches appeal to help save Norfolk nature reserves damaged by floods

RSPB officer Pernille Egeberg by Titchwell beach, which has been damaged by the storms. Picture: Ian

RSPB officer Pernille Egeberg by Titchwell beach, which has been damaged by the storms. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

A charity will today write to its members appealing for hundreds of thousands of pounds to help save one of Norfolk's most popular nature reserves after it was severely damaged by the floods.

A hide balances precariously at Snettisham beach. Photo: Paul Eele

A hide balances precariously at Snettisham beach. Photo: Paul Eele - Credit: Paul Eele

Hides where birdwatchers sit to watch wildlife on the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) site at Snettisham were battered beyond repair in the storms last Thursday, as all four of the area's pits flooded due to the rising tides.

Flood damage to damage on Snettisham beach. Photo: Paul Eele

Flood damage to damage on Snettisham beach. Photo: Paul Eele - Credit: Paul Eele

It left such a trail of destruction that RSPB visitor officer Pernille Egeberg said the site is now unrecogniseable from before, as the nature of the storm surge means the landscape has been changed forever.

Damage caused to the RSPB reserve at Titchwell after last weeks storms. Picture: Ian Burt

Damage caused to the RSPB reserve at Titchwell after last weeks storms. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

The RSPB said the reserve would remain shut 'for the foreseeable future' as access paths – where the public were free to walk around the site – were too badly damaged. Miss Egeberg warned that would have a huge impact on people's ability to visit the reserve, as many tourists travelled to Snettisham to witness birds migrating during the autumn and winter.

'Without the hides it wouldn't be much of a visitor place,' she said. 'It would just be a bird place. The RSPB likes people to go out and enjoy the site, so people are not going to have the same experience.

'It will never be the same again. You can't recognise it. A lot of it is underwater now – the landscape has been changed.'

The RSPB's other site in Titchwell was also described as being 'millimetres' from similar destruction, as its new £1.2m flood defences installed in 2010 just held.

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Its boardwalk was completely broken and there is limited access – but the Titchwell reserve is otherwise open.

Today the charity had planned to stage its annual Pinkies Breakfast at Snettisham, where members of the public arrive at about 6.30am to witness the dawn flight of tens of thousands of pink-footed geese leaving their overnight roost on the Wash in search of foraging opportunities on nearby fields.

That has been cancelled and instead the charity has emailed RSPB members to tell them an emergency fund has been set up to get nature reserves in the Eastern region back into shape.

The charity is still compiling a list of what it hopes to replace but is unsure of exactly how much money it will need – not least because the alteration of the landscape means that the RSPB has to assess whether it is actually possible to repair things to how they were before.

However, Miss Egeberg said the cost of the damage is running into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

'We don't have hundreds of thousands of pounds to restore this nature reserve,' she warned. 'We hope to get members of the public to support us and raise money to make it a reserve for people to visit.'

Rob Lucking, RSPB area manager said: 'The devastation to some of our nature reserves has been immense and we're still not sure of the full impact. But it will take a lot of hard work and resources to put it right and restore these homes for nature.

'Insurance covers some of the costs of the damaged hides but not the cost of repairing habitats.

'We are still assessing the damage but estimate that the cost of repairs could be many hundreds of thousands of pounds.

'That is why we're setting up an emergency fund – a pot of money that we can use to get our nature reserves back into shape and repair the damage caused.'

Anyone who would like to donate should visit the website www.rsbp.org.uk/stormappeal

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