Stage Two - The River Wall
Working in partnership
The WFDG wants to protect the freshwater meadow and wildlife habitat upstream of the village residences and will be directly involved during both design and construction phases to ensure that construction materials are chosen with the lowest possible carbon footprint, safeguarding the nature walk through the AONB, SSSI and Ramsar area.
The use of concrete will be avoided wherever possible in this phase and it is envisaged that this will be a natural earth bank secured with special matting, as used successfully on the River Alde and recommended by the Deben Estuary Partnership. Flood gates and walls will largely be constructed from renewable products such as timber or re-generated waste products.
Stage Two will start in April 2015, subject to additional funds being raised, with completion by October 2015.
Protection of Wetland Meadow
Upstream of the residential waterfront properties of Waldringfield is a footpath running along the top of the river wall, used by many visitors and residents. The footpath provides a circular walk which includes a section of the river wall and returns along country lanes and paths to the village.
The river wall is seriously degraded and was damaged further during the December 2013 flood. It is now at serious risk of breaching.
On the landward side of the river wall is Dairy Farm Marsh - a large meadow with a deep-set thicket at its northern extremity of oak trees, gorse bracken and reeds. It is a valuable area for wildlife and has been preserved as a SSSI, with plans to actively enhance it for wildlife.
Protection of Birdlife
The meadow is used by hunting barn owls, which have been recorded nesting and roosting in the hollow oaks along the inland boundary of the meadow. The fact that the barn owls hunt regularly over the grazing marsh must mean that they are successful in finding prey. Tawny Owls are heard and seen in the area and are also likely to be nesting there.
During spring and summer lapwing, curlew and oystercatcher are seen on the meadow. Kestrels and marsh harriers hunt there and kestrels nest in the locality. The gorse along the river wall has been a winter roost site for linnets and the northern boundary has provided good nesting sites for linnets, yellowhammers and finches. Nightingales (2 pairs) nest within the thicket.
The ditch parallel to the river wall and the ditch at right angles to the wall are a feeding and roosting place for duck (mallard, widgeon and teal) over the winter and provide a feeding site for little egrets and herons throughout the year. Moorhens have nested along the inland ditch. Redshank and a very occasional greenshank and kingfisher have been seen along the ditches.
Other birds observed include lapwings flying over and feeding and nesting on the meadow. Also woodpeckers, mistle thrushes, swallows and fieldfares.
The river is a natural flyway for migrating birds and it is in the thicket that chiffchaffs, blackcaps and bullfinches have been heard early in the year, as well as the nightingales and cuckoo make their way inland along the river valley.
Protection of Other wildlife
There is evidence from the barn owls’ hunting practices and from their pellets found in the nest box that the meadow is a rich area for all kinds of life, including voles, shrews, field mice, fox, rabbit and harvest mice. Otters have been seen in the ditch and otter tracks along the river footpath suggest they may slip over the river wall and lie up in the dykes and ditches under the cover of the reeds.
There are regular sightings of Muntjac emerging from the hedgerows.
Protection of Flora
The meadow is private land and a full survey of the wildlife and the wildflower species is desirable. Orchids grew in a meadow, part of which is now an agricultural field, close to the grazing marsh and which lies in the same valley, so it is likely that viable seeds are in the locality and will germinate on the meadow.
There is some variety in the flora of the meadow and it is not a monoculture of farmed grass.
Oak trees and hedgerow line and border the meadow, two of which are veteran oaks. The oak trees are an extremely valuable wildlife habitat.
Working in partnership to protect the Meadow
The meadow is a rare and precious diminishing habitat and it is the view of the Deben Estuary Partnership that it should be retained as such under protected status, working with the consent of the landowner.
The WFDG is working in partnership with the landowner and other statutory and non-statutory agencies to develop proposals to strengthen this stretch of the river wall, to prevent the river wall from breaching and flooding the meadow, which would destroy this irreplaceable freshwater habitat. Follow progress here.