Monday, 23 December 2013

The flooding of Blakeney Freshes

Two weeks on from the extreme tidal surges that battered much of the eastern coast of the UK, National Trust rangers and specialist conservation teams have been making progress on the long road to recovery.

Blakeney freshes flooding 9 12 2013-087_1
(Photo courtesy of Mike Page)

National Trust properties were amongst the many on the North Norfolk coast to take the brunt of the tidal surge. This week we caught up with Helen Dangerfield, Head of Conservation at the National Trust in the East of England to get an update…

Severe damage was caused to buildings in Brancaster and on Blakeney Point, as well as extensive flooding of land, including the Blakeney Freshes.

In Brancaster, the Activity Centre was flooded. It has now been emptied of all its contents and the first stages of drying out and repair are being planned.

On Blakeney Point, National Trust ranger teams and volunteers have started making progress on the clear up operation, with repairs being started on the boardwalk that protects the sand-dunes and a clean-up of the iconic lifeboat house is due to get underway once essential safety checks have been completed.

Flooding of Blakeney Freshes has presented the most complex issues after the sea defences were breached in several places, resulting in saltwater flooding these freshwater marshes. We have been closely monitoring the drainage of saltwater off the marshes and have been working with the Environment Agency to find solutions to get the Southern Sluice back into operation.
With further high tides predicted for the new year, it is essential that a viable long-term solution to the management of the marshes is found, and we will be meeting with the Environment Agency and Natural England to review the impacts of flooding as well as working with local stakeholders.

It is essential that any planned works balance both the environmental and wildlife needs of this site, together with an understanding of the potential impacts of future high tides. Further meetings are already planned with the Environment Agency, Natural England and the Norfolk Wildlife Trust as we consider the options at Cley, Salthouse and Blakeney.

Friday, 13 December 2013

One week on: Tidal storm’s aftermath on Norfolk’s coastline

One week on from the extreme tidal surge that battered the eastern coast of the UK, our team has been hard at work assessing the damage.

Photo courtesy of CamroVision Photography

In the East of England, many of our properties were affected by the tidal surge, from high tides at Essex coastal properties such as Northey Island and Pin Mill to surges that flooded the marshes at Orford Ness and shifted huge amounts of shingle at Dunwich Heath in Suffolk.

But by far the worst hit area in our region was the whole of the North Norfolk coast. At Brancaster Activity Centre, the team found the whole centre was flooded with 18 inches of water, despite flood defences being in place.

Brancaster Beach has also seen dramatic impact, with sand dunes being completely swept away and the toilet building being submerged in five feet of water.

 Photo courtesy of CamroVision Photography

There was huge concern about the seal colony at Blakeney Point and how they would be affected by the surges in the middle of pupping season. There was a tense wait for our team, who had to wait until Saturday to be able to access the point and assess the 1000-strong colony.

So it was with great happiness they were able to report the colony had survived the surge – although they were scattered far and wide around the sand dunes.

Victoria Egan, our Countryside Manager for the North Norfolk Coast, took some time to talk about the impacts of the tidal surge on the whole area, and of course, those seals that have attracted so much attention. WATCH THE VIDEO of the damage caused by the aftermath of the storm.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Update on the seal colony at Blakeney Point

After a full day spent assessing the impact of the December 5 tidal surge on the North Norfolk coast, our rangers have finally been able to get a full picture about how the seal colony at Blakeney Point has fared. 

The large colony, which breeds at Blakeney Point each year, reaches in excess of 1000 seals and pups, from November to January.

It is with great relief that the ranger team discovered the vast majority of the colony survived the extreme tidal surge. There had been fears that many of the young pups, which can’t swim or survive without their mother’s milk until they have shed their distinctive white fur, would have been displaced from the colony or have lost their lives.

However, it would appear that the majority of seals and pups were able to reach higher ground on the sand dunes and escape the worst of the surge.

The National Trust cares for large areas of the North Norfolk coast, including the Blakeney Point Lifeboat House. Damage has been caused to the Lifeboat House and surrounding buildings and a full assessment will now need to take place.

Victoria Egan, Countryside Manager for the Norfolk Coast said:

“So many people have been badly affected by the tidal surge and have lost homes and possessions. Amidst this, we have been touched by the concern that has been shown for the seal colony. We hope people will join us in being delighted that the majority of these resilient creatures survived and we hope to be able to carry out a full count in the coming days.
“Of course, many of the seals will have been displaced from the colony and we know a number of people have spotted them. We strongly urge anyone who sees a seal or pup to please stay well away from them, they are wild animals and must be allowed to behave in their natural way. The mothers will search for their pups, but not if people are around them.
“Having survived such terrible weather conditions, any human intervention now could have dire consequences, no matter how well intentioned.”

Our team is working closely with the East Winch RSPCA. Our rangers and RSPCA officers are experienced in working with seals are able to assess them on a case by case basis. East Winch RSPCA hospital is currently caring for a large number of seals, birds and injured wildlife. Anyone finding a seal is urged to only make contact with the RSPCA if it is injured or visibly in distress, otherwise, please keep your distance.

The RSPCA telephone number for emergency use only is 0300 1234 999.

Storm's aftermath on Norfolk's coastline

The ranger team here is today once again assessing the impact of the tidal surge and storms that hit much of the east coast of the UK on December 5. We've been working during daylight hours to gather a full picture of the damage caused, from Brancaster to Salthouse.

The National Trust cares for large areas of the North Norfolk coast, including Blakeney Point and its Lifeboat House. On Friday, the team were unable to reach Blakeney Point, due to the extensive damage to footpaths, bridges and shingle.

Today, Saturday December 7, the team have been able to access Blakeney Point and have found damage to the Lifeboat House and surrounding buildings.

As those who follow our blog know, during the winter months, the sand dunes are home to a large colony of breeding seals. We are aware that many of you have expressed concern for the seals at Blakeney and our team, who spend many hours each year monitoring them, share that concern.

At this time it is not possible to know the number of seals and pups that may have been affected by the tidal surge. Many of the pups and their mothers have moved inland and are scattered amongst the sand dunes. It is absolutely vital that we leave them alone at this time so they can continue to feed and bond in safety and uninterrupted.

Some pups will have been displaced from Blakeney Point, although there is a strong chance that many of them will return to shore elsewhere on the coast. Again, it is absolutely vital the pups are left alone in order for their mothers to find them.

We strongly urge that if visitors to the Norfolk Coast come across any seals or pups in the aftermath of the tidal surge, please, do not attempt to move them or encourage them to return to the sea. The pups are safer on land until they shed their distinctive white fur.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Tidal storm surge expected

Severe tidal surges are predicted along many parts of the east coast during the evening of December 5, with the North Norfolk coast predicted to experience some of the highest tides.

Some buildings at Blakeney, Brancaster and Horsey are at risk of flooding and we will be working closely with a number of individuals and organisations including Parish councils and boat operators as we prepare for the tides and in surveying the impact on land, the coastline and affected buildings afterwards.

All visitors were advised to vacate car parks along the coasts at Blakeney, Morston and at Brancaster by 3pm today.

If visitors to the Norfolk Coast come across any seals or pups in the aftermath of the tidal surge, please, do not attempt to move them or encourage them to return to the sea. The pups are safer on land until they shed their distinctive white fur.
The seals are wild animals and it is highly likely that any pups separated from the colony will be found by their mothers.

Our coastal rangers are experienced in monitoring the seal colony and will be surveying the situation once the tides have receded.