Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s public appeal to raise £1 million to help create wildness as far as the eye can see at Carlton Marshes has hit its target.
The money, raised through donations from members, supporters and charitable organisations, is the last part of the funding jigsaw needed to enable the biggest landscape transformation seen in the Broads for a decade.
The whole project, which includes the purchase of 384acres of land, habitat restoration and the building of a state-of-the-art visitor centre will cost £8million.
Half of that figure, £4,063,000, came through a National Lottery grant – one of the largest received by a Wildlife Trust.
A further £4million has come through the Trust in the shape of legacy gifts, volunteer time and the public campaign. The Board of New Anglia LEP awarded the Trust £250,000 from its Growing Places Fund in recognition of the reserve’s potential to boost the local economy by more than £1million a year.
Julian Roughton, Chief Executive of Suffolk Wildlife Trust, said: “The support for our vision for Carlton Marshes has been nothing short of spectacular. We knew when we started this campaign that £1million was an ambitious target, but the project is equally ambitious in that it will safeguard this precious piece of East Anglia for posterity.
“The fact that so many people have recognised the importance of what we are trying to do, for both people and wildlife, really is very special. On behalf of Suffolk Wildlife Trust I would like to thank everyone who has given or supported the campaign for Carlton Marshes – their generosity will last for lifetimes.”
Robyn Llewellyn, Head of HLF East of England, said “This is wonderful news for nature at Southern tip of the Broads – and it’s also so much more than that. Creating a new destination on the edge of Lowestoft will increase the opportunities for people in the town to visit the landscape on their doorstep. It will also be a magnet for visitors, from bird-watchers to holidaying families, bringing them further along the coast from the well-established tourist hotspots in Suffolk and Norfolk and boosting the local economy.
“This investment in the Broads National Park is just one part of a widespread package of funding from the National Lottery in the Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth area, offering exciting opportunities to enjoy and explore history, culture and the natural environment.”
The process of restoration and habitat creation is due to begin soon and by the time the new centre is complete, the whole of the western fringe of Lowestoft will have been transformed into a water-filled landscape.
More than 150 acres of marsh, fen meadow and shallow pools will be created, with thousands of metres of soft muddy edges, for wintering wildfowl and nationally declining waders like lapwing and redshank to feed.
A seven-mile network of restored freshwater ditches will be amongst the best in the UK and will allow Broadland specialists including plants, water voles and the rare fen raft spider to spread across the landscape.
A gigantic reedbeed, one of the largest in the Broads, will support breeding bittern as well as reed bunting, grasshopper warbler and breeding marsh harrier.
Planning consent for the new visitor centre was granted earlier this year and the timber-clad, energy efficient structure will be built on land overlooking the marshes. The building, designed to weather and blend into the landscape will include a cafe, a shop, activity room and an outdoor playscape for children.
The centre, which is due to be completed by 2020, will be the starting point for visitors to learn about and venture out into the Broadland landscape – somewhere people feel comfortable, whether they are visiting a nature reserve for the first time, or if they are seasoned naturalists.
For the people of Lowestoft, whose town sits on Carlton Marshes’ doorstep, the reserve and centre will become a much-needed hub of activity supporting learning, recreation, relaxation and play for families, groups and individuals of all ages.
The campaign has been publically-backed by Sir David Attenborough, President Emeritus of The Wildlife Trusts.
He said: “England’s wildlife is under great and ever-growing pressure. It is vital that we restore our land on a landscape scale so that it can support more wild plants and animals. Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s ambition to extend Carlton and Oulton Marshes is a unique opportunity to do just this and it has my whole-hearted support.”
The success of the £1 million public appeal, which launched in October 2016, was announced at Carlton Marshes on Saturday July 7 at a celebration event to mark the purchase of the land.