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Scalable Map of the Wash

The Wash

The Wash estuary is an area of unique landscape character, part of which is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty by the UK Government. It is also an area of acclaimed importance to wildlife on an international scale. It is a Ramsar site and a Special Protection Area under the EC Bird Directive. Whilst some would refer to the area as bleak, windswept and monotonous, the remoteness and openness of the intertidal marshes seen against the setting of the the agricultural hinterland together with the vast skies, sea smells and above all the teeming bird life combine to form a landscape of rare quality. The Wash comprises of several zones of unique character;

Intertidal Marshes. This area of the marshland is dominated by a sense of remoteness, openness and long views to the horizon. There are few points of public access to the outmarsh although large swathes can be seen from the sea bank. The birdlife and, in some places, grazing animals add interest to the scene, and their presence is a direct contrast to the total lack of human settlement. Only the wildfowlers' houseboats on Wootton and Wolferton Marshes and the miltary activity on Holbeach and Wrangle Marshes indicate a singificant human presence in this area.

The engineered structures of the sea banks offer the largest area of grassland near the coast. To the sea, the shifting channels and their marker bouys also form important landscape elements as does the intermittent passage of shipping down the main channels to King's Lynn, Wisbech, Sutton Bridge and Boston.

Reclaimed unsettled marsh lying between the current sea bank and at least the first previous sea bank, from Boathouse Creek Snettisham in Norfolk to Gibraltar Point in Lincolnshire; this area is essentially of an open character, predominantly arable with ditches dividing the fields and running at the base of the sea banks. Fields are very large. Birdlife is important here too, adding interest to the scene as do the occasional patches of grassland with grazing animals and reed beds where these fringe the ditch lines.

Settled marsh has a more diverse landscape than that near the coast, with enough buildings to play an important part in the scene. In many areas native trees and scrub still predominate, whilst in other areas there is a tendency to replant with conifers.

Extensive areas of dune systems border the sea on either side of the mouth of the Wash. North of Gibraltar Point lies the most extensive area of dunes. Here the landscape is more intimate with a variety of features interrupting the long views. Landward the arable marsh is open, merging into the distant farmland. Moving seaward the dunes begin, which are well vegetated with scrub and interspersed with pools and wetlands. Slowly the scrubby dunes give way to a more sweeping wild landscape of beach, sea, dunes and sky.

In winter the Wash holds over 300,000 waterfowl and it supports internationally important numbers of waterfowl every month except June. It is internationally important for 13 species and nationally important for 15. The Institute of Terrestrial Ecology maintains a long-standing programme of monthly bird counts and scientific studies. Species include: Pink-footed goose 10510 ** Wigeon 2371 * Pintail 4697 ** Gadwall 74 * Goldeneye 181 * Brent Goose 21808 ** Shelduck 18287 ** Red-breasted Merganser 101 * Oystercatcher 36003 ** Avocet 26 * Ringed plover 818 ** Golden plover 2528 * Grey plover 7844 ** Bewicks Swan 84 * Knot 105134 ** Sanderling 800 **p Dunlin 49783 ** Black-tailed godwit 656 **p Bar-tailed godwit 11871 ** Curlew 3549 ** Spotted redshank - *p Redshank 4740 ** Greenshank - *p Turnstone 1249 **

(** Internationally important numbers wintering * Nationally important numbers wintering **p Internationally important numbers on passage *p Nationally important numbers on passage)

The Wash Management Plan

As well as its landscape and ecological merit, the Wash is very important to local people who rely on it for many of their economic and recreational activities. Many of Britain's estuaries have changed a lot recently through development pressures, and their value as habitat, countryside and a place to enjoy has been reduced. Although this is happening less in the Wash, the area still faces many pressures. The UK Government is encouraging local interests to collaborate in managing such stretches of coast, and that is what the Wash Estuary Strategy Groups have done.

The Strategic Goals are: The Wash as a natural resource of international nature conservation value is recognised, to be maintined and enhanced. Economic activities, including flood protection, that need to operate in the area are able to do so in harmony with the previous objectives. Distinctive landscapes and archaeological and historic features are to be safeguarded. Recreation is managed so that people can enjoy the natural beauty of the area without conflicting with the goals and other uses.

The Wash Estuary Strategy Group includes: King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council, Norfolk County Council, Boston Borough Council, East Lindsey District Council, Lincolnshire County Council, South Holland District Council, The Countryside Commission, Eastern Sea Fisheries Joint Committee, English Nature, National Rivers Authority, The Wash Internal Drainage Boards and the Wash Ports Authorities.

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