One for the birds on Suffolk coast

PUBLISHED: 12:46 30 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:38 20 February 2013

Reed marshes on Orford Ness

Reed marshes on Orford Ness

Gail Turney, project manager for the joint National Trust and RSPB conservation programme on the Rivers Alde and Ore introduces LIFE+ Alde Ore.

Gail Turney, project manager for the joint National Trust and RSPB conservation programme, introduces LIFE+ Alde Ore.

Right at the end of last year, we received the fantastic news that we had been successful in our bid for funding from the European Unions LIFE+ Nature fund. The National Trust and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds were awarded over half a million euros for conservation work on Orford Ness and Havergate Island in the Alde-Ore estuary.
The project has a fairly cumbersome official title: The Alde-Ore Estuary Securing a sustainable future for wildlife. A little more familiarly, we refer to it as LIFE+ Alde Ore. It builds on conservation work already undertaken at the National Trusts Orford Ness and RSPB Havergate Island supported by previous LIFE grants. Work began on this latest project in April and will continue over four years, thanks to the EU contribution of 533,145 (around 477k).
Pretty much the first step was my appointment, I am happy to say, as project manager. Hitting the ground running was a key requirement, and this is exactly what I have done.
The initial work now underway will enable water levels to be managed in coastal lagoons and marshes on the two sites. This will provide long-term improvements to habitat conditions, enabling adaptation to the effects of climate change, such as changing rainfall patterns and rises in sea-level. We will be making the maximum possible use of natural resources, harnessing wind and solar energy to pump water and power CCTV cameras.
The target is to increase the numbers of bird species of European importance that feed and breed on the sites, species such as sandwich tern, avocet, ruff, golden plover and spoonbill.
A key action is to rehabilitate the lagoon islands and sluices to improve nesting opportunities for key species and enhance the viewing opportunities from the visitor hides on Havergate. Work on the lagoons and marshes will also protect and improve the environment for rare invertebrates and flora.
Orford Ness has a very unusual habitat of vegetated shingle with its numerous rare and special species which are easily damaged or destroyed by inappropriate access. A programme to help visitors understand the value of this special place is intended to discourage irresponsible access on the site. The National Trust team will be working with the local community to identify less vulnerable areas on which access would not be so damaging.
This European money is a great boost to our conservation work, on these internationally important nature reserves. Monitoring and evaluation are major factors in the project, the findings of which will inform our future site management plans. We also know that keeping everyone up to date and informed is vital, so great effort will be put into letting the world know about progress with the project, including a new website and webcams.
LIFE+ Alde Ore is a very rounded project in terms of what it is bringing to the two reserves. Yes its about improving wildlife habitats, but we are also bringing media attention to the works were doing, explaining what we are doing and why. Improving relationships with our local communities and the people who use our reserves is key.

  • Log on to to find out more about this conservation project.

  • Orford Ness is open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 10am to 2pm, through until October 2. Youll need to take the National Trust ferry from Orford Quay. To visit Havergate Island, join a pre-booked boat trip, call RSPB Minsmere on 01728 648281 to book a place.


Originally from Surrey, near Guildford, Gail, 32, loves being outdoors. Currently living in Bury St Edmunds, she is planning to move out to Orford Ness to make the most of summer on the coast. She has already discovered that its a great place to run, and living on site will mean she has exclusive out-of-hours access to this beautiful site.
With a degree in civil engineering, Gail began as a traffic and highways engineer, working on road safety and traffic engineering for transport consultancy Mouchel. Then followed a move to Mayer Brown, again as highways engineer.
This was where Gails organisational skills came into their own, and she found she was managing projects more than actual engineering. When Mayer Brown won a big contract requiring a project manager, Gail leapt at the chance, working there for six and a half years.
She then decided to pursue a career in conservation, taking on the role of residential volunteer with the RSPB on the North Kent Marshes. Here she learned the essentials of nature conservation and how to use equipments such as chain saw and brush cutter. She also joined the Surrey Hills Conservation Volunteers on the North Downs in Surrey, volunteering at weekends on outdoors activities, learning about plants and wildlife along the way.
It is this combination of project management skills and commitment to nature conservation which is now standing her in good stead for her role with the National Trust and RSPB on the Suffolk coast.

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