News of the Wallasea project

»«Saturday 19th February 2011

Several Corinthian members accepted the invitation to tour the Wallasea project along with members from the other Burnham clubs. Gill Yates, one of the stalwarts who endured the wintry conditions on the day, knew nothing of the project so was well placed to ask the most basic of questions. Gavin Rouse, having sailed for many years on the Crouch, could offer the views of 'an old hand'. The views expressed are therefore personal opinions after their visit.

REPORT FROM GILL YATES - WALLASEA ISLAND VISIT

Despite bitterly cold driving rain this proved worthwhile and informative. Hilary Hunter, Public Engagement Manager of the Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project for the RSPB set up a tour covering different sides of the island and answered a wide range of questions. Any points she could not answer could be covered by a follow up email from her and anyone wishing to receive updates should just email her - hilary.hunter@rspb.org.uk. More detail is available from the link on the right.

  • Water will be let into the island in the event of tidal surge, diminishing flood risk to the surrounding area. The project is tightly regulated by Planning and legislation. It has received much discussion in Parliament.
  • RSPB owns 2/3 of the site currently and by the end of 2011 will own the rest with various exceptions e.g. the marina, camping and oyster farm. RSPB manage DEFRA’S land for them. Crossrail has the current contract to bring in excavation waste but there may be others.
  • Only 6 barges in 24 hours, one at a time, are permitted to deliver excavation spoil but it may be less - depending on the excavation progress. The policing authority is the Crouch River Authority. There was concern about silt management, navigation of the various channels, and the adequacy of two way communication with barges to minimise disruption of racing. Reassurance was given as to barge pilots’ skills and experience. They remain in contact on board and can respond by slowing down - but not stopping !
  • Aspects being regularly checked include water purity. Recent tests show conditions are favourable for oyster farming - confirmation of clean water conditions. The Oyster farm is planned for the South Western corner. Canoeing/ kayaking is planned for the same corner.
  • The specialist jetty for barges is to be on the North East corner of the island following the coast line, not jutting out into the river. This is the area where the webcam is sited. The conveyor belt will then take the excavation surplus to the East section, the first to be filled.
  • The island will be divided into sections by sea walls, covered eventually by wide grass leisure paths. A leisure area for picnics / barbecues will be inland, just beyond the marina. Cycle hire may be available later.
  • When standing on the sea walls around the island we could see how low the land level of 2–3 metres below sea level really is : an impressive demonstration of just how much land could be filled in before the island was up to sea level.
  • The RSPB will not become involved in subsidy to ferries. The ferry service business will remain entirely separate : www.ladyessex.com / 01702 258666 – details on their leaflet.

So much seemed clearer with a site visit. If visits to the island were easier to make the RSPB might find there was less suspicion with, perhaps, a smaller PR / information gap to fill. Hilary is however, keen to invite people over and can organise light catering over there. She would be happy to host a group of RCYC members or any other group. Other clubs are already taking over groups. Perhaps we could organise a visit later in the year when the weather might be more attractive.

Hilary Hunter's contact details - 07703 779361 or 01268 498626

GAVIN ROUSE TAKES A DIFFERENT VIEW

This account arrived via quill and ink and carrier pigeon...

It was a Saturday in February. The sun was shining brightly. warm enough to give us a hint that spring was just around the corner with a gentle breeze upon which gliding gulls cruised contentedly and the River Crouch was almost mediterranean blue, disturbed only by ripples - then I woke up and realised it was all a dream!

Saturday 19th February, when an intrepid party from the joint clubs had decided that it would be a good idea to visit the Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project, was quite one of the wettest, coldest and windiest days of this winter.

The party met at the Town Quay for the ferry to Wallasea. Those members of the group who had short legs - or perhaps in this politically correct world, I should say, "were leg-ally challenged", had difficulty climbing from the quayside onto the ferry boat. There were several cries of "Help me to get my leg over, please!" as Jonathan Agnew once famously described Sir Ian Botham's efforts to avoid hitting his stumps!

No one spoke much on the way over as our faces were totally covered up.The ferry boat chugged grumpily across the river, obviously questioning the need for this expedition.

On arrival we were met by the charming Hilary Hunter and her reluctant minibus, which took us the short journey to her office, for coffee and a most interesting talk on the project after which we set off again in the still reluctant minibus.

During the journey we saw various species of of sea birds, some of which had flown over from Siberia but were now in little groups debating among themselves whether they should return forthwith to Siberia where it was probably warmer than here on Wallasea!

Back in Burnham there were more pleas for assistance to get off the ferry before going home to thaw out...

Just a thought! The estimated cost of the Crossrail project is many billions. I would not have thought that there were many people who wished to travel from Milton Keynes to Shenfield and as our dear friend Ken Bushell might have said, "It all seems completely dotty!"

Mrs Rouse has complained that I do not take her out much at weekends - well, I think I have solved that little problem!

FOOTNOTE

Several days after this expedition there was news of the possibility of the Crossrail spoil being diverted to a project on the Medway. Suddenly it seems that the spoil one knows about might be infinitely preferable to spoil one doesn't know about...