How letting the sea flood in could help save our coastline and tackle climate change

  • Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Charlie Frost

Four hundred years ago the Essex coast was a wild and wondrous place rich with wildlife that provided livelihoods for the local communities.

Sadly, today, less than a tenth of this wild coast remains but now, two special projects are trying to reverse that by recreating and restoring the salt marshes of old to secure our future.

At Wallasea Island they've created 1,500 acres of new salt marsh, by pouring in three million tonnes of soil, left over from creating the Crossrail tunnels in London and then mixing that with water by breaching the sea walls.

Rachel Fancy is the site manager for the RSPB Wallasea Island: "These are like sort of soft landscaping measures to protect the coast and people further inland.

"Salt marshes and mudflats can absorb carbon, so it does take carbon out of the atmosphere and cause it to sink into the salt marshes and mudflats which is good for long term carbon in the future and obviously it provides a habitat for wildlife and a place for people to walk and enjoy the outdoors."

It is hoped parts of the Essex coast can be restored to its historic past Credit: ITV News Anglia

Further up the Essex coast at the Blackwater estuary, as well as a bit of managed coastal realignment like Wallasea they are also trying to restore what they have by using simple structures, made out of natural materials, called coirs. Or as Essex Wildlife Trust affectionately calls them 'Saltmarsh sausages' Rachel Langley is the Living Seas Co-ordinator for the Trust: "The idea around this is to slow down the wave energy to allow the sediment to accrete to build up and to allow vegetation to establish so help combat the erosion of salt marshes.' Put in in 2018, work is currently being done to quantify how effective the coirs are. The hope is, alongside fairly expensive coastal realignment, they could be a cheaper solution that could be rolled out all along the country's coasts. Rachel Langley added: "Nature is here and nature can do so much for us, salt marshes alone, they store the carbon for us, they protect us from flooding. They are a real asset.

"We need to work with nature and nature will help us adapt to climate change in the future."