The UK’s wetlands have been disappearing at an alarming rate, but now many marshes are being restored to help save the planet.
Coastal marshes and dunes are nature’s way of protecting our coastline against rough stormy seas and erosion. Salt marshes in temperate latitudes, such as the UK, do a very similar job to mangroves in the tropics – absorbing the energy of the waves, slowing down the water and trapping silts and muds carried in the sea.
A saltmarsh can reduce the impact of a wave by 95%. Found in areas between low and high tide, the marshes build steadily higher until they are flooded by only the highest of tides.
Samphire and sea levels
A very distinctive group of salt-tolerant plants, including samphire, grows here on the surface of the marshes. These plants play an important role in managing sea level and climate change. They are excellent at absorbing and storing large amounts of carbon dioxide, and provide a first line of defence against our rising sea levels, but they too are vulnerable to erosion.
A rich area for wildlife
Morston lies within Blakeney National Nature Reserve, which also includes Blakeney Point and Stiffkey Marshes. With its big skies, haunting marshes, meandering tidal creeks and wide open sandy beaches, it is one of the largest areas of undeveloped coastal habitats of its type in Europe.
Its saltmarshes, shingle ridges, spits and sand dunes are home to a wide range of rare coastal plants including many nationally important species. It is also a rich area for birdlife, from breeding terns to over-wintering wildfowl and waders.
North Norfolk coastal landscapes are celebrated in literature, poetry and film. Gwyneth Paltrow strolled across Holkham's glorious sandy beach in the closing scene of Shakespeare in Love.