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Further Access Information


Q: Why has the National Trust been managing access?

  • Natural England, the Government's nature conservation agency, have judged the shingle vegetation and nesting birds on the Spit to be at risk of further damage due to public disturbance. The National Trust has a duty of care to look after this internationally recognised and legally protected habitat. This is why we have proposed some measures that we hope will reduce any future damage to this fragile habitat and vulnerable species. Surveys by National experts have informed Natural England reports and other management documents, which have drawn attention to the need to manage access both on Orford Ness and on other areas of vegetated shingle.


Q: What is the problem with walking on the shingle?

  • The most important issues are the cumulative effect of people over time on both the vegetation and shingle structures and the time it takes for key communities of vegetation to recover once disturbance has been removed where environmental conditions allow. We are also concerned about disturbance to protected and at risk species when establishing breeding sites and roosting.


Q: Is there any evidence of damage?

  • Aerial and other photography shows paths worn into the vegetated shingle over time and considerable erosion of a habitat protected by British and European law. These paths have also persisted over an extended period as can be seen by comparing aerial photographs.  Clear evidence is also apparent on the ground, particularly in the form of the paths and worn patches, created by obvious footfall where individual footprints are visible in large quantities, and the dynamics of this process can be seen by observing the direct effects of this footfall on the vegetation and shingle structure.


         Q:  Who has been involved in the process?

  • We have held a stakeholder workshop which was open to members of the public who expressed an interest in the issues. This has been followed up with meetings with representatives of user groups and the local community including the Parish Council and New Orford Town Trust. We are happy to talk to anyone else who has something new to add or is still unclear on what has been discussed and decided upon previously.


Q: What are you trying to achieve?

  • We believe that a system whereby people are better informed about the sensitivity and importance of the habitat, species and shingle structure and are guided by interpretation panels, leaflets and signs to reduce their impact is consistent with responsible management of a national and international asset. Access is being maintained where appropriate and people will be able to land, picnic in the specified grassy areas near the river shore and walk to the sea via marked crossing points. The scheme we have proposed, which has been devised through the workshop and meetings described, is supported by Natural England and the other user groups involved. As a consequence this is the plan we are implementing. To date it has been publicised through a stop-gap post card distributed to river users and visitors to the southern spit by NOTT, the sailing clubs, the Regardless and National Trust Rangers. This lays out the crossing points and guidelines for conduct that were agreed by the working group. This will be followed up with further information as plans develop. Our Rangers regularly visit the spit and talk to visitors.


Q: Don't I have a right to access the spit?

  • There is no public right of access to the beach across any piece of land not designated for access other than on a public right of way such as the Crouch public footpath (Orford No.8). We are happy for people to continue to visit the beach below the mean high water mark by following the public right of way from the Crouch Hard towards the beach and at the other marked crossing points which are not public rights of way. We would like to come to arrangement that balances both access and conservation.

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