Flag Ship Project Hesketh Outmarsh

A flag ship project for the regional park is the purchase of land by RSPB at Hesketh Out Marsh on the southern shores of the Ribble Estuary.  It has been made possible by funding from the Environment Agency, Northwest Regional Development Agency through the Lancashire Rural Recovery Action Plan and from DEFRA as a result of Lancaster City Council's sea defence works.

The 236 hectare site which has been farmed since it was reclaimed from the sea in the 1980’s is one of the largest coastal realignment projects in Europe and will help to counter the effects of sea level rise due to climate change.  It will also provide a new recreational asset for the local community and visitors and an exciting opportunity to view the wildlife of the estuary.

Work on the £4m project commenced in March 2007 and the first phase is now completed.  This included the re-excavation of former creeks, the construction of a new embankment to Hesketh Out Marsh East, the strengthening of the existing inner embankment around Hesketh Out Marsh West and the breaching of the outer embankment in four places once the other works had been completed.

Whilst ensuring flood protection is improved and land drainage maintained, the scheme has created 180ha. of saltmarsh, saline lagoons and muddy creeks.  This provides new habitat for breeding waders and wintering wildfowl and makes a major contribution towards national targets for coastal saltmarsh creation.  The first breaching of the outer embankment took place in September 2008 and the final breaching works took place in early 2009 after works to improve flood storage for the adjoining agricultural land were completed.  Public access to the site is currently restricted to public footpaths.  A viewing platform and car parking is available. The Reserve was officially opened in October 2009. 

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