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13 November 2014

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You are in: Essex > Nature > Nature Features > Wild Foulness

The Broomway

A six-mile stretch of hard sand

Wild Foulness

The remote island of Foulness provides a haven for wildlife. We get special access to the island to discover its hidden secrets.

Foulness is the largest of the Essex islands and the fourth largest island off the coast of England.  Bleak in winter and refreshingly cool on the hottest of summer days, its remoteness provides a sanctuary to colonies of wading birds including oystercatchers, avocets, little egrets and brent geese.

Lapwing

The island is haven for birds

The island is owned by the MOD and has been run by defence contractors QinetiQ, since 2003. 

Unlike most islands, access for visitors is restricted, although tours can be arranged.  The Heritage Centre in the old primary school at Churchend is open to the public on the first Sunday of the month from April through to October between 12 noon and 4pm.

Surrounded by the Rivers Crouch and Roach and the North Sea, the main industry other than the MOD is farming.  The islanders are strong believers in farming with wildlife in mind.

Shelduck

You can visit the island once a month

"We've always farmed with the environment.  You've got to farm with nature not against it otherwise you soon go out of business," says Peter Carr one of the five farmers on the island.

Brian Dawson from Nature Break Wildlife Cruises runs trips to Foulness where he gives guided walks along the Broomway to Fisherman's Head.

The Broomway, a six-mile stretch of hard sand, was the only way to get on and off the island up until the 1920s.

"It's called The Broomway because basically they put sticks along the path to show you the way.  And they added a few sticks on top of that and it looked like a besom broom," explains Brian.

Grey seal

Grey seals can be spotted off the island

It's a really good spot for wildlife.  If you're lucky you can see a seal.  It was also one of the first places in Essex that the little egrets nested.

"Avocets are over here.  They've been busy making nests and mating," says Brian.  "The courtship is quite spectacular."

If you would like to hear more, BBC Essex's Renee Hockley-Byam joined a tractor and trailer tour of the island organised by Brian Dawson.

First stop was the quay where she spoke to Peter Carr, Chairman of the Conservation and Archaeological Society...

last updated: 17/04/2009 at 15:03
created: 17/04/2009

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