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Boston - The Small Town With A Big Story

 The Wash and its Wildlife 

Chris Andrews

The Wash is a 150,000 acre square-sided estuary which forms a large indentation on the east coast of England. Characterised by vast saltmarshes and mudflats, it is internationally recognised for its important wildfowl and wading birds. It is designated as a site of Special Scientific Interest, a National Nature Reserve, a Special Area of Conservation and a Special Protection Area. There are now two RSPB reserves near Boston, at Freiston Shore and at Frampton Marsh.

A colour photo of Frampton Marsh Visitor Centre. A male and female member of staff are talking to a member of the public. Behind them is the wooden visitor centre which is surrounded by wild land. Two people are stood beside the building looking out across the marsh.

RSPB Frampton Marsh Visitor Centre (Patcrick Cashman).

An overhead photo of Frampton Marsh,. It is edited with text showing significant features of the landscape. These include the Norfolk coastline in the distance, lagoons throughout the area, the visitor centre in the foreground and the saltmarshes leading out into the Wash.

RSPB Frampton March from the air (Jim Blaylock).

Until the 1980s land owners regularly reclaimed more land from the Wash by constructing sea banks out in the salt marsh as the depositing silt made this possible. At Freiston Shore, for example, this was done by the Borstal Boys from North Sea Camp. (North Sea Camp had been established as a Borstal for young offenders in 1935. It became a Category D Open Prison in 1988.) However, rising sea levels and intense winter storms threatened to overwhelm these banks, potentially flooding large areas of farmland as well as nearby villages and the town of Boston itself. In order to avoid this scenario the Boston Wash Banks project was developed by the Environment Agency (EA), RSPB and other partners and the EA upgraded the outer bank.

The reclamation at Freiston was deemed too expensive to maintain so, after strengthening an inner sea bank, the outer one was deliberately breached in a process known as ‘managed realignment’. The area reverted to natural saltmarsh which helped strengthen sea defences and provided a home for wildlife. It became RSPB Frieston Shore in 2002. The saline lagoon which was created became a habitat for wading birds which were displaced daily from their feeding grounds on the mudflats of The Wash by rising high tides.

A photograph of Knot birds Roost in a lagoon. There are hundreds of birds roosting together in a group.

Knot roost on the lagoon of Frampton Marsh (Neil Smith).

A black and white photograph of Borstal Boys from the north sea camp at work building the sea bank. Barrows of earth, carried along a track, are tipped and emptied while more men shovel to build up the bank.

Borstal Boys from The North Sea Camp at work building the sea bank.

Thousands of birds flocking onto the lagoon provide a wildlife spectacle with birds such as the Knot, Oystercatcher and Dunlin being seen in big numbers, particularly on large autumnal high tides. The development of Frampton Marsh nature reserve occurred in two phases. The RSPB first acquired the saltmarsh at Frampton Marsh in 1984, as it held one of the UK’s largest breeding populations of Redshanks and also provided wintering grounds for an internationally significant number of Brent geese. Soon after the Millennium, the area of farmland behind the saltmarsh was bought by the RSPB, and turned into freshwater habitats to complement the saltwater marshes and mudflats. The reed-bed, freshwater lagoons and wet grassland grazing marshes were created and a visitor centre was built, including paths and bird-hides. The reserve attracts 55,000 people each year.

Today, Frampton Marsh is renowned throughout the UK as one of the best places to see wading birds and wildfowl in large numbers. It boasts an impressive variety of rare visitors, including the first ever attempt by a Glossy Ibis to nest in the UK. It also provides a home for the rare Sea-aster Mining bee and the rare Slender-hare’s ear plant. Both RSPB Frampton Marsh and Freiston Shore nature reserves are open throughout the year.

 Discover More! 

Boston's Country Parks and Reserves

Everyone needs an opportunity to get out, get away and breathe. Fortunately there’s plenty of opportunity to do that in and around Boston

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Floods and Great Drainage Schemes

Without any warning at 7pm on 10th November 1810 the sea banks from Wainfleet to Fosdyke were overwhelmed by a North Sea storm surge.

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Frampton Marsh

Blessed with a variety of freshwater habitats, Frampton Marsh provides close views of the abundant birdlife of The Wash, one of Europe's most special places for wildlife.

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Freiston Shore

Explore the wilderness of The Wash, the UK’s most important estuary for wildlife, where you can get excellent views of large groups of waders on the salt water lagoon at high tide.

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Public Parks and Spaces

Today Boston Borough has a great choice and variety of public open-air leisure spaces. However with the industrialisation of towns many people had little access to fresh air.

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The North Sea Camp

HM Prison North Sea Camp is a men's open prison (Category D), located on the edge of the parish of Freiston (near Boston) in Lincolnshire, England. North Sea Camp is operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service.

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