An oasis of flora and fauna
Take time to visit our wonderful Nature Reserve at Landguard. Covering approximately 33 hectares (81 acres) this shingle spit on the southern tip of Suffolk's stunning coastline offers a variety of flora and fauna. Unusual and rare plants, migrating birds, military history and huge ships arriving and departing at Britain's busiest container port.
The Nature Reserve is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the rarity of vegetated shingle habitat, and a Scheduled Ancient Monument because of the historic military significance of the sites fortifications spanning over the past 400 years.
Botanically the most notable feature of the reserve is the vegetation that has evolved to grow on shingle beaches where the soil is virtually non existent and few nutrients are available for the plants to feed on. This, combined with the salty sea winds makes for harsh conditions for plantlife. If you visit here you will notice that the leaves of the beach plants are grey/green with no shine to them, this is their own form of sun screen reflecting light away and the waxyness reduces loss of water through evaporation. Some, such as Sea Rocket store water in their swollen leaves and others like the Sea Kale grow tap roots up to 2 metres long to reach the fresh water far below the surface.
The top half of the reserve is protected from sea winds by the gun butts - mounds built by the military in the 1860's as a back drop to a firing range. Richer soils here allow for tall grasses. The southerly half has thinner soil and is more windswept - our very own gardeners, the Rabbits keep the grassland closely cropped, allowing a wide variety of lichens and mosses to grow thick on the ground. Make sure you look down as you walk to spot the multiude of miniaturised wildflowers (reaching only a few centimetres in height), from Early Forget-me-Knot to Common Storksbill. Around the reserve, spot the colourful Yellow Horned Poppy, Viper's Bugloss and the purple flowers of the Sea Pea. Whilst the leaves of the rare Stinking Goosefoot smell of rotting fish to attract flies to pollinate.
Landguard is also interesting for its wildlife. In the Spring and Autumn migration season the reserve becomes a popular destination for birdwatchers to visit. The coastline is like a highway for migrating birds many stopping off for a rest and to feed, including unusual and scarce birds attracted in to land by the bright lights that illuminate the docks. Look out for Wheatear, Swallow, Shelduck, Linnet, Mediterranean Gull and Turnstone. We are also an important location for the ground nesting Ringed Plover that lay their well camouflaged eggs on the bare shingle. Overlooking the Nature Reserve is the Landguard Bird Observatory which rings and records migratory birds as they pass by on their way in and out of Britain, as well as identifying and recording moths (over 900 have been identified here).
Take a walk along the seashore to spot shells, Whelk Eggs, Mermaid's Purses (an egg case of a Skate, Ray or Dogfish) and Thongweed (a brown alga which looks like bootlaces). The jetty area is a man made rocky shore with Barnacles, Mussels, Sea Anenomes, Starfish and the only Kelp in Suffolk. Look out too for the Sea Slater - the marine version of a Woodlouse. If you are very lucky you may spot a Seal bobbing up and down in the water, amongst the local fish of the area, Cod, Whiting, Dab, Flounder and Rockling.
At the top half of the reserve, there is a healthy population of Common Lizards - you may see one scuttling off into the thick grass as it realises you are approaching. Weasels can also be seen darting between the bramble bushes and down rabbit holes hunting for their prey. Landguard has an abundance of bugs and beasties, including jumping spiders, colourful butterflies and moths, such as the Red Admiral and Hummingbird Hawk Moth. Whilst down at our pond amongst the rare Divided Sedge and tiny pink flowers of the Grass Vetchling are water-loving critters, dragon and damselflies.
Throughout the Nature Reserve you can find traces of the area's military history. Langer Park, as the area was then known, was first used by the military in 1543 in the reign of Henry VIII and remained in active service right through to the First and Second World Wars. The military finally withdrew in 1971. Look out for tank traps, gun emplacements, searchlight buildings, dips and troughs for practicing trench warfare and foundations of barrack buildings that were here in the middle of the last century.
Things to Do
- Discover fascinating history and abundant wildlife on one of the Nature Reserve's walks.
- Enjoy a cycle ride along Route 51 (part of the National Cycle Network).
- Don't miss a stroll on the boardwalk around the 'point' with views of the estuary mouth.
- Climb up our mini mountains - the man-made 'Butts' which offer great seashore views.
- Bring your binoculars to spot rare and resident birdlife.
- Go beachcombing or have some fun family time (play and picnic) on the sands.
- Visit our pond, a summer home for colourful dragon and damselflies.
- Join in one of the special events, guided tours and children's activities on the Nature Reserve.
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