Groundbreaking habitat restoration project gets started

Monday 18th November 2013

This wildlife charities RSPB, Buglife and The Land Trust will start work to restore a nationally important home for nature on Canvey Island, Essex. The abandoned oil refinery at Canvey Wick (recently featured on BBC Countryfile) is one of the most important sites for bugs in the UK. This special site has been abandoned for more than 30 years and nature has taken hold, over time a rich mosaic of wildflowers, bare ground and scrub has developed providing a perfect home for some very special bugs, bees and other wildlife. Supporting over 1400 species it has more species per square metre than any other site in the UK.  In recent years the scrub and trees have become too thick shading out the wildflowers and open habitat that are vital for the survival of bumblebees and Canvey’s other rare insects.  The three organisations are working together to restore this valuable habitat and save these species in the nick of time before they would be lost forever.
Canvey Wick is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interested for its nationally important invertebrates some of which are only found on Canvey Island or elsewhere very locally. The ‘Canvey Island’ ground beetle was rediscovered on Canvey Wick after last being recorded 100 years ago. Canvey Wick also supports one of the most important remaining populations of the endangered Shrill carder bee in the UK. Buglife along with local volunteers have been working hard to survey the site and working with the RSPB have come up with a management plan of works that will ensure the best habitat possible is provided in line with recommendations from Natural England.
Neil Fuller, Natural England Lead Conservation Advisor said “Canvey Wick SSSI is nationally important for its invertebrates and provides a local haven for wildlife. We are delighted that these organizations are working in a unique partnership to meet the challenges of managing this site for the benefit of nature conservation and people”
Phase one restoration is starting in late November and will include clearing trees over an area the size of a football pitch, leaving a mix of trees and shrub of varying heights. Felling a percentage of the trees on this Site of Special Scientific Interest will allow more sunlight to penetrate the ground encouraging more of the wild flowers that the incredible species of this site rely on. Areas of bare ground and space for flowering plants to grow will also be created to ensure that the special bumblebees and bugs of this site can thrive. The restoration of this area will be monitored before further phases of work are carried out.
Dr Sarah Henshall, Buglife Lead Ecologist. “Canvey Wick is one of the best sites in the UK for bugs and we need to keep it that way! This work is absolutely essential for the survival of rare and endangered bumblebees and other insects. By opening up the habitat nectar and pollen rich wildflowers will flourish and bare sandy ground will provide perfect nesting habitat”

This groundbreaking habitat restoration project is the first of its kind within the UK and the RSPB, Buglife and The Land Trust are excited to be working together to make it happen.

For further information and to arrange an interview, please contact:
Leila Balin, RSPB campaigns and communications officer: 01268 498624 Out of hours: 07595 654894
Broadcast-quality radio interviews:
To arrange an ISDN broadcast-quality radio interview please contact Leila Balin at the RSPB South Essex office.
Images to support this story are attached.
Editor’s notes:
1. The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.

2. Canvey Wick is an ex-industrial site, known as a brownfield. It hosts a mosaic of habitats for invertebrates including; bare gravelly soils for basking and burrowing, wildflower rich grassland for nectar and pollen, reedbed and scrub edge for shelter and overwintering. 
Canvey Wick is an important site for rare and endangered invertebrates such as the Shrill carder bee, Canvey Island beetle, Morley Weevil, Five-banded weevil wasp and Scarce emerald dragonfly. Canvey wick supports one of the UK’s most important populations of Shrill carder bees, if this site was lost the population of this endangered bee in the Thames gateway could collapse.
The habitats on the site need to be managed in order to keep the SSSI in good condition, retaining and enhancing the invertebrate populations. Access will be improved through the creation of a footpath entering the north east corner and a car park off Northwick Road. Events and activities will be held giving people the chance to get closer to nature and find out more about brownfields and the wonderful wildlife that lives on Canvey Wick.
3. The Land Trust is a not for profit organisation that provides a cost effective management solution for open space and green infrastructure. This land can deliver significant community benefits, improving health, social cohesion, providing an educational resource and uplifting the local economy. 
The aim of the Trust is to provide long-term sustainable management of open spaces across the country. With around 2000 hectares of land in our portfolio, with a strong balance sheet to provide financial stability and secured foundation capital for our operations.  Our open spaces are a crucial part of the social landscape, delivering a range of significant benefits for residents and businesses. Safe and accessible open space allows communities to come together and individuals to develop and relax through physical activity and recreation. Well designed and maintained open spaces are outdoor classrooms, gyms and theatres. They change lifestyles and improve health and well-being, so we take them seriously.  For further information visit 
4. The RSPB manages six nature reserves in South Essex. They are Vange Marsh, Vange Wick, West Canvey Marsh, Canvey Wick, Stanford Wharf and Bowers Marsh
The RSPB in South Essex aim to inspire a love of nature and to give local people a chance to get out into green spaces. For more information on local activities and the RSPB’s work in South Essex visit
The RSPB’s South Essex Marshes Project is or has been supported by Natural England, Homes and Communities Agency, Thames Gateway South Essex Partnership, East of England Development Agency (EEDA), Veolia ES Cleanaway Pitsea Marshes Trust, Interreg, BIG Lottery, Biffaward and the Parklands Green Grid initiative a long-term project to develop a network of open spaces and green links throughout this part of the Gateway.
Work at Canvey Wick has been supported by Homes and Communities Agency through the endowment for the site.

5. Buglife-The Invertebrate Conservation Trust is the only charity in Europe devoted to the conservation of all invertebrates, and is actively working to save Britain's rarest bugs, bees, butterflies, ants, worms, beetles and many more fascinating invertebrates. Further information is available on Buglife’s website at  Follow us on Twitter @buzz_dont_tweet and ‘Like us’ on Facebook: Buglife – The Invertebrate Conservation Trust.
Buglife has been involved with Canvey Wick since 2002 and was instrumental in campaigning to save the site from a development and getting the site designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for more information visit /campaigns-and-our-work/habitat-projects/canvey-island-britains-rainforest
6. The Thames Estuary is the major part of an estuarine complex known as the Greater Thames. Stretching from London Bridge to Clacton in Essex and Whitstable in Kent, the Greater Thames is the UK's most important estuary complex for birds. Its importance is formally recognised by its designations under national, European and international nature conservation law. This outstanding area for wildlife is made up of mudflats, saltmarsh and grazing marshes and supports up to 300,000 wading birds, ducks and geese each winter. Many more rest and refuel during their migration between their arctic breeding grounds and their winter quarters in Africa or southern Europe. Many species including brent geese, knot and bar-tailed godwit reach internationally important numbers. The area is also important for breeding birds. The wetlands are home to an array of other wildlife, including water voles, scarce emerald damselflies and many nationally rare plants. For more information visit