Sunday 17 April 2011

Calshot Marshes Nature Reserve

Calshot Marshes Nature Reserve
On a scrubby stretch of land at the end of the A326 in Hampshire is a left-over place of shingle, where beach huts turn their backs on the looming presence of Fawley power station. Somehow there's also room for a lifeboat station, coastguard tower, castle, campsite and a giant activities centre.

Calshot outdoor centre
Between the power station and the activity centre lies the scraggy, hunkered down, bristly islands that make up Calshot Marshes nature reserve. Sadly ignored by most visitors, the islands barely bother to raise themselves out of the mud. However, for birds it's a different story. Designated an SSSI, the area "supports nationally important numbers of migratory and over-wintering waders and wildfowl."

Low-lying mudflats of Calshot Marshes
The report from English Nature continues: "It regularly supports more than 1% of the national winter populations of wigeon, teal, ringed plover, grey plover, black-tailed godwit, redshank and dunlin and is thus considered to be of national significance to each of these species. It also regularly holds more than 1% of the world population of the dark-bellied brent goose and is thus considered internationally significant for that species."

Clashot Marshes looking back from the power station
"The numbers of some other species, notably the great crested grebe, gadwall and shoveler, often approach or achieve nationally important population levels. Total numbers of all waterfowl regularly exceed 10,000 in winter and sometimes approach twice that number."

Fawley power station
This protected area is so crucial because of the immense industrial pressures that surround it. From the busy cargo port at Southampton to the thrumming, oil-burning power station right next to it. But, for good or bad, the place wouldn't have the same atmosphere without the menacing vibrations of the power station.

Fawley power station hanger

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