The Flora and Fauna of East Anglia – Part 1

East Anglia is a popular destination for tourists from all over the world and there are a variety of reasons why people wish to visit the region. Its location on the east coast of the country gives it warm summers and this has led to many domestic visitors spending their holidays in the resorts that are spread along the coastline.

However, there are also large groups of people who travel from overseas into the region and they are attracted not just by the area’s golden beaches. Their main reason for visiting East Anglia is the natural flora and fauna, which supports many rare plant, animal and bird species. The geological and topographical make-up of the region makes it a unique area and one that is ideal for certain rare species to survive. It is virtually impossible to identify another area in the United Kingdom that is similar to this region.

The yellow horned poppy surviving on Cley Ridge

The area was formed when, at the end of the last ice age, huge deposits of eroded material from the ice sheets were left behind as they receded. The area has the lowest elevation range in the United Kingdom, with the majority of the land rarely getting higher than 10 metres above sea level.

The land has for centuries been threatened by flooding from both the North Sea and the rivers that run through the area. Over the time, man implement drainage schemes that has transformed extensive marsh areas into land that has been both built upon and farmed.

However, there still exists many flat marshy areas and it is in these regions that rare ecosystems attract certain types of both flora and fauna. One of the most popular areas for visiting bird spotters is the marsh area behind the spit at Cley-next-the-Sea. The area contains a salt marsh that is protected from the sea by a shingle ridge. This results in there being plants that can survive on the ridge, plants that survive the wet in the marsh and others that dominate in the drier areas away from the marsh.

The shingle ridge contains the yellow horned poppy which is rarely found in the United Kingdom. It can survive in the saline conditions and thrive in the little soil that is found on the ridge. The salt marsh is full of plants that are common in other salt marshes, but it is also home the lesser centaury which is a small purple flowering plant that is a rare species and rarely found in other areas.

The bearded reedling breeds regularly in Cley marshes

The marsh is also home to many water voles which is now a threatened species in the rest of the country. There are also regular sightings of Brown hares and European otters who find the conditions ideal for breeding and feeding. However, the main reason why the marsh is so popular is to see the huge numbers of birds that visit each year. Some are passing through while others use the marsh to breed. Rare species such as the marsh harrier, the Eurasian bittern and bearded reedling regularly breed in the area. There are also many birds like little gull and the black turn that just stop off in Spring-time as they travel southwards.

The area is carefully managed so that people can view the birds and the ridge is maintained to stop the area from being flooded. Visitors will often walk along the ridge to Blakeney Point where they can see grey seals and their pups relaxing on the beach with around 2000 pups being born every year.

There are many other coastal areas in the region that have an abundance of flora and fauna that makes the area such a popular destination to visit.