The Orwell is a long and relatively narrow estuary with extensive mudflats and some saltmarsh.
Extensive mudflats border the channel and support large patches of eelgrass Zostera marina, and dwarf eelgrass Z. noltii as well as large numbers of invertebrates that are important for feeding waders. Where it occurs, the saltmarsh tends to be sandy and fairly calcareous with a wide range of communities. Glasswort Salicornia spp. and small cord-grass Spartina maritima are the principal colonisers of the mud, and sea aster Aster tripolium is abundant on the lower marsh. The central areas of marsh are dominated by common saltmarsh-grass Puccinellia maritima, sea purslane Atriplex portulacoides, and common sea-lavender Limonium vulgare. Other species include sea arrowgrass Triglochin maritimum, annual sea-blite Suaeda maritima, seamilkwort Glaux maritima, greater sea-spurrey Spergularia media, and sea plantain Plantago maritima. There are small areas of vegetated shingle on the foreshore of the lower reaches, but most of the saltmarsh is fringed by sea couch Elytrigia atherica or by common reed Phragmites australis and sea club-rush Bolboschoenus maritimus further upstream.
The freshwater grazing marshes which adjoin the estuary at Shotley, and the wet grassland and standing water of Trimley marshes, each form an integral part of the ornithological interest of the site. Shotley marshes are especially important for feeding dark-bellied brent geese Branta bernicla bernicla, wigeon Anas penelope and snipe Gallinago gallinago, and for breeding redshank Tringa totanus and lapwing Vanellus vanellus. Trimley marshes have become an important refuge for wintering and passage birds, as well as a key breeding site.
This site is currently under consideration for inclusion in the new UK MPA network. Having marine components does not automatically qualify a site to be part of the new MPA network. As such, the marine components of this site, as well as the management efforts, are being evaluated. Check out our MPApedia page on the UK for more information!
For general information on Orwell Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest (regardless of MPA status), click here.
Contacts & Resources
Original data record from World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) via ProtectedPlanet.net [view record on site].