Seasearch East

Supported by The Wildlife Trusts, Norfolk County Council through NBIS, NBP and NCP SDF, as well as Fugro Ltd

East Anglia

During the past few diving seasons we’ve been taking part in the Marine Conservation Society’s Seasearch program. The aim is to establish a continuing survey of the UK’s marine wildlife to identify important habitats, vulnerable species, monitor change and better understand the effects of human and natural and influences. The East coast is the least surveyed of the UK’s marine environments. The often uncooperative nature of the North sea doesn’t help as diving is very weather dependant. On top of that we have negligible ‘reef’ which means most diving is distant from shore*, around wrecks, but when it’s good it’s really good.

*With a few exceptions - notably Norfolk’s shore diveable shipwrecks, the Vera and Rosalie and the marvellous North Norfolk chalk reef

We have large colourful reports on our activities: Just one for 2008 and 2009 but 2010 was considerably busier and there are two, one on the North Norfolk chalk reef and general a 2010 Seasearch one too. Our 2011 Seasearch report will be joined by a report on our Seaweed East survey and when the 2012 report appears it will join extra summaries for the potential MCZs in the following areas Alde and Ore Seasearch , Blackwater, Colne, Crouch and Roach , North Norfolk Mussel Bed reference area and North Norfolk Chalk Reef

Dawn (assisted by Rob) is the Eastern region coordinator for Seasearch. We try to contact as many local divers as possible to promote Seasearch, arrange courses and events. The aim is to foster a group of keen divers to help survey the local marine wildlife. Why not visit the main Seasearch website to find out more about the project and joining the Marine Conservation Society or contact us about courses and with any questions you have. If you are a group or club who are interested in Seasearch just let us know and we’ll be very happy to visit and explain more about it - in return we’d love to hear what you’ve seen on your dives in the region.

We’re trying to foster the Shoresearch intertidal survey in East Anglia too. It’s a shore based wildlife survey which anyone could take part in on a coastal day out. We’ve run marine wildife courses in Norfolk and Suffolk to get the ball rolling.


Want to know more about Seasearch, why not invite us for a chat? We promise we’ll give you an entertaining and informative chat in return. Talks on Seasearch are free (as those expenses are supported) our guide to the chalk reef is used as a fund raiser.

We also speak on marine life for local groups, events and dinners all over Norfolk and Suffolk. We are booked more than 12 months ahead so don’t hang around!


Every year we hold courses; normally a Seasearch Observer course in early July and a specialist event later in the year. Check our Facebook page for up to date details! We are Seasearch East - suprise, surprise!

2015 Looks like it might be a good year!
4/5th July Seasearch Observer, Sheringham
25/26th July Seasearch Sponge, Holt

Annual survey week:
27th July - 1st August - Various sites; Lincs, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex - Probably!

2014 was busy, so busy!

Courses in 2013
Check on our Facebook group ‘Seasearch East’ for activities this year
28th April Fish ID for Divers, Great Yarmouth with Dawn and Rob

Courses in 2012
2/3rd June Marine Species ID, Sheringham with Frances Dipper
7/8th July Seasearch Observer, Sheringham
Photography fun - on demand

Courses in 2011
10th April Fish ID for Divers, Great Yarmouth with Frances Dipper
9/10th July Seasearch Observer, Sheringham

Dutch Photography workshop
Norfolk Photography workshop

2010 was hectic, were you at these?
17/18th April Marine Species ID, Sheringham with Frances Dipper
10/11th July Seasearch Observer, Sheringham
Winter Photography fun - pool based 28th Feb (done)

2009 was pretty busy, see what you missed
Fish ID for divers - Spring 09 News with Frances Dipper
Seasearch Observer courses in Sheringham, Lowestoft and Sea Palling

We’ve had other club and shop enquiries too so there may be always be other dates appearing. We can also run a ‘dry’ course for environmental workers as an introduction to the project. The content would be the same but there would be more time spent explaining the complications of surveying underwater :-)


When there’s decent visibility we’ll be diving regularly… check our Facebook group ‘Seasearch East’ for activities and some dates will appear on the main Seasearch calendar or e-mail us to see what’s planned. It’s hard to keep this page up to date so we don’t tend to list dive dates here. The East Anglian season is fickle but we aim to have the following on offer.

    'Meet the divers' events with Norfolk Wildlife Trust

These were great fun last year. A chance to introduce the public to diving off the North Norfolk coast. The idea is to shore dive and share photos and findings with the general public, who will have been warned!

    Sea Palling - 7m RIB - ~£25 for 2 dives, 1 wreck 1 drift. 

There’ll be a £5 rebate for completed Seasearch forms. £25 is payable in advance to secure your place and non refundable unless the boat doesn’t go.
Dates: TBA

N.B. We were very lucky to have our Sea Palling plans rescued by GYSAC
N.B. 2 We were let down by the outfit we originally booked with and the MCS had to go to the small claims court the deposit money. If you would like to check who to avoid please get in touch.

Lowestoft - Sexy 14m hardboat - £50 a day for 2 dives
There’ll be a partial refund for completed Seasearch forms.
£50 is payable in advance to secure your place and non refundable unless the boat doesn’t go. These will be long days as we will dive sites (almost certainly both wrecks) on slack.
We have the following dates booked:TBA

Although 3 of our 4 dates were weather affected the trip out to the Alto in June made up for it and Adrian was a great host.

It’s hard to keep this page up to date, we don’t tend to list shore and inshore dive dates here.

There are Seasearch dives planned nationally throughout the year - see the main Seasearch site for details.

Qualification FAQ: When there’s diving planned with events we usually have questions about the level of qualification and insurance that Seasearch events need so we’ve added a page to explain - in short it’s easy if you are a regular club diver but PADI divers usually need 3rd party insurance.


We are very grateful to have been kindly supported by several bodies:

The Wildlife Trusts - support our diving
We whole heartedly support their North Sea Wildlife campaign and applaud their efforts to raise the profile and public awareness of the marine environment of England’s East coast.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust - we have worked together for several years to raise public awareness of marine issues and can’t speak highly enough of their enthusiasm.

Norfolk County Council has helped through several departments:

Fugro Ltd have been very generous and their donation of a sonar has played a very important part in the recording of the North Norfolk chalk reefs. We especially acknowledge the help of Dave Thistletwaite at Fugro in using the sonar during our surveys.

Highfield Strand helped us by donating printers hugely. Many thanks to their director Duncan Jay.

Our Seasearch volunteers are of course the heart of all that has been accomplished and without them the survey in the East could not continue. It is difficult to credit everyone as much as they deserve but we always hope it’s some compensation that the diving it pretty good!

Local Seasearch History

2012 and 2011 see opening section at the top of the page.

2010 Summary: We a Observer course, and were lucky to be joined by Frances Dipper again for a marine ID special. The vis held out stubbornly but when we did get in we had support from NBP, NBIS, Fugro and The Wildlife Trusts and managed to get our highest number of records ever.

This was another media filled year. After marine week we had lots of local coverage and held a multi screen show with NWT at the Forum in Norwich. Then out of nowhere the story of the chalk reefs took off and made the nationals.

2009 Summary: We ran the usual Observer courses, and were lucky to be joined by Frances Dipper for a Fish ID special. The vis held out stubbornly but when we did get in we tried new shore sites and managed to get a record number of forms back from a really good dive year. Our new boat was tried but didn’t make an impact as events conspired against it :-( We did however snatch success from the jaws of a normal year when GYSAC helped us find a huge new mussel bed and we finally had some good dives off Suffolk.

We had a media frenzy around Marine Week and produced a book and DVD for Norfolk Wildlife Trust

2008 Summary: Observer courses were run in Sheringham (June) and Norwich (September) and we were very lucky to have Jim Anderson come down from Scotland to tutor our Nudibranch ID course in June. When the vis did arrive we had a pretty good diving season ourselves, out with clubs and our Observers. Observation and Survey forms were returned from a wider range of sites than before although we still struck out for Suffolk and Essex - we desparately need to find active divers to cover those coasts. As well as documenting our favourite shore dive wrecks, we adopted them too - we’re still waiting for the CSA to get in touch.

2007 Summary: Observer courses were run in May, June and October. A course in August at the Orca Scuba Diving Academy for the Essex Biodiversity Project added another 6 Observer candidates! Our last course of the year (6/7th October) ran sucessfully and another 7 Observers completed their first 2 dives and are well on their way to surveying. We know it can sometimes be a little tough to get past the first 2 supervised dives and to complete the next 3 assessed forms… which also meant we have enjoyed the company on our dives of some divers from previous courses elsewhere. It has been very rewarding to see how much purpose the course has added to their diving.

We got a couple of articles into the local press, the first on Seasearch and the second on the campaign for a Marine Bill

We planned to continue diving locally through the winter but the weather conditions haven’t been favourable since the storms in November. We hope to eventually complete a continuous annual survey but maybe that will have to wait for another year :-) Contact us for updates on the next trip and recent conditions. If you fancy bringing your friends along our guide to North Norfolk’s pair of shore diveable shipwrecks, the Vera and Rosalie, is here.



The Observer form and the new Surveyor form can be found on the main Seasearch recording page which also includes guidance on filling them in.


Shoresearch isn’t a national program, it was devised by the Kent Wildlife Trust, and these forms are have been developed for East Anglia. Shore surveying can be quite informal so long as you report What, Where and When you are recording. There are two versions of the form, both essentially the same, to download as PDF files:

Seasearch books etc

As well as the courses and survey project Seasearch, in the person of Chris Wood, has produced a new book aimed squarely at helping with marine ID. The Observers Guide to the Marine Life of Britain and Ireland is an ideal trip companion - especially for seasearch surveying. Dawn and I have contributed pictures but aside from that excitement we were particularly impressed with the clarity of the sections on the sessile undergrowth that can be so hard to name. The book is out now to buy from the Seasearch book shop with proceeds raising money for the MCS.

Fish ID CD We were also very happy to contribute a few photographs to the CD and presentations for the Seasearch Specialist Course - Fish ID for Divers by Frances Dipper. The course is a very worthwhile addition to any UK diver’s studies. Dawn was thrilled that her John Dory picture was chosen as the ‘cover’ shot.


We’re part of a network of Seasearch regions around the country and in our surveys we use several very useful sites to help with our species ID.
Other Seasearch Groups

Helpful ID Sites - Good places to help your species spotting

The web site of the Natural Sciences department of the Ulster Museum, National Museums of Northen Ireland’s Wildlife Encyclopedia, Habitas - has made lots of useful infomation available to all. All hail Bernard Picton a true web information hero and Claire Goodwin who seems to do a lot of the work ;-)

Their Encyclopedia of Marine Life of Britain and Ireland is a great resource:

They have a section on The Sponges of Britain and Ireland:

Bernard’s book Nudibranchs of the British Isles is out of paper print but thankfully still online:


Marlin, the Marine Biological Association’s ID project -

Jim Anderson’s Scottish Nudibranch site is excellent -

The Field Studies Council (FSC) has a guide to the seashore:

International Year of Biodiversity -

UK Photos

We’re often told we must be masochists as we enjoy diving around the UK and in many ways prefer it to some of the blue water diving that we’ve done. The UK offers varied and often beautiful diving with diverse wildlife and habitats. We’re not pure wreck enthusiasts but appreciate their role as natural reefs which are magnets for everything from cod to cuttlefish. British wildlife is often less extrovert than its tropical counterparts but rewards the effort made to see it.

If you still don’t believe British dives can be colourful and interesting perhaps a browse through our UK galleries will help to change your mind :-)

Abbotts Hall

1 Abbotts Hall and Farm BuildingsFrom the car park you will see the main Abbotts Hall buildings which areGrade II listed and have been carefully refurbished to provide the mainoffices for Essex Wildlife Trust. The oldest part of the house foundationsdate back to the Domesday Survey of 1085 and then ‘Abbess Hall inWicgheberga’ was held by Barking Abbey until the dissolution of themonasteries in 1530. The oldest part of the house you see is about 1780and it was sold under the Will of John Bullock MP in 1810 for £23,500.Sir Leonard Crossland, former Chairman of Ford, overhauled the buildingsto their present form in 1970 and after his death they were purchased byEssex Wildlife Trust in 2000. The building adjacent to the Hall will berefurbished as the Education Centre.There is no visitor access to the buildings within the farmyard. The tallbuildings and silos are for the storage of crops and the lower buildings formachinery and workshops.2 The Arable FarmFrom the car park and buildings there are several footpaths which runthrough the arable farm and down to the coastal strip. As this is a workingfarm, just which routes are open will vary from day to day dependingon farming operations.
Some routes may therefore be closed for safetyreasons. There will always be an interesting route to follow. Theinterpretation boards will point out the routes and show you which cropis being grown in each field as well as other points of interest and there isinformation about recent wildlife sightings.When Abbotts Hall was purchased, most of the farm was arable giving acropped area of 217 hectares (520 acres). Many of the hedges had beenretained, although they had been closely managed. Field sizes werebetween 3.6 hectares (9 acres) Lower Pound Field to 13.5 hectares (32.5acres) Wick Field. The main crops were Winter Wheat on about two thirdsof the land and a break crop grown on the other third using a mixture ofBarley, Rape and Marrow Fat Peas. Flax was often grown on New Field.This cropping pattern was retained until 2003 to enable us tounderstand the land and monitor both the crop production and thewildlife which the conventional arable system supported before makingany changes. This period produced our baseline data.You will see the changes being made to the farm are indicated onthe map and the interpretation boards. We are farming the landourselves with an experienced Farm Manager and Farm Warden.The main changes we have introduced to benefit wildlife are:Changes round the edge of the crops• Restoration of hedgerows and the creation of new hedgerows• Rotational coppicing of existing hedgerows• Grassland margins of two or six metres• Restoring or creating new ponds and a lake• Putting in beetlebank strips through arable fields• Planting woodland on edges and corners of fields.Changes in the cropped area• Choice of crop species as some crops support more wildlife• Choice of crop varieties as some are more resistant to pests• Growing a variety of crops for the production of Essex Wildlife Trustbird seed•
Change time and amount of ploughing and cultivation, e.g. springsown crops leaving winter stubble for wildlife•

Only use pesticide where it is necessary to control a pest• Careful pesticide choice and application level so it is well targeted• Leaving Skylark patches for Skylarks and wild bird cover• Establishing grazing fields as an additional habitat.We have also tried farming part of the farm organically for five years.However, we found that the weed burden on the heavy clays could notbe controlled mechanically and we believe Conservation Grade withminimal use of chemicals is a better balance between wildlife gain andprofitable farming. For each change we carefully consider the benefitto wildlife on the one hand and on the other the loss or gain inprofitability as our aim is that the farm must make a profit.

On this 700-acre coastal farm we have shown howsustainable coastal defences can lead to the creation ofcoastal marshes which are vital for the future of bothwildlife and people. This is a working farm where we aimto show how wildlife can flourish alongside profitablefarming. We hope you enjoy your visit and will keepreturning to see how the project develops.IntroductionAbbotts Hall Farm is owned and managed by Essex Wildlife Trust andsupported by ComCoast, WWF-UK, Environment Agency, Natural England,Heritage Lottery Fund and The Wildlife Trusts. The whole project wouldnot have been possible without the legacy left by Joan Elliot from Braintreewho wanted a site where we would tackle major conservation issues andwhere people could see this work.We have been working together at Abbotts Hall on the problems causedby rising sea levels which result in coastal marshes being squeezed out ofexistence against the hard sea walls which are found in many parts of theworld and particularly in a county like Essex.We are also very concerned by the desperate decline of wildlife onarable farms throughout the country and particularly in Essex wherearable land forms over 80% of the countryside.Your walk will take you through areas of the arable farm where you cansee what we are doing to encourage farmland wildlife on a working farm.When you reach the coastal strip you will be able to see our success inrecreating marshes and encouraging coastal wildlife.SkylarkGatekeeperBumblebee

3 Coastal Defence & Managed RealignmentAlong the coastal strip you will come to one or more of the coastal birdwatching hides and further interpretation about the recreation ofcoastal marshes.In Essex before the seawalls were built there were 40,000ha of saltmarsh.Thirty years ago there were 4500ha but today only 2500ha are left.

It haseroded due to ‘coastal squeeze,’ the tell tale sign of which is bare mudappearing in the saltmarsh. This is a major problem for coastal wildlife likeBrent Geese, Wigeon, Lapwing and Redshank which depend on saltmarshhabitat. It is also a major sea defence issue because building higher andstronger sea walls to keep out a steadily rising sea level is becomingprohibitively expensive. The funds for sea walls need to be spent protectingtowns and villages and a less costly option needs to be found for some ofthe long sections of rural coastline in a county like Essex.Abbotts Hall is a practical demonstration of a more sustainable approachto coastal defences. The 3.5km sea wall along the farm’s southern boundarywas breached or dug away in five places in 2002, an approach calledManaged Retreat or Coastal Realignment. This allowed the tide in and outand has encouraged coastal marshes to grow on the strip of arable landbehind the sea wall.These marshes developed quickly giving immediate benefit to wildlife.Intensive monitoring of water movements and water quality as well aswildlife in the estuary have been and continue to be undertaken to studythe project. The new marshes are very important as fish nurseries withlarge numbers of bass and herring and fourteen other species of fish.
This sustainable approach will benefit the estuary as a whole including thepeople who use it, live by it and enjoy its great interest and beauty. CoastalRealignment is one of a series of measures which are being trialled on theEssex coast to investigate more sustainable coastline management.Many coastal landowners may resist the prospect of CoastalRealignment on their own land, partly because of the understandablehuman fear of flooding and partly because of the loss of income fromcrops. It is important therefore that trials like this gain informationon how flooding can be controlled and what levels of grant andcompensation are available.

The benefits to birds and other wildlife were immediately apparent asarable land was turned to marshland. Up to eighteen different species ofwader have been recorded on the site as well as Little Egret, Goosander,Little Grebe and Shelduck.This project has proved to be an internationally important demonstrationsite showing what can be achieved by carefully planned and executedcoastal defence and realignment.4 New Grassland and Freshwater AreasThe high tides will normally come up to about the three metre contourand the coastal path you walk on to get between hides is at about thefive metre contour. The strip of land between will not therefore becomesaltmarsh but has been seeded as grassland and meadows and will be cutfor hay or grazed by sheep, just as they would have been in the times ofBarking Abbey and when the Essex Coast was a massive sheep grazingarea producing wool, sheep’s milk and cheese.These grassland areas have greatly improved the diversity of thefarm for such species as Skylark, and Lapwing as well as wild plants,insects and Hares.Eventually you will be walking behind new hedges for part of the routeand this reduces disturbance to wildlife.Not everyone will reach the new lake on their walk but this is aninteresting feature because we have effectively moved back the freshwaterEvery membership contributes towards ourvital conservation work and helpsProtect Wildlife for the FutureEssex Wildlife Trust is the county’s leading conservation charity.It has over 36,000 members and 485 corporate members who enablethe Trust to conserve and manage over 7,250 acres of land on 87nature reserves and 1 nature park.
There are 7 visitor centres towelcome visitors and the Trust engages over 40,000 children andadults every year about the wildlife of Essex.It is supported financially by members, local businesses and grantmaking organisations. All of the members of Essex Wildlife Trustcontribute towards Protecting Wildlife for the Future.

The new lake ensures thatfreshwater habitat remains and has provided some of the material forthe counter walls at the east and west of the farm to ensure that ourneighbours’ land cannot be flooded. A reed bed has established in thenew lake providing a natural filter for the stream that contains treatedeffluent from Great Wigborough Sewerage Works. Nesting and roostingislands have also been included.5 Historical InterestThere are several points on your walk where you can get a vision of thehistorical landscape. The Great Wigborough Henge is on a slightly raisedarea and reputed to be the site of a wooden henge or round house.There are at least eight Red Hills on site where the red earth marksthe site of Iron Age/Roman salt production and you can imagine thesmokey scene as brine was evaporated to crystallise salt in clay vesselsover charcoal fires. The Ship Lock probably dates from the same periodas a landing point but historians think it may have originally been aDane encampment. More recently a point where farm produce wastaken from here by boat - a use that we know was continued right upto the 1950s before the roads were improved.6 Abbotts Hall GardensWhen you return from your walk, please take time to enjoy thebeautiful Abbotts Hall Gardens, which are lovingly and carefullytended by our volunteers. They offer you the opportunity to relaxand enjoy the wildlife that thrives on them. Specific plants have beenplanted for specific species. For example there is a butterfly garden, asbutterflies are dependent on a limited number of plants.The butterfly garden at Abbotts Hall Farm provides a continuoussupply of nectar. Plants that have been planted include Buddleia,Lavender, Thyme, Ivy, Hebe and Sedum.First Floor Design01206273301Essex Wildlife TrustAbbotts Hall Farm, Great WigboroughColchester Essex CO5 7RZ
Telephone: 01621 862960Facsimile: 01621 862990Email:
Registered Charity No 210065Location on the Essex CoastAbbotts Hall Farm is seven miles south of Colchester just off the B1026,south of Abberton Reservoir and west of the village of Great Wigborough.The farm is in the centre of a 25km section of the Essex coast between theColne Estuary and the Blackwater Estuary, a large area of internationalimportance for conservation.Arranging your visitAt present the farm is open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. You need to bookweekend visits but not weekdays. At a later date the Joan Elliot VisitorCentre will open with full education facilities.The following fact sheets are available from the website or by post fromthe address below:1 History of Abbotts Hall7 Farming2 Archaeology8 Farm Economics3 Communities and Livelihoods9 Coastal Realignment Lessons4 Coastal Realignment Consents10 The Farm Business5 Coastal Squeeze11 Farm Wildlife6 Farming at Abbotts HallLittle EgretAbbottsHall FarmWelcome toProtecting Wildlife for the Future