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Simon Read, designer and project leader.

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Touching the Tide

Simon Read: Falkenham Saltmarsh

Falkenham Saltmarsh Tidal Management Scheme

A project by Simon Read

2011- 2014

David Adams the farmer and owner of Falkeham Saltmarsh on the River Deben in Suffolk first approached the Deben Estuary Partnership in 2011 with a proposal to work with him upon a scheme to stabilise the site. This was a tremendous opportunity to extend the discussion that we have actively been conducting since 2009 over whether it is feasible to restore and manage saltmarsh that already exists as a parallel strategy to the creation of new intertidal habitat through the process of managed realignment.
The Project:

In every respect a strong emphasis has been laid upon the experimental nature of the work and the importance that is carried out in the form of a community partnership. This is the third project that we have undertaken on the Deben so far and our approach has been different for each one on a site by site basis: for Falkenham, after a great deal of data gathering and consultation we decided to concentrate in the first instance upon the threat the hugely enlarged channel on the landward side represented to the integrity of the marsh. As a priority we proposed to limit the dynamic of the tide running through the channel by constructing three separate structures within it:

At the midpoint we built a barrier up to the level of the surrounding saltmarsh to prevent the tide flowing through from top to bottom.
At the southern end by Felixstowe Ferry we built a similar structure but this time to act as a sill to allow the tide in on the flood in a controlled way and by limiting the flow, encourage the deposition of silt on the ebb.

At the northern end of the channel, we had a more complex challenge, which was to manage a deeper channel system over a larger area and to provide mitigation for the negative effect of the pumped outfall from Kings Fleet upon the surrounding saltmarsh. We conceived this as a more elaborate structure in the form of an arc that spans the two principle channels draining the marsh, but still operates as a sill to allow the tide in and to encourage the retention of sediment.

The three structures are designed to work as an integrated system. They are all “soft engineered” of timber, brushwood, straw bales, coir and a great deal of sweat! The intention is that if the plan works and the site is given a chance to regenerate, in the fullness of time the structure will become absorbed into the marsh and, also in the fullness of time, it will eventually decay.
We have been lucky that this project has attracted generous support from Suffolk County Council, the Heritage Lottery project “Touching the Tide”, the Internal Drainage Board and of course from David Adams, the landowner. This has allowed us to resource it properly and to engage a Project Manager, Kieran O’Mahony and the indispensible help of Allden Owles and Rob Mortley.

Simon Read: Project Leader and Designer.

Simon Read has been planning and coordinating this project from its inception. It is very much an extension of previous work carried out on the estuary, in that it proposes a role through practice of holding a conversation with natural processes and through this, it fosters an enhanced understanding at a community level of how estuarine systems work. He strongly believes that the challenges we currently face over environmental change are sufficiently nuanced and complex to deny the application of singular solutions. For this reason he has devoted his energy towards developing an understanding of the cultural implications of change and the role that the cultural community has in re-assimilating societal perceptions of land, ownership, responsibility and belonging.

See The East Anglian Daily Times' recent article dedicated to Simon Read's work: