A great variety of wildlife is found in and around Walton-on-the-Naze. The coastal area has national and international protection in recognition of its outstanding nature and conservation value.
The Naze itself is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to its fossil-rich cliffs.
The John Weston Nature Reserve on the Naze is a special protection area and the backwaters behind the Naze, called Hamford Water, is a National Nature Reserve and is recognised as being an internationally important wetland for birds (RAMSAR).
The Naze derives from the Old English ‘naes’, meaning nose, and stretches 3 miles northwards from the town of Walton-on-the-Naze.
The 70 ft high cliffs at the southern end of the Naze are rich in fossils. Originally the Naze was farmland, then a golf course, and was requisitioned at the beginning of World War II as a lookout location. Several of the blockhouses can still be seen.
The Naze is now a public open space. The dense scrub of hawthorn, gorse and brambles provides cover for numerous animal species and acts as an important landfall for migrating birds, including occasional rare vagrants.
In summer the cliffs provide secure sites for sand martins. Waders, gulls and terns can be seen along the shore.
Educational visits are now available at the Naze Tower. Please contact Michelle Nye-Browne on: 01255 852519 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
This reserve is located at the northern end of the Naze and can be reached along the public footpath that stretches along the cliff tops from the Naze Tower. The reserve is managed by the Essex Wildlife Trust and is named after the late John Weston, a leading Essex naturalist.
The nature reserve consists of bramble thickets, rough grassland and four ponds. Its nesting birds include lapwing, redshank, sedge and reed warblers. It is also an important stopping off point for migrants, for example the Firecrest. Being so close to the beach, it also attracts shore-loving insects including Emperor and Cream Spot Tiger Moths.
Hamford Water and the Walton Backwaters is an area of tidal creeks, mudflats, islands, salt marshes and marsh grasslands. It can be viewed best by boat or from a public footpath which runs along much of the seawall.
This area is recognised internationally and is designated as a National Nature Reserve. It is an internationally important breeding ground for Little Terns and wintering ground for Dark-bellied Brent Geese, wildfowl and waders.
It also supports communities of coastal plants which are extremely rare in Britain including Hog’s Fennel.
Hamford Water and the Walton Backwaters have RAMSAR classification. This means that it is an internationally important wetland for birds.
It is on the migration route for many bird species and provides wintering grounds for Brent Geese, Godwit, Redshank, Shelduck, Teal and Avocet and breeding grounds for terns.
In addition, there are nationally important numbers of Wigeon, Pintail, Ringed Plover, Curlew, and Dunlin. During migration in the autumn and spring, the Naze is a prime birdwatching site. Curlew and Sandpipers are regularly seen along the beach, with Gannets and Arctic Skuas passing offshore.
There are currently over 70 seals in the Walton backwaters, a small but healthy breeding population which has risen from only 5 in 1986.
The colony of both harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) and grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) are unusually of a russet colouration for much of the year due to the iron oxide-rich mud on to which they haul out.
The seals enjoy resting on the mudbanks, and prefer areas where rivers flow into the sea, like the backwaters, because these waters are permanently ice-free.
The best way to see the seals is to take a trip on Tony Haggis’s boat Karina. Trips can be booked in the summer months by calling: 07806 309460
The cliffs at Walton-on-the-Naze form one of the finest geological sites in Britain and for that reason are a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
At the base of the cliffs is London Clay which is 54 million years old and it is overlaid with a sandy deposit called Red Crag (2 Million years old).
This sandy deposit contains a large number of fossils including shells, sharks teeth and bird skeletons.
The cliffs are also an example of coastal erosion and recent land slumps can be seen along it. The southern end of the Naze has recently been protected from erosion by a £1.2 million scheme which includes a walkway at the base of the cliffs with informative signage. Further to the north the cliffs are eroding at a rate of one to two metres per year.
It is important that visitors do not disturb the plants and soil on the cliffs in order to keep erosion to a minimum and for their own safety, stay away from the edge!
The information on this page is available in the Walton Wildlife Guide. Copies can be obtained FREE from the Tourist Information Centre (Tel: 01255 675542) on the seafront in season, or all year at the Walton Community Project Office at 61 High Street, Walton (Tel: 01255 677006)