A charity is to establish a nature reserve on Canvey Island after buying up land from a supermarket chain.
Redshank will benefit from habitat improvements
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) bought 256 hectares (640 acres) of grassland and saltmarsh from William Morrison Supermarkets.
It is the last remaining green space on Canvey Island, Essex and the RSPB hopes to bring more water onto the marsh and improve it for breeding wading birds.
The charity is now seeking feedback on how to manage it for wildlife.
Paul Fisher, the RSPB's South Essex Projects Manager, said: "This secures for future generations the largest remaining green space on Canvey Island - a landscape rich in wildlife and great for people."
Coastal marsh lost
It has been managed as grazing land for generations.
As well as protecting the land from future development, the RSPB hopes to increase its value for wildlife and improve access for the local community and visitors.
The area includes 30 hectares of saltmarsh at Benfleet Creek, west of the bridge onto Canvey Island.
The saltmarsh here is known to support a high density of nesting redshanks and lapwing.
About 80% of the coastal grazing marsh in Essex has been lost since the 1930s, due to a combination of conversion to arable, building and landfill sites.
Mark Easton, store general manager of Morrisons Canvey Island, said: "We are pleased to have concluded the deal to sell this land to the RSPB to protect an area of local natural significance."
The purchase was made possible by funding from the East of England Development Agency, Cleanaway Pitsea Marshes Trust and the Department for Communities and Local Government's Thames Gateway Programme.