The RSPB is currently fundraising and consulting on plans to turn an area of 1,800 acres near Southend in Essex into saltmarsh, by letting the sea slowly encroach on land which has been protected from saltwater for farming for over five centuries.

Sea defences around Wallersea island are to be punctured, and as the sea slowly returns, it is hoped that much wildlife will come with it, including fish, rare birds, wild plants and otters. It is also hoped that the saltmarsh will help to provide a place for young fish to nurse, as well as acting as a buffer to the force of tides as global warming changes the weather.

The scheme is the largest planned in Europe, and restoration will begin within two years. Once the project is complete, the RSPB hopes to have a visitor centre, new beaches, and cycle paths in place.

?Wallersea will become a wonderful coastal wetland full of wildlife in a unique and special landscape. We will be restoring habitats that were lost more than 400 years ago and preparing the land for sea level rise. This is land that was borrowed from the sea that now the sea is reclaiming,? said Graham Wynne, chief executive of the RSPB.

A feasibility study has already been carried out, and a new programme to look at the execution of such a mammoth project comes next. Project manager Mark Dixon said: ?We want to recreate a lost landscape. More people in this country know about the destruction of the rainforests than about the destruction of their own coastal heritage.?