Buss Creek: terminal marshes

Buss Creek is the name given to a northern branch of the Blyth estuary that defines the boundary between the greatly marine eroded, sparsely populated parish of Easton Bavents, and the urbanised parts of Reydon and Southwold. The name Buss Creek is said to come from the Dutch sailing craft known as busses which plied the coastal trade of Norfolk and Suffolk. There is a small wharf where the A1095 to Southwold crosses the creek at Mights Bridge and this marks the end of the present day navigable section. To the east beyond Mights Bridge the terminal portion of Buss Creek is represented by a large area of drained marshland with the main channel flowing in a reedbed between two high banks with public rights of way to the carpark behind the coastal defences north of Southwold Pier. This large area of wetland was probably formed by glacial meltwater channelling to the sea through two gullies defined by the Reydon 5 metre contour. At some point in the distant past it was probably a saltwater mere and the site of Southwold was virtually and island. The northern portion between Easton Marshes and the outskirts of Reydon provides summer grazing for cattle. The smaller portion belonging to Southwold is occupied by a reedbed wilderness from which has been constructed a municiple boating lake just beyond the pier.

Sea defences of Easton Marsh
The junction between Easton Marshes and Southend Warren in Easton Bavents has brought this small remnant of eroding coastline to the attention of the national media in relation to the rapid erosion of it's 10 metre high cliffs, which begin where the concrete coastal defences of Easton Marshes terminate. In particular, the owner of the property nearest to the cliff edge has been fighting a lone battle against erosion by tipping rubble and concrete blocks onto the beach. Nevertheless, the sea is relentlessly eating a way round the defences, both offficial and unofficial, which raises questions about the consequences of the sea gaining access to Easton Marshes which are mostly below sea level.

Northern end of sea defences at Easton Cliff; house on the cliff top is a few yards from the cliff edge

Cliff Edge property at Easton Bavents (2008)
Cattle grazing on Easton Marsh, 2008

Easton Bavents Sandlings, open air pig production

Wharf at Mights Bridge
Edge of Reydon about 2 m. above sea level

Southwold Marsh: southern edge of town
Easton Bavents plateau from the drainage embankment

Wartime anti-tank blocks
Boating lake at pier end of marsh

These last pictures represent the contrast between wild and tamed nature. Indeed, to walk from the foot of the eroding cliffs at Easton Bavent, along the foot of the sandlings plateau to Reydon's comfortable suburbia, then to the endless flow of traffic across Mites Bridge, and back through the windswept reedbeds along the top of the drainage channel to the multicoloured beach huts at Southwold, is to pass through a whole range of environments summarising the human onslaught on nature. Here is exemplified the futility of fighting the sea and climate change; the seminatural bird-rich habitats of extensive agricultural systems, and the relentless come back of nature to reclaim untended human enterprises. Finally, there is the sharp break between the crowded leisure facilities of holidaymakers and the loneliness of shingle, sand and marsh where it is rare to encounter another human. Buss Creek is a good example of where nature is allowed to be wild and manage itself. It has a high biological diversity but it is not a nature reserve.

Buss Creek and the surrounding area is designated under the Suffolk Coasts and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) for its nationally important landscape. There are a number of designated sites of nature conservation interest in or around the study area, the two most relevant sites being Easton Marshes County Wildlife Site.

Unlike a similar habitat further down the coast at Aldeburgh, there is no overall management plan, no defined ecological outcomes, and there is an acceptance of natural dynamics, immigrations and extinctions. As such it is a good place to debate the philosophy of 'let it be', that is to say deciding whether or not to intervene when protecting ecosystems and species.