AN idyllic wildlife haven has been created in the heart of south Essex.

Essex Wildlife Trust officially opened the restored wetland at Lower Raypits near Canewdon.

Funded by Natural England, the Environment Agency and Essex Wildlife Trust, the new site retains winter rainfall to ensure sufficient water for breeding wetland birds in the summer.

As well as providing a habitat for rare birds such as the avocet, oystercatcher and redshank, the reserve stores heavy winter rainfall to alleviate flooding and summer drought.

Mark Iley, biodiversity co-ordinator at EssexWildlife Trust, said: “The site is looking fantastic. It was used by thousands of wildfowl in winter and is now successfully providing breeding habitat for threatened bird species.

“The site will continue to improve as it matures, safeguarding wildlife and having a positive effect on the wider landscape and the environment, making an important contribution to this wonderful estuary and beyond.”

John Hall, chief executive of Essex Wildlife Trust, opened the new habitat.

A spokesman for the trust said: “The project is also of high significance given the increased weather extremes of our climate.

“It is assisting with flood management and providing an answer as to how heavy winter rain can be stored, rather than wasted, and used to alleviate summer drought.

“The innovative technology is expected to be applied at many other sites across the country.