The ten miles of shingle that forms Orford Ness is much more than just a long ridge of pebbles with a jeopardised lighthouse at one end. Nature has a way of claiming any environment given half a chance, and has a myriad of methods.
The gaps between the pebbles provide opportunities windblown sand and dirt to find a home, helping to stabilise the stones, retain moisture and provide nutrients to any plant or seed that should put down roots here. The salty air and lack of shelter require some specialisms of those plants but they exist. Naturally such plants are rarities for the conditions that support them are uncommon and fragile. Orford Ness is the second largest area of vegetated shingle in the UK, and the largest such shingle spit in Europe, so whilst it is owned by the National Trust, they must manage the impact of visitors very carefully.
Specialist plants bring specialist insects bring specialist birds… (I’m starting to sound like a Burl Ives song) but here the flora and fauna have an added bonus. A lack of people.
If you want to visit the site, you must do so on a designated National Trust ferry. These small boats carry about a dozen people and operate the outward journey at roughly twenty-minute intervals for about four hours each day. (You can do the maths). They then count back every return journey to ensure that no one overstays their welcome. The only permanent residents are the wardens of the nature reserve.
Spread those numbers across 570 hectares and they have very limited impact. That impact is restricted further by closing off parts of the Ness to visitors when the birds are breeding, and beyond this the Ness has its own unique way of persuading the curious photographer not to stray too far…