English Heritage has appointed specialist marine consultancy ABPmer to help determine how best to manage water-levels in the distinctive twin moats around Tilbury Fort, to include how they might be used to enhance biodiversity. 

Tilbury Fort protected London’s seaward approaches from the time it was built, between 1670 and 1685, until the Second World War. After travelling from an earlier fort on the present site to a hill in nearby West Tilbury, Elizabeth I delivered a famous speech to her army, waiting to fight during the Spanish Armada crisis in 1588.

New moat management plan for two concentric moats

English Heritage wishes to develop a new moat management plan for the two concentric moats that surround the star-shaped fort. These moats take in saline water from the tidal Thames and freshwater from the hinterland catchment.

ABPmer will undertake a series of surveys and modelling studies to understand how the moat system functions and how the water and salinity levels can be managed using the site’s complex, interconnecting sluices.

The plan aims to preserve the historic appearance of the moats while exploring how the site’s biodiversity and ecological value might be enhanced. Such enhancement might include creating marginal wetlands areas for breeding and overwintering waterbirds. 

Dave Hedges, head of estate management at English Heritage, said: “Tilbury Fort has played a large part in the history of the river Thames, and placed on the north shores of the estuary means it’s part of a nationally important landscape for wintering wetland birds.

Innovative solutions

"This ground-breaking partnership will identify innovative solutions to restore the Fort’s moats and create new important habitats for wintering birds and rare insects.”

Colin Scott, habita creation and restoration business manager at ABPmer, said: “We are delighted to support English Heritage on this unique and visionary project. Climate change means it is becoming increasingly important to protect our heritage, enhance biodiversity and manage our interactions with the shoreline. 

“As specialists in marine surveying, coastal and canal system modelling as well as wetland habitat design, we are well placed to carry out this fascinating project and fully understand what can be achieved at Tilbury.”

The project is expected to complete during summer 2021 and will provide English Heritage with an improved understanding of how the moats operate and related management options.