WHILE many might be taking advantage of yet another heatwave to head to the beach, Essex residents are being encouraged to head to the coastline for another reason.

Essex Wildlife Trust has launched Marine Month to educate people across the county more about the diverse wildlife and creatures on our doorstep.

From Mersea’s glorious coast to the salt marshes in Maldon and even Walton’s spectacular cliffs at the Naze, Essex is teeming with wildlife to be explored.

Essex is host to a plethora of amazing marine life including two species of seal, the rare native oyster, hermit crabs, harbour porpoises and even the short-snouted seahorse which live in the Thames.

Rachel Langley, living seas co-ordinator at Essex Wildlife Trust, said: “We are extremely lucky to have such a beautiful coastline in Essex - but there’s much more to it than meets the eye.

“Beyond the coast and beneath the waves lie dynamic landscapes including cliffs, gullies, sandbanks and muddy habitats which support our marine wildlife and it needs our protection.

“Marine Month is a chance to celebrate and enjoy Essex’s coast, sea and marine wildlife but it’s also an opportunity to raise awareness of the challenges facing our seas and do our bit to safeguard them for the future.”

While Essex is home to some large mammals, such as the seals which can be seen off the coast at Walton and Harwich, the county largely plays host to smaller creatures and vertebrates which can more easily be seen.

Emily McParland, communications officer at the trust, said: “We really do have a varied array of species.

“I don’t think people really are aware of what is here and available to them. We’d really like to change that.

“We all know we have a coastline but many don’t think it’s very accessible.

“Marine Month really is the time to shout about it and discover what we have. There are lots of things to be interested in and discover and we are hoping people will do that this August.”

The Essex coastline spans 350 miles and also features estuaries, marshes, tidal mudflats as well as sandy and shingle beaches across the county.

Ms McParland said: “One of the jewels in Essex really is the native oyster. We are very proud of it.

“But it’s not just things in the water we are protecting. You get an amazing amount of birdlife in the mudflats and marshes. At the moment we are working to protect little terns.”

Essex Wildlife Trust has various events on throughout August to encourage as many people as possible to take part so any resident, no matter their wildlife interest, can join in Marine Month.

Shoresearch surveys will record the wildlife, plants and habitats along the coast with data collected helping to build the trust’s knowledge of the area.

Fossil hunters can head to the Naze at Walton to search for finds, people can enjoy views and walks along the sea wall at Tollesbury Wick.

It’s not just for adults either. Abberton Reservoir is inviting youngsters to take part in its coastal capers club which aims to both educate and fascinate children.

And in light of the BBC’s Blue Planet II programme, beach cleans are also taking place where people can pick up some gloves and help clean up any litter.

Advanced booking is required for most events.

To find out more about Marine Month or find details on an event near you, click here