Natural history

Wrangle's coastline and the adjacent land on the western side of The Wash trace back 2,500 years to a broad bank of marine silt left by tidal creeks of the Bronze Age. The silt continued to accumulate up naturally over the centuries but it accelerated from from Roman times (200 AD onwards) as a result of human intervention - reclamation of the land for pasture. Today's farmers use that same land to grow a major share of the nation's cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli. In the past, the marine silt was also the source of Wrangle's other major activity down the centuries—salt extraction - now long since ceased.

Soil samples and Iron Age archaeological finds suggest that in 200 BC the western coast of The Wash was much further inland than it is today. Wrangle then was probably an offshore island of higher ground some 25 km (15 miles) offshore. Remnants of salterns (places where brine was evaporated to make salt) show it was already a place of salt production.

Precisely when all the land to the west of Wrangle was drained for pasture is not known. At some point, certainly, the south Lincolnshire coastline shifted eastward creating what became known as Wrangle Haven on the coast, a natural inlet and a potential haven for shipping. It is also reasonably certain that towards the end of the Roman occupation (4th century) the land subsided once more. The resulting marine inundation brought in further silt to create an irregular bar on the seaward side of all the marshy islets between Wainfleet and Boston. That enabled the colonizing Anglo-Saxons to set up settlements on the silt bar near the tidal creeks and to consolidate the islets by reclaiming land from both the saltmarsh to the east and the brackish water marsh to the west.

Storms and continuously rising sea levels in the 13th century changed the coastline again, washing away the offshore shoals and bringing in new supplies of silt. The Wash itself was then open to the full influence of the sea and the residual inlets on its western shore became ideal havens for port activities. Sheltered from the north and northwesterly winds by Gibraltar Point, Wrangle Haven offered an east-facing entrance leading to a protected triangular harbour on the west side of the village. Land reclamation mainly to the south of the entrance will have further enhanced Wrangle's usefulness as a port. At its peak, Wrangle boasted the third largest harbour on that section of coast (after similar havens at Bicker and Boston).

From then on the coast was shaped mainly by human intervention. Wrangle itself continued to develop as a significant saltmaking centre and in medieval times was nationally important.  The industrial waste left behind by salt extraction dumped as as acres of saltless silt on the shore between Wrangle and Wainfleet formed today's Wrangle Tofts. Further silting, however, meant that tidal flows alone could no longer keep Wrangle Haven open. Salt extraction also went into decline as competition grew from similar sites benefiting from cheap coal for brine evaporation. Farmers meanwhile wanted ever more land for pasture. As a result, around 1640, both the port and salt extraction came to an end when a major land embankment in 1641 sealed Wrangle off from the sea completely.

Looking back, today's coastal ecologists distinguish four eras of embankment for land reclamation - in Saxon times, from medieval time up to 1700, from 1800 to 1900 and post-1950. There remains also a significant area of 'non-reclaimed' saltmarsh and mudflats that are increasingly recognized as important intertidal habitats for breeding birds and invertebrate animals, also for the plant life that provides food for large numbers of wintering birds.