Sefton Coast Column: Dune indentations created to help specialist species thrive on the coast

A notch completed

By John Dempsey

Moving over 40,000 tonnes of sand is no small feat, but it could help rejuvenate a section of dunes at Ainsdale Sand Dunes National Nature Reserve and enhance this magnificent habitat for rare wildlife.

The sand dunes are a sanctuary for special plants, insects, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

To support these creatures and provide them with safe homes, sand dunes must be able to move freely.

Areas of naturally shifting and mobile sand are essential, but many of our sand dunes have become too stable and overgrown with dense vegetation. Sand dunes are today one of the habitat types most threatened by biodiversity loss in Europe.

Natural England is working in Ainsdale (NNR) with Dynamic Dunescapes, the project to restore 7,000 hectares of sand dunes across England and Wales.

Over the past few weeks, four V-shaped gaps, known as ‘notches’, have been created in the foredunes of Ainsdale Sand Dunes NNR by CHC contractors using earthmoving machinery.

Digger creating notches in the dunes

To create one of these gaps, up to 13,000 tons of sand must be moved by expert excavator drivers.

These gaps will allow more beach sand to be blown through the dune systems by the wind.

This will create the perfect habitats for sand dune specialist species to thrive, forming new areas of bare sand that the rare Northern Dune Tiger Beetle, Natterjack Toad and Sand Lizard need to survive.

The Sefton Coast is an important location for sand lizards – one of the UK’s rarest reptiles – which dig their burrows in the bare sand of the south-facing dunes.



The excavation work took place in May, after the lizards emerged from hibernation and before they began to breed and bury their eggs.

The locations of the notches were also carefully chosen so as not to disturb existing populations of sand lizards.

Dave Mercer, Senior Reserve Manager for Natural England, said: “We are delighted to begin notching at Ainsdale Sand Dunes NNR which will have a fantastic long-term impact on this magnificent sand dune system and its environment. resident fauna.

“Restoring habitats and creating resilient landscapes is an essential part of Natural England’s work on the Sefton Coast, and Dynamic Dunescapes allows us to help safeguard the future of our threatened dune systems.”

The wind is already sculpting the notches

The Formby sand dunes have also had notches dug in several places, by the National Trust, as part of the Dynamic Dunescapes project.

Sefton Council is another local partner in the Dynamic Dunescapes project.

Gordon White, Campaign Manager for Green Sefton, explained: “The coastline is a rare asset and although popular with visitors, it should be managed with the utmost care and respect.

Digger creating notches in the dunes

“Each year, we collaborate with a variety of partners to undertake important habitat maintenance and enhancement works, carefully selected to ensure minimal disturbance to these scientifically important sites.

“The Dynamic Dunescapes program is another exciting opportunity that we are excited to be on board with, along with our neighboring landowners. It will help conserve our special dune landscapes for future generations.”

*Dynamic Dunescapes is a partnership project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the EU LIFE program. Project partners are Natural England, Plantlife, Natural Resources Wales, National Trust and The Wildlife Trusts.


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