St Annes sand dunes are between the main promenade road and the beach, as you travel along the coast road between Lytham St Annes and Blackpool.
The dunes are also about the only high spot at this end of the Fylde Coast. A careful climb to the top gives a spectacular seaside view of the beach. Turn around to look inland and you’ll see Blackpool Airport and air traffic arriving and departing.
Fylde Sand Dunes Project
Lancashire Wildlife Trust, Fylde Council and Blackpool Council work in partnership on the Fylde Sand Dunes Project. Their aim is to enhance the nature, conservation, interest, public appreciation and enjoyment of the dunes.
Aims of the Sand Dunes Project
One of the main aims of the project is to improve the efficiency of the sand dunes and saltmarsh as a soft sea-defence.
Good progress has been made with growing the width of the dunes, with increases of up to 30m in some areas. That’s quite an achievement, which everyone is really pleased about.
The increase in the dunes has been helped by planting dead Christmas trees after the festive season has ended. The branches trap the windblown sand and help the dunes to grow.
The guided walks aim to promote the importance of our amazing dunes and to provide information about the project and our local wildlife.
St Annes Sand Dunes Guided Walks
The Fylde Sand Dunes Project run a series of FREE volunteer-led guided walks through the dunes. They go from Lytham St Anne’s Local Nature Reserve through the surrounding sand dunes.
These guided walks take place at weekends. They’ll help you to discover the wonders of St Annes Sand Dunes with the help of passionate and informative volunteers. Did you know that it’s a Site of Special Scientific Interest?
Go along and discover the wonders of the sand dunes with passionate and informative volunteers. No need to pre-book, just turn up on the day.
30 March, 14 April, 27 April – meet at 10am
Meeting Place: Please meet at North Beach Car Park, Clifton Drive North, Lytham Saint Anne’s, Lancashire, FY8 2TR (Please note this is a pay and display car park)
Please wear appropriate footwear as the ground may be uneven. Not suitable for those with mobility difficulties.
For more information about the Fylde Sand Dunes Project or guided walks please contact the team.
Tel: 01253 658466 (Mon-Fri). Please mention you saw it on Visit Fylde Coast!
More about the Sand Dunes Project
The Sand Dunes Project is always looking to recruit new volunteers to help with the conservation of the dunes. You can also help to spread the word about their importance and how we can all help to look after them.
Everyone sees the dunes. But few realise that they are a valuable sea defence. Did you know that 80% of Lancashire’s dunes have been lost in the last 150 years?
There’s a lot more to the project than using the old Christmas trees to encourage the dunes to move seawards and reduce wind-blown sand on the roads.
The Sand Dunes Project also goes into schools and meets community groups, as well as organising coastal events for both children and adults.
Invasive species such as Japanese knotweed, the Japanese rose, white poplar and sea buckthorn are removed. Burnt rose plants are used to thatch over wind-created “blowholes” – they trap the wind-blown sand and fill the holes.
Dune grasses are also planted to prevent erosion and fences used to trap sand to extend the dunes towards the beach.
Part of the project involves creation of wetland ‘slacks’ behind some dunes to increase plant and wildlife. A long-term aim is encouragement of rabbit numbers to keep the grass shorter.
These measures are all about enhancing the sea-defence aspect of the dunes and increasing public enjoyment of them.
Oh, and of course, litter pickers are also required too!
Why don’t you join in?
Five Year Project to Repair Damaged Dunes
In March 2013 work began to enlarge and repair the dunes in a five year project funded by Defra, which will also see new boardwalks providing access to the beach.
The aim of the project is to reduce the risk of flooding and erosion. Widening the dunes by up to 98ft/30m will also improve the natural habitat for a diverse range of animals, birds and the 300+ species of plants which are to be found there.
You can read more here.
How a Sand Dune Begins
Dunes are built over long periods of time. They evolve out of flat beaches into high hills. In the first place, sand is originally trapped by an obstruction on the beach. It builds up and then collapses because it’s unstable.
Sand couch and lyme grass are pioneer grasses for dunes. They’re more tolerant to being immersed in saltwater than marram and dominate on the foredunes. Marram grass then outcompetes them, as sand builds up through it and it stabilizes the dunes.
Plants like marram grass start to grow here because they don’t need soil and can spread easily when they get buried by the sand. Even with plant cover, by their very nature, sand dunes are constantly on the move and changing throughout the year.
How a sand dune grows
Over a period of time, the plants grow and stabilise the sand. More sand blows against the pile and becomes trapped, so the mound becomes bigger. Then other species of plant move in, like sea holly and sea spurge.
Eventually, the sand becomes fixed into place and more stable, and organic matter builds up when the plants die and decay. The dune no longer looks like a huge sand heap, but is covered with greenery with a variety of plants that are specially adapted to live in places like this. The types of plants depends on whether the dune is made of shell pieces (which are alkaline) or mineral grains (which are acidic).
The sand dune environment
In terms of pH, dunes are normally alkaline in the embryo dunes at the front, becoming more acidic throughout the system as you move towards the mature community of woodland (that’s if the system has enough space).
Alkaline loving plants include creeping willow, silver weed and creeping bent grass. Acid loving plants are heathers, bell heather, sand sedge, lichens and mosses.
Because of the continual changes that take place in a sand dune, their biodiversity is constantly changing too. The plants that live in them are highly specialised to the dry and shifting conditions, and aren’t usually found in other habitats.
Some of the species of plants and animals which you’ll find in the dunes include:
- Dune Helleborine orchid
- Isle of Man cabbage
- Dune pansies
- Sea holly
- Round leaved wintergreen
- Grayling butterfly
- Mining bees
- Common lizard
- Reed bunting
Sand Dunes are a ‘Soft’ Sea Defence
The sand dunes aren’t just important to local wildlife, they are also a vital sea defence which absorbs the energy of the sea during storm conditions. The wider the dunes, the more effective they are. Many sand dunes in other UK coastal towns get eroded by rough seas. Fortunately that hasn’t happened so much in St Annes.
Enjoy exploring the sand dunes but please stick to the signed and established paths. Randomly walking through the dunes can damage them if enough people do it.
Find out More
Have a look at the homepage of the Visit St Annes website for more of the latest updates.
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