The time of year to tackle our coast­line

Midweek Visiter - - The Sefton Coast - with John Dempsey

THE mourn­ful call of a Whooper Swan as it dropped down to­wards Ains­dale beach was an aus­pi­cious start to a busy day for the Green Sefton team re­cently.

Like the win­ter­ing Pink Footed Geese which ar­rive in Sefton in their thou­sands in au­tumn, the Whooper spends the sum­mer up in Ice­land and Scan­di­navia.

The Green Sefton team had less of a jour­ney to make though, as they ar­rived at Ains­dale for an “away day” tack­ling a va­ri­ety of dune man­age­ment and beach tasks within the lo­cal na­ture re­serve.

Green Sefton is a ser­vice cre­ated af­ter the merger of the Sefton’s coast and countryside, parks and greenspaces, ground main­te­nance and flood risk and coastal de­fence team ear­lier this year.

A team­build­ing ex­er­cise that was also good for the coast­line, the day saw staff dig­ging out new slacks, cut­ting back Sea Buck­thorn, and strip­ping turf.

Sand and turf dug from a new pool area, which will be at­trac­tive to Nat­ter­jack Toads, was used to cre­ate new dune slopes that should prove at­trac­tive to Sand Lizards – so hope­fully ev­ery­one will be happy!

Sea Buck­thorn, prob­a­bly the pub­lic en­emy num­ber one of the Sefton coast, grows quickly and smoth­ers ar­eas.

As a ni­tro­gen fix­ing plant it also en­riches the sand around it – great for a gar­den, aw­ful for a dune sys­tem!

Sea Buck­thorn is na­tive on the east coast of Bri­tain, but was in­tro­duced around the start of the 20th cen­tury here as a means of stop­ping sand blow and pro­tect­ing fields.

The tasks, at a time of year when many of our threat­ened species are dor­mant or head­ing into hi­ber­na­tion, so less li­able to dis­tur­bance, im­proves the habi­tat and keeps it open.

This means that when the beast­ies emerge next spring they read­ily find ar­eas to raise a new gen­er­a­tion of toadlets and lizards.

If veg­e­ta­tion is left unchecked, pools and open ar­eas of sands are quickly choked by scrub. These ef­forts lent a boost to the Gems In The Dunes project, part of a lot­tery­funded na­tional scheme called Back from The Brink which im­proves habi­tats for key species, like Sefton’s Nat­ter­jack Toads and Sand Lizards.

The Gems In The Dunes vol­un­teers have been work­ing hard on the site al­ready, but it never hurts to have a few more pairs of hands…

For more in­for­ma­tion about the project and up­com­ing events and to find out how to vol­un­teer with Gems in the Dunes please con­tact the team di­rectly by calling 01704 571575 or email­ing gems-in-the­dunes@arc-trust.org

Away from the dunes, the Green Sefton squad be­gan re­mov­ing “beach fur­ni­ture” in­clud­ing posts that mark out the sum­mer car park­ing area on Ains­dale beach be­fore the full fury of win­ter storms bat­ter the coast – no rest for the wicked!

The beach car park will re-open to ve­hi­cles in April next year.

● THANKS for all the in­ter­est in my next Ship­wreck Walk at Ains­dale – this event is now fully booked up.

John works for Green Sefton, the new Sefton Coun­cil ser­vice which brings to­gether the coast & countryside, parks & green spa­ces, flood­ing & coastal ero­sion, risk man­age­ment and grounds main­te­nance teams for a joined-up ap­proach to the vi­tal man­age­ment, de­vel­op­ment and over­sight of Sefton’s beau­ti­ful coast­line, parks and green spa­ces. This col­umn looks at the flora, fauna and his­tory of the coast­line, and the work car­ried out to pro­tect it.

● Above, men at work: lift­ing posts from the beach car park at Ains­dale

● Above, clear­ing an area in the dunes at Ains­dale

● In­set far left, best foot for­ward!

● Pub­lic en­emy num­ber one – Sea Buck­thorn smoth­ers sand and is a threat to dunes

● Left, some of the Green Sefton team hard at work

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