St Annes Sand Dunes

St Annes Sand Dunes

St Annes sand dunes are on your left, between the road and the beach, as you travel along the coast road from Lytham St Annes, heading for Blackpool.

St Annes is well known for its dunes. They stretch from St Annes pier to the boundary with Blackpool at Squires Gate. They’re an important natural sea defence and a rich wildlife habitat.

St Annes Sand Dunes
The huge St Annes Sand Dunes

St Annes Sand Dunes Project

The Fylde Sand Dunes Project run a series of FREE volunteer-led guided walks, on Lytham St Anne’s Local Nature Reserve and the surrounding sand dunes.

Sign Up

These guided walks, which take place at weekends, help you to discover the wonders of St Annes Sand Dunes which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, with the help of our passionate and informative volunteers.

Aims of the Sand Dunes Project

Lancashire Wildlife Trust, Fylde Council and Blackpool Council work in partnership on the Fylde Sand Dunes Project in order to enhance the nature conservation interest, public
appreciation and enjoyment of the dunes.

One of the big aims of the project is to improve the efficiency of St Annes 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

St Annes Sand Dunes Guided Walks 2017-18

Time: 10am – 12pm
Duration: Approximately 2 hours
Price: FREE

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)

Clothing: Please wear appropriate footwear as the ground may be uneven. Not suitable for those with mobility difficulties.

Join In

For more information about the Fylde Sand Dunes Project or guided walks please contact the team.

You can get their contact details from their Facebook page or their website

Tel: 01253 658466 (Mon-Fri).

More about the Sand Dunes Project

Amy Bradshaw is the new sand dunes officer with Fylde Council – she’s looking to recruit volunteers to help with the conservation of the dunes, and to spread the word about their importance and how we can help to look after them.

Explore St Annes Sand Dunes
Explore St Annes Sand Dunes

Everyone sees the dunes. But few realise that they are a valuable sea defence – and that 80% of Lancashire’s dunes have been lost in the last 150 years.

Amy was a marine biologist at Cumbria Wildlife Trust, and says: ‘I’ll be going into schools and meeting community groups as well as organising a range of coastal events for both children and adults.

‘People know we are using old Christmas trees to encourage the dunes to move seawards and reduce wind-blown sand on the roads, but there is a lot more to the project than that.

‘We are also removing invasive species such as Japanese knotweed, the Japanese rose, white poplar and sea buckthorn. Burnt rose plants are then used to thatch over wind-created “blowholes” – they trap the wind-blown sand and fill the holes.

‘We also plant dune grasses to prevent erosion and use fences 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.

Amy adds: ‘It’s all about enhancing the sea-defence aspect of the dunes and increasing public enjoyment of them.

‘It will be a busy few years’ work with many opportunities for the public to get involved. We already have volunteers removing invasive species and removing litter but more are needed so we can protect the dunes more.’

Why don’t you join in?

Five Year Project to Repair Damaged Dunes

Published 30.3.13

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.

More about St Annes Sand Dunes

The outer promenade heading north ends in a tight right bend in Todmorden Road before shortly rejoining the main through road of Clifton Drive, and here you can see that the dunes between you and the Blackpool landmarks beyond stand quite high in the landscape.

From the residential streets of St Annes through to Squires Gate the sand dunes form hills between you and the sea, and are 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, and turn around to look inland and you’ll see Blackpool Airport and air traffic arriving and departing.

How a sand dune begins

Dunes are built over long periods of time, from flat beaches to high hills. 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 outcompetes them as sand builds up though 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 through the year.

How a sand dune grows

Over a period of time, the plants grow and stabilise the sand, and more sand blows against this pile and becomes trapped and the mound becomes bigger, and 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 plants decay. The dune no longer looks like a huge sand heap, but is covered with greenery and has a wide range of plants that are specially adapted to live in places like this. The types of plants depend 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 and becomes more acidic throughout the system as you move towards the climax community of woodland (If the system has enough space).

Alkaline loving plants include creeping willow, sliver weed and creeping bent grass, whereas acid loving plants are heathers, bell heather, sand sedge, lichens and mosses.

Because of the continual changes that take place in a sand dune, it means that their biodiversity is constantly changing too. The plants that live in them are highly specialised to the dry and shifting conditions, and aren’t found in other habitats.

Some of the species 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
* Skylark
* Linnet
* 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 are the more effective they are, and fortunately they haven’t been eroded by the weather like they have in some parts of the country.

Please enjoy exploring the sand dunes but stick to the signed and established paths as just randomly walking through the dunes can damage them if enough people do it.

St Annes sand dunes and seafront
St Annes sand dunes and seafront

Find out More

Have a look at the Visit St Annes website homepage for more of the latest updates.

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