Restoration works for Formby Dune Heath Triangle has been postponed
The habitat restoration works proposed for The Triangle at Freshfield have been postponed until October 2018. This is because there was a hold-up with the Felling Licence. We now have a Felling Licence but the decision was taken to postpone the works because we wanted to give local people sufficient notice and to complete the works before the bird-nesting season.
Had we tried to get the work done before the end of February, the information boards that we have prepared would only have been up a matter of days before the work started and we did not think this was very fair.
Scrub invasion Triangle June 2009
Managed heathland, Freshfield Dune Heath Nature Reserve August 2012
Dune heath management
With their vistas of purple heather, upland moors were highlighted in August by the media celebrating the “Glorious Twelfth”. However, we also have precious lowland heathland on the Sefton Coast in the form of dune heath, one of the rarest of our wildlife habitats.
As all gardeners know, heather needs an acid soil. It takes about 300 years for the lime derived from sea-shells in dune sand to be washed out by rain so that the sand becomes acidic enough for heather to grow. Dune heath forms along the inner edge of the sand-dunes but most of it was built on in the past, leaving fragments at Freshfield, Woodvale, Larkhill and on the Formby, Formby Ladies and Southport & Ainsdale Golf Courses. Their importance for nature is recognised by Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Area of Conservation designation. But, if un-managed, dune heath is quickly invaded by scrub and the heather is shaded out. One dune heath site affected in this way is the Montagu Road Triangle, extending from the north end of Montagu Road, Freshfield, to the Fisherman’s Path railway crossing. Its SSSI/SAC status is threatened by scrub invasion and, if de-notification became necessary, it would greatly reduce legal protection against development.
Habitat mosaic Freshfield Dune Heath NR August 2017
Management of the Triangle dune heath has largely relied on volunteers doing small amounts of scrub-cutting. Birch scrub, in particular, has become a real problem in the site due to its rapid growth. Recently, some birch scrub was used to build hurdles on Aintree Racecourse. However, this hasn’t been sufficient to control the scrub and there is now an opportunity to restore the heathland through a programme of scrub removal and turf-stripping. The latter is used to take off the nutrient-enriched top soil, making it easier to return to dune heath. A block of pines which supports Red Squirrels and several mature oaks will be left in situ. The aim is to create an attractive landscape with open glades forming a patchwork of heather, gorse, broadleaved woodland and conifers. About 1.5ha (3.7 acres) will be turf-stripped avoiding straight lines and harsh edges. These areas will then be re-seeded with heather cuttings. It is hoped to start scrub removal in the coming winter, any noise or disturbance being kept to a minimum and safety notices displayed. Subject to availability of funding, turf-stripping will take place the following year.
Perhaps one day Formby honey or mead produced from dune heath heather will be as celebrated locally as asparagus. There will be opportunities for local volunteers to get involved with mapping dune heath on the Sefton Coast in 2018.
For more information, please contact Margaret Dickinson
Top photo is of the Montagu Road Triangle in August 1982