The Towans are a natural playground for local children, a sandy haven for stressed holidaymakers – and a sanctuary for a wide variety of plants and animals. Now this spectacular stretch of dunes bordering St Ives Bay is to be part of a £4m programme designed to protect threatened coastal landscapes across the country.
Sand dunes are formed and shaped by wind, but they risk becoming sterile, grassy hillocks – smothered by invasive scrub which destroy the habitats of some of our most endangered species. The Dynamic Dunescapes project, which starts in 2020, will be led by Natural England, in partnership with the National Trust, Plantlife, the Wildlife Trusts and Natural Resources Wales, and backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It aims to restore life to dunes by encouraging natural movement – reversing a decades-old approach to dune management which focussed on fencing and marram grass planting to create stability.
The project includes the removal of invasive plant species and stripping turf to create bare sand patches. It will raise awareness that healthy dunes need moving sand – there will be educational activities for local schools, and opportunities for people of all ages to carry out practical conservation work.
Natural England chairman Andrew Sells said: “We’re really excited about this fantastic project to save our dunes and give more people the opportunity to learn about our fascinating wildlife. Dunes are not only a backdrop to a day at the seaside – they are home to some of our rarest species and are in desperate need of help.”
Cornwall Wildlife Trust dunes ranger Jon Cripps said: “The Dynamic Dunescapes project is going to help all kinds of dune wildlife that many people don’t realise exist, from spider-hunting wasps to rare orchids like the marsh helleborine. We’ll be able to get loads more people out on the dunes to enjoy the wildlife, and maybe lend a hand managing the dunes, too.”
In St Ives Bay, the Dynamic Dunescapes project will be led by Towans ranger Martin Rule, and the Friends of the Towans. “It’s been a real pleasure to see how the Friends group has developed in recent years,” said Martin. “Many hundreds of hours have been willingly given already to improving the dunes’ wildlife value. Our outings are a brilliant way for local people to get outside for some useful exercise in the fresh air and to share company with like-minded people. Many new friendships have formed in the process. This project will enable us to develop this work even more, running more guided walks and practical conservation days.” Anybody is welcome to get involved – contact Martin on 07854 123877 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.