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Vital habitat management works udder-way across the Sefton Coast this winter

Belted Galloway cow on the Ainsdale dunes
Belted Galloway cow on the Ainsdale dunes. Photo taken by Green Sefton Engagement Officer John Dempsey.

Sefton Council is carrying out its annual schedule of habitat management works at key sites along the coast.

Each winter, the Council’s Green Sefton service brings grazing animals onto the Local Nature Reserves to help control vegetation growth. This, in turn, encourages diverse plant species to grow and dune specialists such as Natterjack Toads, Sand Lizards and Northern Tiger Beetles to thrive.

This year, Herdwick sheep from Cumbria alongside Belted Galloway cattle from neighbouring Lancashire have been moved on to the reserve at Ainsdale.  The animals will graze the reserves until early spring 2022.

Sign reminding beach visitors of need to keep dogs on leads.
Sign reminding beach visitors of need to keep dogs on leads, to close gates and to be mindful of the cattle and sheep during the grazing period.

Green Sefton is urging everyone to act responsibly if they visit the reserve to catch a glimpse of the special winter visitors. Dog walkers are reminded that pets should be kept on a lead and under close control within fenced grazing areas, following the Countryside Code, which can be found at www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-countryside-code

Herdwick sheep on Ainsdale Local Nature Reserve
Herdwick sheep on Ainsdale Local Nature Reserve.

Gordon White, Countryside Officer for Green Sefton, said:

“These grazing animals are an essential tool in the management of Sefton’s scientifically important sand dunes. Not only do they help us to improve the condition of the sand dune habitats, but they really help to optimise the potential of Sefton’s important natural assets.

“We urge all dog walkers to keep their pets on a lead, under close control and away from the sheep and cows they may see in the fenced grazing areas this winter – just as you would on any site or farmers field where livestock are kept.

“While they are docile animals and used to seeing people, they could be a little nervous in their new seasonal Sefton home.”

Cllr Ian Moncur, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said:

“Conservation grazing is a fantastic, cost-effective and natural way to protect our dune systems and it is great to see the animals making a return to our reserve again this winter.”

Green Sefton officers managing a controlled burn of scrub
Green Sefton officers managing a controlled burn of scrub.

Other habitat management works taking place along the coast this winter include the tightly controlled burning of invasive, non-native species. This method is used due to the terrain of the area and to ensure that damaging biomass is removed to allow for improvements to the ecology of the dune systems

Areas of scrub are cut down throughout the winter by Green Sefton rangers, with the help of volunteer groups. The stumps are then removed or burned in a controlled environment, only when weather conditions permit.

The Dynamic Dunescapes programme also continues to tackle areas of invasive non-native species at the Sefton coast, such as Japanese Rose, Japanese Knotweed and Sea Buckthorn. Different methods are used to remove these species to expose more sand and ultimately improve the dune slack habitats. More information about this partnership can be found online at www.dynamicdunescapes.co.uk/project/sefton-coast/

Cllr Moncur added:

“Sefton’s coastline is one of Britain’s most important areas for nature conservation and has the highest level of protection under UK law as a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its flora and fauna.

“On-going initiatives like this really help to enhance these important coastal ecological systems and also ensures that we are playing our part in mitigating the impact of climate change on our coast.”

Volunteer undertaking scrub removal
Volunteer undertaking scrub removal.

Gordon White added:

“We all have an obligation to protect these very special features and balancing their needs with those of our visitors can be a tricky task. Part of our role at Green Sefton is to help our communities to learn and understand how fortunate we all are to have such incredible and fantastic species right on our doorstep. Working with our communities, as well as with partner organisations on specific environmental projects, we can achieve great improvements to the condition of our wonderful sand dune habitats.

“Ultimately this will enable us to be confident that we have contributed to passing them on to the next generation in a strong condition, to continue to survive, while providing them with fascinating wildlife spectacles.”