Ainsdale Sand Dunes National Nature Reserve in Southport, England - May 2009
Ainsdale Sand Dunes National Nature Reserve is a 508-hectare site comprising rare dunes, beach and woodland habitats. There are 10 kms of way-marked footpaths to follow, and so tranquil and wild is the place that you will forget within minutes that you are surrounded by one of the most urban areas in England.
The Reserve received its designation as a National Nature Reserve in 1965, and is home to a vast diversity of rare, special and beautiful species that you might not have noticed. There is the rare Natterjack Toad, whose astonishing chorus earns it the local name of ‘Birkdale Nightingale’.
There is the Great Crested Newt, Britain’s most protected species of amphibian, whose numbers are on the increase on the Reserve. Another rare species found on the Reserve is the Sand Lizard, a secretive, shy reptile that is rarely actually seen. Rare wildflowers found on the Reserve include the Dune Helleborine, Seaside Centaury and Yellow Bartsia.
As Ainsdale Sand Dunes National Nature Reserve is a legally designated Reserve, public access is restricted. Anyone can follow the way-marked footpaths marked with colour-topped wooden marker posts, but people wishing to explore the Reserve off the beaten track must apply for a Natural England general permit. These are available free of charge by telephoning the Reserve on 01704 578774. Similarly, dogs are allowed on way-marked footpaths as long as they are kept under close control at all times, but cannot be taken off the public paths. This is because of the disturbance they could cause to the rare species, birds and grazing livestock.
Natural England is here to conserve and enhance the natural environment for its intrinsic value, the wellbeing and enjoyment of people and economic prosperity that it brings.