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28 Feb 2002

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A Wild Life!
By Trystan Simon Williams

Hello again, and welcome to my environment piece for February 2002...

What a month it has been for weather! Any promise of easing gently into spring have been dashed on an almost daily basis. Inevitably all of the wind and rain has its effect on the environment of the North West ...

Friday the 1st brought a surge of Force 7 winds and rain, as well as driving all sane residents of the region indoors this unsuspected weather wreaked havoc on our coastline. Reports of damage and destruction flooded into the environmental agencies almost as fast as the rain and sea filled the excavations made to extent the sea wall at Birkdale!

The southwesterly direction of the winds also drove the spring tides even higher than usual and at Formby Point swept away a great deal of sand from the beach and dune system. This area already suffers an average of 3 to 4 meters of erosion per year but on the 1st of February a staggering 8 to 12 meters was washed away! That's the equivalent of 3 years worth of erosion in just a single tide!

In occasions such as these concern over public safety causes the agencies to urge caution to those visiting their properties. 

I witnessed the damage caused to the dunes personally when as a volunteer at the National Trust, the visiting school group approaching the Freshfeild reserve along the beach were faced with a sheer wall of sand from the beach to the dunes. The Trust fenced off an area of particular concern whilst a contractor vehicle endeavored to reshape the approach to the beach. (see photograph). The National Trust Formby Property Manager, Mr. Andrew Brockbank informed me that the contractor would begin to remove some of the rubble and bricks and chunks of metal that the erosion had exposed on the beach, as well as restore safe access to the beach and dunes. This contractor vehicle was also scheduled to return in April once the last of the seasons high spring tides are over to continue to remove debris.

As we are likely to experience more of such weather and damage, Mr. Brockbank urged the public to take care when visiting and to check the tide times before their visit. People must take special care where sand dunes suddenly drop steeply to the beach.

This safety message was echoed by Rachel Northover, Principal Coast and Countryside Officer for the Sefton Council's Ranger Service. She explained that work had been carried out to clean up damage caused along the coast by the ranger service. Although damage had been minimal on most of the Council owned properties there had been some damage to bridges and fencing along the beach, and on nature trails such as the Velvet Trail.

Of particular concern to public safety was reports that people were parking cars toward the seaward end of the car parks, then discovering that their vehicles would not start once the salty sea water got into the engines. 

At Crosby concern for safety was caused by members of the public standing dangerously close to the edge of the Marina as the waters crashed against the side, - again areas were taped off to prevent accidents occurring.

As the weather continues to the month end, and possibly through March as well I would like to repeat the words of these agencies. Please TAKE CARE and be sensible! As much as we all enjoy our countryside, we must remember that if an area is taped off then it is done so for a reason!

Enjoy the countryside of our region, whether coastal or inland, and stay safe everyone...
Drop off.  the path on the dunes at Victoria Road Erosion in Formby.
Metal exposed on the beach on Formby beach.
National Trust walkway taped up.
Digger makes ramp to get onto beach.
Rubble under dunes exposed to the shore.

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