Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Sand dunes; unsung heroes of coastal defence

Visitors to Poldhu Beach might be shocked to discover that much of the sand has disappeared following the storms and high seas at the beginning of January, unveiling a very stony beach and lots of beach litter.  Thanks to Friends of Poldhu, the litter has all been removed, but it will take months, if not years, for the sand to re-appear.  Fortunately, the sand hasn’t gone too far, as any local surfers will be aware, there is now a rather useful sandbar just offshore, creating a tidy right hand break. 

When I first came to the Lizard 20 years ago, it was common for local farmers to quite legally remove sand from the beach.  This ancient right ‘for the betterment of the land’ probably started with a farmhand with a shovel and horse and cart.  By the 1990s, there were regularly fleets of trucks on the foreshore being loaded up by JCB, an unsustainable practice which was fortunately stamped out in 2007.  

Whilst the beach itself has lost much of its sand, the dunes behind the beach have remained remarkably unscathed.  The dunes at Poldhu are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (sssi).  They are an amazing ecosystem, not just rich in wildlife but they also provide an incredibly useful natural defence mechanism against the ravages of storms and high winds. 

The highly specialised marram grass, tolerant of salt, wind and drought, binds the dunes together with a network of tough exploratory roots, allowing the further colonisation of other specialist species until the dunes become more stable.  Windblown sand, which would otherwise be lost from the beach, is trapped amongst the vegetation, and the dunes continue to grow.  Rare and unusual plants such as sea knot grass and sea holly grow amongst the grasses.

The rare ‘sea knot grass’ (Polygonium maritium) growing amongst the dunes

The Poldhu dunes however haven’t always been so healthy.  Until the late 1980s, cars were permitted to park on the beach.  In 1987, the National Trust embarked on a dune stabilisation project.  With cars banned from the beach, with areas temporarily fenced off, marram grass was planted and timber posts were installed to assist with the trapping of sand. 

Over 25 years later, the dunes are healthy, thriving and full of wildlife.  What the recent storms have proven is that they also provide a remarkable natural sea defence, protecting the road, bridge and car park from the ravages of winter storms.

A busy day on the beach (date unknown; any ideas?)

Sand dune restoration project (circa 1987)

  - Justin

Monday, 20 January 2014

We are upgrading!

For those of you who've visited Kynance Cove in the last few years you may have noticed recently that the toilet block and car park huts are looking a little worn out and in need of updating so we've put together a new plan for those buildings. 

How the car park looked back in the 80s
Kynance car park was acquired by the Trust back in the 1980s and originally there were several buildings onsite in the car park area including a hotel. These buildings were later demolished as the National Trust concentrated on improving the landscape, the damage that erosion had caused around the upper areas of the car park and improving the visitor access to the beach. 

The Ex-Council toilet block

These days if you visit there's very little in the landscape at Kynance aside from the two car park huts and the old council toilet block. The Trust took on ownership and responsibility for the toilet block back in 2005 and since then we've worked hard to try and maintain them, however we'd like to be able to provide our visitors with better facilities. 

 Working alongside a local design firm, Boex of Porthleven we've come up with a solution. We aim to use recycled shipping containers to replace these buildings this year and provide new up to date toilet facilities and visitor information. The containers are designed to be entirely transportable units which can be lifted off site at the end of the tourist season to leave the car park landscape completely building free.

How the new visitor reception could look
 The aim is to utilise two 20ft containers that will sit in the position of the current facilities and huts. The project has been recently dubbed “Kybox” and is being led by Visitor Services and Enterprises Manager Layla Astley. “We were looking for a solution that would enable us to move buildings out of the car park each year and relieve the pressure on the landscape, the idea came when I was looking out to sea one day and realised how many cargo ships use the Lizard as an important landmark, it just seemed to fit perfectly.” 

How the new toilet block could look
Sam from Boex says “Working  closely with the  National Trust on the Kybox project has been a fascinating design journey, the project itself is going to be an exciting forward thinking challenge due to the environmental sensitivity of the area and the fact the facilities will be portable.  The key for us is to create facilities that will be iconic to Kynance Cove but sit sensitively within the landscape.”

The units that have been designed locally will also be fabricated in the Lizard area, using locally sourced materials where possible and combining this with the latest technology for renewable energy. 

If you'd like more information about the project please get in touch with us here at the office you can email or call us on 01326 561407. 

Kynance Cove


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