In praise of bare sand

At Forvie we do a lot of bare sand. The Forvie sand dunes are some of the most active in the UK. What is an active sand dune? Does it move? Well yes that is the whole point. At Forvie there is a combination of sand washed ashore from the seabed where it was dumped by the ice age, and wind that blows the sand off the shore and across the land. And we have lots of sand and lots of wind. This has lead to dunes of bare loose marching across the landscape through history. But when the sand reaches a place out of the wind, in the lee, then it becomes stationary and then it can be colonised by plants. Marram grass is often one of the first and it offers shelter for other plants and mosses to move in afterwards. There is a whole succession of different plants that grow in the different stages and aspects of the dunes. This range of niches for plants and the animals that use them, from bare sand to well vegetated stable dunes means that a dune system can hold many more species of different types.

So any dune system always need dynamic bare sand so that there is a constant creation of new habitats. If the whole dune system is stabilised all of the species that use the early stages of succession are heading for extinction. So at Forvie we welcome bare sand as it means we will be passing dunes onto future generations.

At the south end of the reserve opposite Newburgh is an enormous bare dune of sand that is resolutely marching north with the prevailing wind. It is an amazing place to be on a windy day. The quantity of sand on the move and the energy that it does so has to be seen to be believed. The whole of the surface of the dune seems to be shimmering and sand is in the air, in your hair, in your clothes and in your lunch. Now that is a dynamic landscape. Above is the face of this dune which is gradually moving over the top and enveloping older dunes are in grinds forward.

The landscape at the south end of the reserve is constantly changing – each day it can look different and footprints can disappear on windy days in minutes. And the sand dominated land has an ever changing beauty with striking pictures to be seen in the distance and close-up.

But further south from Forvie is another part of the dune system, the Menie links that is being turned into golf course. Here part of the site has been stabilsed and just about all of the bare sand features no longer exisit. So the various stages of dune formation have been lost and for that reason it is being proposed that the site no longer has enough nature conservation interest to be designated as an SSSI.

You can read more about why the Menie golf course part of the Forveran Links SSSI is being proposed to be denotifed here.

Quite simply with sand dunes all green is not good, you need green and yellow to maintain dunes for future generations. .