The dunes are home to over 450 plant species including 33 that are locally or regionally rare like petalwort, seaside centaury, yellow bartsia, round-leaved wintergreen, dune helleborine and pendulous flowered helleborine.
Where: Merseyside, Sefton Coast
Main habitat: Coastal sand dunes
Why visit: the reserve is one of the most important wildlife sites in England, and a place where visitors can get close to nature. The landscape is perfect for a leisurely stroll through the magnificent scenery of dunes, pinewoods and golden sands, while children can enjoy the wide open spaces of the huge sandy beaches.
Star species: this is one of the best remaining strongholds of the rare natterjack toad, Europe’s loudest amphibian. Red squirrels can occasionally be seen in amongst the reserve’s pine forests too, while sand lizards, great-crested newts and a fantastic variety of orchids and other wildflowers can also be found here.
Access: The reserve has a network of around eight miles of footpaths marked with coloured topped posts. The Woodland Path and Fisherman’s Path are accessible by bike, pushchairs and wheelchairs, and there is an accessible picnic area to take a well earned rest along Woodland Path.
Other nearby attractions: Sefton’s Natural Coast is one of the most unspoilt coastlines in the country, with plenty to see and do. There are a number of Local Nature Reserves along the coast, as well as the National Trust reserve at Formby, and RSPB Marshside to the north of Southport pier. For something a bit different you could take a look at ‘Another Place’, the award winning iron men sculptures that are dotted across Crosby beach.
The dunes of the Sefton Coast cover a large area, some parts of which are relatively remote, and it is possible to become disorientated.
The reserve adjoins a large urban area but it can still be very quiet and isolated. For your personal safety, if you are visiting on your own, you are advised to ensure someone else knows where you have gone and roughly what time you will be back.
Rabbit burrows are common, and soft sand can give way easily under foot. Mossy slopes can also be slippery, so sturdy footwear is recommended. Strong winds can cause trees or branches to fall, and blowing sand can get into the eyes. Please take special care when wind speeds gust in excess of force 7.
Large areas of the reserve are also exposed to the sun and rain with little shelter. Please come prepared and always check the weather forecast before your visit. If you wish to visit the beach please also check the local tide timetable.
Visitors are asked to respect any warning signs on site, particularly those warning of dangerous management operations such as tree felling.
During dry weather conditions there is also a high risk of fire on site. Please do not smoke near to pine needle litter or long grass, and not to discard cigarettes or empty bottles. There are no bins provided on site, so please come prepared to take all your litter home with you.
Ainsdale Sand Dunes NNR
2 West End Lodge
Merseyside PR8 3QW
Tel: 01704 578774