Sefton Coast IPA
Location: The River Ribble estuary, south of Lytham St. Annes and north of Crosby, to the north of Liverpool. The A565 north from Liverpool runs to its east.
Grid Reference: SD 302 106
Sefton Coast IPA has been recognised as one of 165 Important Plant Areas in the UK.
The key features of this IPA are:
Dunes with creeping willow;
Very young mobile dunes;
Humid dune slacks;
Shifting dunes along the shoreline
The Sefton Coast lies between the estuaries of the Mersey and Ribble in north-west England. Its sand dunes, beaches and marshes hold some of the most important areas in Europe for bryophytes, vascular plants and stoneworts.
The extensive foreshore zone is part of the Liverpool Bay complex of estuarine habitats and the sand dunes form the largest dune system in England. Habitats include embryo dunes, mobile dunes, fixed dunes, dune slacks, dune scrub and dune heath.
Plants you could see
The fixed dunes are dominated by marram, but red fescue with sand sedge and dewberry are frequent, along with seaside centaury, restharrow, kidney vetch, carline thistle and the nationally scarce Portland spurge. Bee and pyramidal orchids may also be found and the nationally scarce dune helleborine and the nationally rare grey hair-grass.
Dune slacks are present throughout the coast but particularly in the north and often dominated by creeping willow. Where they are more intensely grazed, they contain a greater diversity of flora including green-flowered helleborine, variegated horsetail and round-leaved wintergreen. Uncommon species, including marsh helleborine, small-fruited yellow sedge, few-flowered spike-rush, marsh pennywort, glaucous sedge, sneezewort, water mint, grass-of-Parnassus and early marsh orchid can also be found.
The nationally scarce Baltic rush is found at its only English location in a dune slack at the north end of the Birkdale Hills, and the slacks provide a habitat for the nationally rare moss Bryum neodamense and the nationally scarce liverwort petalwort.
A damp, species-rich dune grassland is found on the Altcar firing ranges, and supports a large colony of green winged orchids.
Small areas of saltmarsh and reedbed are present near the mouth of the Alt, characterised by common saltmarsh-grass, creeping bent, spear-leaved orache, glasswort, sea arrowgrass and common cord-grass. Saltmarsh is also found on the beach at Birkdale, where it is dominated by common saltmarsh-grass.
Image: Formby Beach © Gavin Wray under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0