Southport U3A

Chris Hunter – January Speaker

Chris Hunter, talks to Southport u3a about the Sefton coast

At our January meeting, Chris Hunter, a National Trust Ranger from Formby, treated us to a fascinating overview of the management of our local pine forest, our dunes and of course our much loved red squirrels, all cared for by the National Trust and Lancashire Wildlife Trust.

It seems we are living along the longest stretch of dunes in the UK, spreading 21km and enclosing a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), meaning our pine forests and dunes are pretty special.

Originally planted back in the1800s, the pine trees not only provided timber but were located behind the dunes to protect the valuable asparagus crops. Corsican and Scots pine were planted close together to ensure straight growth to the sunshine and thinned out every 10 years to ensure optimum growth. The pinewoods now support deer, foxes, rabbits, wood mice and the famous red squirrels which were introduced in the 1920s. In addition, Buzzards, Kestrels, Crows, Jays, Tawny and Short Eared Owls, together with a wide variety of rare fungi are supported by the pine forest and its under growth carpet.

The woodland management is continual, subtle but essential. Pools are dug for Natterjack Toads, bird and bat boxes constructed, scrub removed and re-planting of Holly and Hazel, ‘Dead hedging’ is constructed for the smaller rodents, bare sand maintained in the dunes, for Sand Lizards, together with suitable safe accessibility for the many walkers and cyclists visiting the areas.

southport u3a red squirrel

It’s a big job!

Chris explained that squirrel pox has sadly depleted the red squirrel population, carried by all squirrels but only dangerous to the red which cannot recover once infected. Much preservation work has taken place to support these white tail tipped Scandinavian inhabitants, with a population of around 120 at present. The best time to see the squirrels is early morning or early evening, when they are most active, but feeding is no longer encouraged, to prevent spreading any diseases and keeping them safe.

A most interesting talk and very encouraging to know our dunes and pinewoods are in such safe hands.

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