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AONB: Solway Coast

Coastal Dune Recovery

Restoration work on a rare coastal sand dune system with ponds has benefitted natterjack toads, great crested newts and many rare lichens and plants. These grasslands are species-rich containing wild thyme, common restharrow, lady’s bedstraw, fairy flax, yellow rattle, harebell, common bird’s-foot trefoil and wild pansy. Dune heath areas have heather with sheep’s-fescue and sand sedge with bell heather on the drier areas.

The areas managed by the Solway Coast AONB on this SSSI are all now in favourable or recovering condition which is an excellent marker of the work carried out.

For several years, the Solway Coast AONB staff team has managed a large swathe of the Silloth to Mawbray Banks SSSI on behalf of its host authority, Allerdale Borough Council. Stretching around 8km from Silloth in the north to Dubmill point in the south, the SSSI is an extensive coastal sand dune system fringing the outer Solway Firth. It is one of only three sand dune systems in West Cumbria and illustrates well the transition from vegetated shingle bank through mobile and fixed sand dune communities to dune grassland and maritime heath. The areas of acidic dune grassland and heath are of particular note as they comprise the second best example, after the Drigg coast, of this now rare and restricted habitat in Cumbria.

The management regime of these sites includes regular cutting, invasive species removal and shrub removal. Specific habitat creation and maintenance tasks include the management of pools for natterjack toads and recently work has been carried out to improve an existing pool and create a new one as well as improve the foraging and shelter sites for toads around the pool by stripping back some of the vegetation. Many tasks are carried out by the AONB volunteer group but contractors are also employed to carry out the bigger jobs.

The site is a popular place for the public to walk, play and spend their spare time so much of the work also involves the management of the public especially around car park maintenance and, at times, dissuading anti-social behaviour such as driving onto the beach, camping and fires.