Call to protect one of town’s greatest assets

St Andrews West Sands.
St Andrews West Sands.

A project to help protect one of St Andrews’ greatest assets has been unveiled, which it is hoped will catch the imagination of the local community.

The dunes on the award-winning West Sands beach are the first line of protection for the town’s world-famous golf links - including the Old Course, venue for the sport’s oldest Major, the Open, in 2015 - and require significant restoration.

In recent years the dunes have suffered badly from erosion caused by strong winds, wave action and, most specifically, people.

Small in extent, the dunes are nevertheless important not only as a part of a renowned landscape and recreatiomal area, but for their bioversity.

In the spring of 2010, over 6000 tonnes of sand was moved from the outhead, at the mouth of the Eden Estuary, to the mouth of the Swilcan Burn at the Bruce Embankment. The original plan was to move 3000 tonnes of sand but this had to be doubled owing to substantial erosion caused by storms.

EROSION

It was followed by the transplanting of marram and sea lyme grasses from other areas of the dunes at West Sands to prevent wind erosion.

The dunes are very popular with the many thousands of visitors who come to the beach every year and, over time, they lose the vegetation that binds the sand, which makes them very susceptible to wind and wave action.

St Andrews Links Trust, which administers and looks after the golf courses, is working in partnership with Fife Council and the Fife Coast and Countryside Trust to help in the reinstatement initiative and has called on the public to help.

A trust spokesman told the Citizen: ”The biggest task to be undertaken is the planting of marram grass to stabilise the sand and this is where we require help from the community.

OPERATION

“We hope that golf club members and townspeople may have a few hours spare where they can come and assist other organisations from the town in this work. No experience is required, it’s a very straightforward operation.”

The ongoing programme will take place on March 28, April 18, May 9 and 26 and June 13 and 22.

The meeting point on March 28 for those wishing to take part is at the Swilcan dune on the West Sands - the coach park opposite the links’ clubhouse car park - at 10am and work will carry on until around 3pm.

For anyone arriving after 10am the planting is taking place a little further out the West Sands on the sea side of the dunes in the fenced off area between the entrance to the Jubilee greenkeepers’ facility and the playpark.

The West Sands is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and its extensive sand dunes stretch for almost two miles. The beach was used for the opening sequences of the Oscar-winning film, Chariots of Fire.