Famous dunes suffer “irresponsible” fire damage

Trust rangers discovered the fire damage at the dunes at West Sands during a visit on Tuesday.
Trust rangers discovered the fire damage at the dunes at West Sands during a visit on Tuesday.

The famous dunes at West Sands have been damaged by fire and fireworks, according to Fife Coast and Countryside Trust.

On a routine visit to the St Andrews dune restoration project this week, countryside ranger Ranald Strachan discovered a 30 metre squared patch of destroyed grasses.

He said: “Last year we had a major fire on the dunes close to the town, which was started deliberately.

“It appears once again irresponsible people are threatening the health and wildlife of the sand dunes and totally disrespecting all of the hard work and time given by local community volunteers by ignoring our pleas not to light fires or set off fireworks along West sands.’

West Sands is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a fragile natural system which offers sole protection against coastal flooding for St Andrews’ world-famous and major economic powerhouse, the Links Courses.

The Trust said the damage caused to the dunes was “a setback to all involved with the fine work and effort that had gone into the whole beach to sustain this wonderful area for future generations.”

West Sands also hosts a flock of rare breed Hebridean sheep as part of grassland management and the proximity of both the fire and the fireworks to these fenced-in animals was concerning to beach managers.

With many nights to go before November 5, Fife Coast and Countryside Trust’s litter team has spent hours clearing up the debris from improper firework use. 

Ranald Strachan added: “The dunes will repair, however incidents such as this will have to be considered in how the area is managed and sustained in future and we would strongly plead with all local community members if they witness or can influence in any positive way this irresponsible behaviour we would encourage them to report issues to the police, or to us, and we will do likewise.”