Saving the dunes at one of NI's beautiful beaches

time:2023-06-03 03:06:21source:BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation) author:Press center 1

As well as its golden sands and stunning views of the Mourne mountains and St John's Point lighthouse, Tyrella beach near Downpatrick is known for its sand dunes.

Keeping the 25 hectares of dunes together are the huge root systems of special grasses.

But with tough weather conditions and high public footfall some sections of the dunes have eroded.

To tackle that a new planting scheme has begun.

"Tyrella is a very popular beach with locals and visitors alike," said Newry Mourne and Down District Council Geopark officer Judith Hassard.

"We are in Murlough Special Area of Conservation here and the dunes are a very special feature.

"If we don't manage that activity on the dunes it can have a very serious impact.

"So what we are doing is just mitigating that impact by managing how people walk about the dunes, by fencing off certain areas and by replacing some of the grasses that have been lost.

"Some areas are more particularly eroded than others and this is one way we are protecting them."

The young grasses that are being planted at Tyrella were cultivated by Debbie Gillis who runs the True Harvest Seed Bank in nearby Kilclief.

The seed bank collects seeds from native plants before using them to help restore their habitat.

"These grasses are very special because they exist naturally on the shore," said Debbie.

"They have a huge root system which then binds together the sand dunes which stops them blowing away or being eroded.

"For example marram grass roots can go down I've heard to around 30m (98ft)."

The bulk of the work is being carried out by volunteers who are keen to protect the stunning landscape.

For accountant Hannah Keery, the initiative represented more than just a day away from the office.

"I wanted to give something back locally and help with the environment," she said.

"We are going to work very hard and hopefully do a good bit of planting.

"I haven't been here in quite a while but this coastline, down to Murlough and the dunes there as well, are certainly places I'm always keen to visit."

Now planted, it will take time for the new grasses to establish themselves.

When they do it is hoped they will protect and preserve the beauty of this amazing place - whatever the weather may throw at it.

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