Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe Dunes, near Louth in Lincolnshire, is a very peaceful seaside spot. Instead of sandcastles, ice cream and sunbathers, there are mudflats and ponds, salt marshes, wildflowers and sand dunes.
Natural England manages the 556-hectare National Nature Reserve section, while Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust manages the remainder of the area.
When we first entered the reserve, we walked along a path through wildflower-rich grassland, encountering ponds en route. This walkway took us to the dunes and saltmarsh.
It is an important site for wildlife. We didn’t see any Natterjack toads but did come across many insects, including grasshoppers, butterflies and dragonflies.
By holding out a stragically placed stick, Simon rescued a struggling dragonfly who was in danger of drowning in one of the ponds.
We also came across two discarded dragonfly larval cases – they weren’t dead, they were skins of two nymphs (juvenile). Once the juvenile is ready to become an adult, they cast off their old skin. They are well prepared for this life-changing event, with a new skin underneath.
As well as nature’s dramas, the remnants of military history can be found on this reserve, in particular the beach… Today we can still see a corroded Comet tank and a ruined pillbox, dating from the Second World War.
The Air Ministry bought the site in the 1930s and old vehicles, that had been driven onto the beach, were used as targets. The dunes were mined and pillbox built during the Second World War as an anti-invasion defence.
Being here reveals how the landscape changes over time. It is thought that the dunes began forming in the 1200s after large storms blew sand and shingle and, even now, the tides and wind is changing the landscape slowly but surely. New saltmarsh and dunes are still being created today and Simon told me he saw a difference from the last time he was there.
At certain times of the year, seals can be found with their pups along the coast. The adult seals don’t look as cute as you might think, being big and clumsy and even a little violent with each other (the males at least). The babies are very cute but, of course, it is advisable not to go near and disturb them.
In July though, there are no seals but we did come across this poignant sight… A seal’s skull.
It is a lovely quiet area, I even came across a comment on an internet beach forum saying it was an ideal place to go for a naked walk and skinny dipping!
For more information on The Wildlife Trusts, visit http://wildlifetrusts.org