The National Trust celebrate 50 years at Formby
PUBLISHED: 00:00 17 June 2017 | UPDATED: 10:39 18 June 2017
The National Trust at Formby celebrates 50 years of glorious beaches, dramatic sand dunes, sweeping pinewoods and fascinating wildlife. Rebekka O'Grady visits to talk to those who protect this special coast
with an ever-changing landscape right on our doorstep, the National Trust at Formby has been a much loved destination for visitors and locals alike for 50 years. The celebrated site of 210 hectares, home to rare wildlife, prehistoric footprints and miles of coastal walks, has been cared for by the charity since 1967.
It was safeguarded through the Neptune Fund, set up specifically to purchase and protect coast around the UK. Formby’s special birthday also coincides with Sefton Council’s ‘Year of the Coast’ – meaning there’s no better time to visit one of the North West’s most stunning areas.
‘It’s a fantastic, precious and fragile site. What’s more amazing is that we’ve spent the last 50 years looking after it. What the National Trust has done here is a real achievement,’ said Kate Martin, who is an area ranger.
She has been at Formby for nearly eight years, but has always been interested in nature and aspired to be a coastal ranger from a young age.
‘The day-to-day management of the area is huge. As a ranger, we need to make sure the site is clean and tidy not only for visitors but the wildlife too. Habitat management is so important, especially as we have so many different zones, from the woodlands and dunes to the beach and grassland. We are always improving as we want to make the best homes for the wildlife at Formby.’
For many people, a trip to Formby is the chance to catch a glimpse of a red squirrel in the woodlands. One of the 17 red squirrel strongholds in the north of England, the plantation conifer woodlands here make a good habitat for the native reds as they like to feed on the seeds found in the pine cones.
However despite the area’s fame for the red squirrel, it is also home to a number of other rare animals including the natterjack toad. This mysterious, nocturnal amphibian and can be found in dune pools, or slacks, on warm nights during their breeding season from April to July. They share their home on the dunes and grasslands with the sand lizard and great crested newt.
‘My favourite aspect of Formby is the dunes. I love them,’ said Kate. ‘They’re internationally recognised as being so important for wildlife. It’s a very special area which is dynamically changing all of the time.
Formby National Trust
Volunteer squirrel feeders Helen and Brian Argent
The 50th birthday cake created by Formby-based cake designer Lisa Lill, who runs Cake Amour by Lisa
Some of the woodland at the National Trust at Formby
Justin Matthews (NT Ranger), Kate Martin (Area Ranger), Sally Orritt (Visitor Experience Officer) and John Phillips of Formby Civic Society with a birthday cake featuring fondant models of the pine woods, the dunes and the wildlife, made locally by Lisa Lill
Visitor Experience Officer, Sally Orritt, is cheered on by NT volunteers and staff as she cuts the 50th birthday cake, created by Formby-based cake designer Lisa Lill
‘Not many people can say they get to see and do the things I do everyday, and for that I am very proud of what we do here.’
Kate admitted that it’s hard to say what the area would be like now if the National Trust hadn’t got involved, but it’s so important that it’s been preserved for future generations. This coast line is protected by many different people, who in turn work in partnership to ensure the area is kept a special place. It was also recently announced that the Trust is in conversation with the council about the possibility of caring for an additional 204 hectares of land, currently managed by the authority.
‘We couldn’t do it without our dedicated staff, volunteers and the support of our local community who work so hard to help care for the coast, managing it and maintaining it for generations to come,’ said fellow ranger, Justin Matthews. ‘We’re looking forward to the next 50 years and hope that everyone will join in the celebrations by coming along to one of our events happening throughout the year or just taking time out to enjoy this special place.’