Sands of Time Title
This site provides detailed information on the sand dunes of the Sefton coast in North West England
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Coastal Change
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Dune Growth and Erosion

At Formby Point there was extensive coastal erosion during the eighteenth century up to about 1830. This trend reversed dramatically in the mid-nineteenth century, when Formby Point moved out (accreted) about 300 metres around its whole arc. Landowners at the time took advantage of this period to assist the advance of the dune front by means of sand trapping fences and dune management, mainly the planting of marram grass. The remains of some fences can still sometimes be seen today on the beach near Fisherman's Path, Ainsdale.


Although the Altcar sand dunes and the dunes to the north of Ainsdale Sand Dunes National Nature Reserve are now accreting (moving out towards the sea), the sand dune system around Formby Point has experienced continuous erosion throughout the twentieth century.

Animated image showing the changing coast at Formby Point 

The balance of evidence suggests that the present phase of erosion was primarily triggered at the end of the nineteenth century by a significant increase in the frequency of storm force westerly winds and destructive waves. The erosion was compounded by the effects of dredging, spoil dumping and training wall construction which significantly altered the bathymetry (shape of the seabed) in Liverpool Bay, leading to increased wave energy focusing on Formby Point.


This focusing is greatest to the north of Wicks Lane, (between Lifeboat Road and Victoria Road at the National Trust site). It particularly affects the National Trust frontage. Today the erosion rate is greatest at the boundary between the National Trust site at Formby and the Ainsdale Sand Dunes National Nature Reserve, with an average loss of approximately 4.5 metres per year over the past 20 years (1999 figures). Individual erosion events often result in a short-term loss of several metres. These events are generally transitory and conditions then settle back into the long-term trends identified.


Part of the Crosby and Southport shoreline has been partially fixed by coastal defence work. However, the natural forces remain at work and sand drift at Crosby is tending to bury parts of the sea wall, whilst sand dunes are developing in front of the sea wall north of Weld Road, Birkdale, near Southport. From Hightown to Birkdale the coastline is in a more natural condition, with generally wide sandy beaches still backed by an extensive system of sand dunes.

A dune ridge forming at Birkdale beach
New dune ridge forming at Birkdale beach - 1993

At Southport the movement of sand is from the south to the north. Beach levels are rising which, in turn, encourages the development of vegetation. This movement of sand has also led to the formation of a new dune ridge running the length of the beach from Ainsdale to Birkdale.

For more information about this project email at Liverpool Hope University.
  Go to the site of Liverpool Hope University    

Liverpool Hope University worked with English Nature and the
Sefton Coast Partnership to implement the Sands of Time project.