It’s turning into dune world

WHAT a shock it was to visit the beach at Landguard and see the astonishing changes there.

For centuries this has been an amazing deep shingle shore, energy-sapping to walk along and home to rare coastal plants and nesting birds.

Now – in the space of just over a year – it has been transformed.

Where crunching shingle stretched for the best part of a mile, it’s now sand and a mix of sand and shingle. The special habitat that was there has been destroyed.

The sand which has arrived is that sand which was placed on the beaches between the pier and the funfair last year as part of the �10 million sea defence scheme – eroded by the waves and then swept ashore a few hundred yards south at Landguard.

But should sand have been used to replenish those beaches at all?

When I was a child Felixstowe beach was purely pebbles.

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They hurt your feet when you ran down to the sea – and the water’s edge was the only place, at low tide, you could find a bit of sand to build a sandcastle.

It was great to be beside the seaside but I longed for those trips to Yarmouth, Clacton and Hunstanton and miles of yellow sand.

So when it came to replenishing the beaches, did the experts who designed the sea defences calculate the impact placing hundreds of thousands of tonnes of sand on the south beach would have on precious Landguard’s beaches?

Or was it simply that sand was the material which would create a great beach to attract visitors? That was the view of some councillors I spoke, too – there was a “trade off” and Landguard lost.

Of course, sand was the cheaper option, too.

The influx of sand is already killing rare plants, and wind is sweeping the sand inland so it is encroaching on the fragile grassland – home to many more rarities and in spring a carpet of colourful wildflowers and a haze of butterflies – and creating sand dunes.

The fear is this will continue as winter storms rake more sand from the south beach – and eventually will suffer even more damage as south beach is replenished and the process will happen all over again.

Shingle beaches could return at Landguard, but we are talking many years, possibly decades.

By then we will have lost many of our special species and visiting birds – which is devastating as this could have been avoided.