Shifting sands: How a single piece of legislation changed the future of Lincolnshire’s sand dunes
Stretching 40km between the Humber and the Wash, Lincolnshire’s sand hills are a stunning backdrop for any dog walk, summer holiday or wildlife snaps. The vast open landscape where land meets sky meets sea, inspires countless storytellers and has a richer heritage than you would ever believe standing atop a grassy dune.
People have enjoyed this coastline for decades and in the 1930s, improved transport by car and carriage encouraged thousands of townsfolk to the coast. Weekend multitudes congested the roads, fouled the commons and soiled the lay-bys. Squatters took claim of land, depriving locals of traditional routes to the sea, and uncontrolled construction of holiday huts and “rusty pork pies on top of the dunes” (The Louth Standard, 1931) created “eyesores and abominations”. Lincolnshire’s unique and picturesque stretch of sand dunes was under threat from the very people that came to visit it.
Approximately 50 circular, corrugated iron huts resentfully referred to as “Rusty pork pies”, were established at a holiday camp named Bohemia, near Sutton on Sea (Copyright: Lincolnshire County Council). These were let to holiday makers despite their poor drainage and “acute threat to health” (County Medical Officer of Health, 1931).
For East Lindsey County Council this was a complicated battle, one that could not be won by simply keeping people out. The sand hills were a source of immense pleasure to thousands and to prevent access would deprive people of a vital opportunity for outdoor recreation. Fortunately, some innovative thinking, tact and diplomacy gave Lindsey County Council rights through The Sandhills Act to control development on the dunes and help reconcile tourism with biodiversity conservation.
Families enjoying the sand dunes at Rimac, Saltfleetby in the 1930s.
This piece of legislation, along with the creation of Gibraltar Point National Nature Reserve, was pioneering and far-sighted in encouraging both sand dune access and protection. Key to this was understanding that people need connection to nature and nature needs people to care; recognising that while members of the public can easily exploit such habitats, they are also nature’s voice when she needs hearing over the impending noise of construction and development. We are they, people with an opportunity to explore the sand hills in all their wildness and glory, and the wildlife guardians who shout for their preservation and future.
About the Author
People Engagement Officer, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust
My background is in zoology and conservation, but my heart is in finding ways for communities to connect with nature. I’ve come to realise that people find it easier to protect what they care about, and often only care about what they have experienced. I’m thrilled to be a part of this project because it's an opportunity for more people to learn the benefits of the outdoors, discover wildlife wonders on their doorstep and help protect Europe’s most threatened habitat.