Dune turf-stripping at Askam, Cumbria
Case Study Type:
Habitat Management Case Study
Sand dune system:
Case Study Subject:
Turf stripping and Rosa rugosa removal at Askam
About The Dune System Habitat Management Intervention
About the site
Askam, Cumbria is one of 11 Cumbrian Dynamic Dunescapes Sites and is part of the Duddon Estuary SSSI. It’s a popular site for local people and dog walkers but not widely known by non-locals. The site has a rich history and is surrounded by iron-ore mining spoil heaps and collapsed shaft ponds and lakes.
It’s a small dune system that is over-stabilised through years of under grazing which have led to it scrubbing over. It has previously failed SSSI condition assessments due to a lack of bare sand, a lack of flowering annuals and scrub encroachment and invasive non-native species present.
What was the issue/change you hoped to make?
Creation of bare sand was required as was removal of invasive species and scrubbed-over areas. Engaging the public was also required to support this.
What was the suggested intervention?
Invasive Rosa rugosa to be removed and heavy machinery used to create two scrapes where turf from the surface was stripped to expose bare sand and create habitat for pioneer species.
What did you do and how?
In the winter of 2021/22, we used an excavator and a dumper to turf strip 2 areas at Askam which were made up of rank marram/burnet rose grassland with several thick stands of Rosa rugosa and little flowering annuals. The work was completed either side of Christmas and the site did look a bit like a bomb site for a while. We buried the Rosa rugosa onsite and used the spoil piles to cover it up, with spot spraying to follow.
How was the site / intervention monitored?
At this site we don’t have any project monitoring but we had a 2019 NE SSSI condition assessment prior to any works, so it will be interesting to compare to the next condition assessment post works.
What modifications, if any, did you make to your initial plan and why?
The initial plan was to dig up and burn the Rosa rugosa onsite and remove the ashes, but torrential rain at the time led to a change in plans so we buried the Rosa onsite and covered with 1m of sand.
We had always planned to follow this work up with spot spraying of any Rosa regrowth and this has happened recently and included any extra from the buried Rosa. This will continue next year. We will also be clearing scrub and restoring dune slacks this autumn and winter (2022) to complete the main capital works at the site.
Highlight any issues/obstacles & how you overcame them?
Other than the public opposition to our planned works, the main obstacle to overcome was gaining a felling license from the online Forestry Commission website. This process took 18 months and we had issues with the application website crashing which held us up. A lesson learned is that it is wise to allow much more time than the six months quoted on the Felling License Online website for an application.
How much did the intervention cost?
£3,000 for 2 plots
What size was the area of the intervention?
2 plots totalling over 0.75ha
What else went well?
How were the public and others engaged?
When the project carried out engagement activities initially to engage the local community and speak to them about planned works, there was a certain amount of negativity to the plans. The project staff held online engagement events, meeting and chat days on the beach explaining the reasons behind the work and the support from most of the community. Using this, most of the negativity has been turned around.
How were communities or volunteers involved?
Is the intervention working?
Please describe how. What has changed?
It was really pleasing when revisiting the site only six months after the turf stripping finished to see a proliferation of annual plants flowering on the turf stripped areas, many of them either not present previously or in very small numbers. One example of this Isle of Man Cabbage, which previously was rare due to very little bare sand onsite. But this year it has been flowering in numbers on the turf stripped areas along with a host of other pioneer species which were obviously present in the seed bank.
Credit: Dynamic Dunescapes: