#YCW2020 – Take a dose of nature’s medicine at Tentsmuir

Tentsmuir NNR is a magical coastal reserve, with dynamic dunes and a vast foreshore that looks different at every visit.  The reserve includes Morton Lochs – inland lochs which provide great habitat for a range of birds, butterflies and red squirrels. Water and coasts are definitely at the heart of our work at Tentsmuir NNR, which makes the Year of Coast and Waters 2020 even more special and worthy of celebration. Graduate placement, Marijke Leith, tells us more…

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A view of the South Loch at Morton Lochs – part of Tentsmuir NNR, ©Tom Cunningham/SNH

Dynamic dunes

Tentsmuir Point is in a period of accretion the opposite of erosion where sand is being deposited onto the beach and extending it seaward. Succession is now taking place on the bare sand, with marram grass already growing. Marram grass grows in clumps and has an extensive root network that gives the sand stability. If conditions remain favourable and this continues, it could see new sand dunes forming, but only time will tell.

Seeing these processes happening naturally is amazing and brings what I learned in secondary school biology to life! The sand dunes here also provide great research opportunities for universities and schools to come and study sand dune succession. Dollar Academy students (pictured below) visited the reserve to gather data on ground vegetation cover along transects of the dunes and also soil samples, to later be used in their Environmental Science projects.


Dollar Academy students collecting data and samples.

Group visits to Tentsmuir

As well as educational visits from schools and universities, there are many other visits by community groups. These group visits are about giving a great outdoor experience and learning about the history of Tentsmuir.  For many people this inspires them to return unguided with their families and friends. Often with the visits from ethnic minority groups, some have not been to the beach before, which makes walking to the edge of the water quite an experience, and in some cases leads to impromptu dancing! Lots of the women say that they would like to bring their families back and we are now planning a family day in June, for the Dundee International Women’s Centre and their families.

Another group that we were more than happy to welcome was the Green Health Prescription Group. This is a project managed by Dundee City Council and NHS Tayside, where patients can be prescribed with nature-based intervention to benefit their health. We were delighted to be one of the prescribed options and a group of 10 came out to enjoy a 2 hour walk. We saw lots of wildlife including oystercatchers, grey seals, goldfinches and mistle thrushes. One lady described the walk as “exercising without feeling like you’re exercising”. I think this is significant and shows how being out in nature can have multiple benefits without us even realising it.


Four for the Shore

Litter pollution is a hot topic and has devastating impacts on wildlife, so we decided to take action with our new initiative ‘Four for the Shore’. Four for the Shore gives the public visiting Tentsmuir NNR the equipment needed to collect four pieces of litter (or more) from the foreshore or dunes, and provides designated areas to deposit the equipment and litter at the end of their visit. The litter can be deposited in the fish boxes next to the cabinets and we regularly patrol the sites to remove the litter and either reuse, recycle or dispose of it.

The boxes were made by our volunteers, using leftover wood from previous projects on the reserve. Inside the cabinets we used old tool handles to create pegs that the canvas litter bags can hang on. So far we have had positive feedback and on our launch day with the Dundee Healthy Minds Network we collected multiple bags of litter and the group were surprised at how much can be found on what appears to be a clean beach! Although it’s great that we are removing litter from the environment, we hope over time  that people will become more responsible for their waste and not leave litter to be picked up in the first place.

We also have a variety of events planned to celebrate the Year of Coast and Waters 2020. This includes a poetry event, Easter crafts, a dragonfly pond dipping day and summer bushcraft, with more to be confirmed! For up to date information, like us on Facebook – Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve.


See our website for more information about Tentsmuir NNR.

All photos (except the top image) ©Marijke Leith.


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