I was ready for a new and wonderful adventure and walk. I was to take in a walk around the coastline of the Dee Estuary, starting at Prestatyn and eventually ending up high on the Wirral Peninsular at Hoylake. Variety was ahead as I made my way round, so much to see and learn. I have broken down each stage of the walk on these pages starting today with stage one, Prestatyn to Talacre and Point of Ayr Lighthouse.
The exact start point was Barkby Beach, Prestatyn. A wonderful start point to be honest, staright on to the top of the dunes. At my particular point of arrival it was high tide so not much beach to be seen, but the dunes are somewhat special in themselves. A wooden walkway helps accessibility for many along the sandy dune tops.
I was joined for this section by a local expert, Andrew Earnshaw and his dog, Ellie, who obviously knew the area and walkways very well, showing the way.
The first section is in the Welsh County of Denbighshire and the Dunes are managed in part by Denbighshire Countryside Services. The proper name for the area being Gronant Dunes. I could not believe how quiet it was to say that the area is home to some of Wales’ most rare wildlife species.
These dunes are the only place you can find Little Terns nesting in Wales so a great effort is made to look after this area. You may also know, if you watch Springwatch etc, that this were you can find elusive and rare Sand Lizards. I never saw any on my walk through but I do believe with more time available in the area that I will see some as the season warms up. A return trip in order.
I did manage to catch (quickly and unsteadily) the above Egret wallowing in the marshy ponds amongst the dunes. There were 2 or 3 of them about to be honest, showing how rich this place can be. And so peaceful.
I was making mental notes all along that I need to come spend a few days here sometime with camera. For today though it was onwards and ahead along the dunes system. The sea rippling to my left and dunes with water catchments to my right, wonderful!
I mentioned Denbighshire but of course I was heading all along to Talacre this morning. The Wales Coast Path I was on, seamlessly took me into Flintshire and the dunes are helped to be looked after by Flintshire Countryside Services. Both services must work together well to keep all maintained as well as a lot of hard work on conservation.
The rare species do not stop at the ones I have mentioned above either. A lot of the ponds amongst the dunes are home to Natterjack Toads. A very rare and protected species indeed. I could see some hard work from volunteers taking place as I walked. The Common Toad is larger and more invasive than the Natterjack, plus as the Common Toad tadpoles grow first they can eat the Natterjack spawn. Much effort is made to remove the common toad spawn early to other ponds and thus allow both to have much of their own space whilst preserving the rare Natterjacks.
With the whole area scarce with people I did find it both refreshing and beautiful along this stretch of coast. The scenes amongst the dunes with the sea behind made the miles pass by without thought of time or distance. Every now and then though I met some wonderful characters also enjoying the area.
Eventually, as the path reached the top of one of the dunes I could see Point of Ayr Lighthouse (otherwise known as Talacre Lighthouse) ahead. The most northern point of mainland Wales. It was time for a diversion to go directly onto the beach for the walk in and discover more.
Point of Ayr Lighthouse was erected in 1776 as a warning to ships on the Welsh side of the entrance to the Dee Estuary. It was decommissioned in 1884 and has been owned privately for a long time since. It is hard to believe when you first see it, that it was once surrounded by the dune system. In fact there are people around today that will remember Point of Ayr Lighthouse not being so isolated on the beach. Shows how fast and how much sand dunes move and change with time.
In fact, the dunes behind the lighthouse hides some not so distant past. The dunes have quickly taken over old building and houses that once sat proudly on the sea front. Chimneys and stone you may come across as you pass.
Alas, it was time for a lunch break before my next leg, heading off to Flint, the lighthouse a perfect stop for a little pause. The next leg would see a change in coastal landscape and history….