World Sand Dune Day 2024

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Dorset has a wide range of distinctive landscapes but did you know that Studland has over 230 hectares of dunes and heathland?

Dynamic Dunescapes Studland June 2024 10

World Sand Dune Day is on 29th of June and we recently visited Studland to connect with nature and learn about the Dynamic Dunescapes projects which have already been put in place and their plans for future restoration.

The sand dunes here have been built up by wind-blown sand over the past 400-500 years and some are still growing at a rate of around 1m per year!  The Studland dunes are unusual as they’re made of acidic sand with very low shell content and much of the wildlife that is so unique to Studland depends on the dunes being open, sandy and constantly changing.


During the summer months they have a small herd of grazing cattle to keep some of the vegetation on the older dunes and heath low and this helps bring these areas back to the ideal conditions for dune wildlife.

Children are able to pick up an activity pack in the holidays and our kids loved using theirs which contained some laminated sheets detailing wildlife to look out for in the sand dunes, activities to do, a magnifying glass, binoculars and a bug pot which the children enjoyed filling with ants and small beetles.  You can also pick up a map from the National Trust Visitor Centre which shows you the paths you can take within the dunes and woodland areas.


If you head out of the visitor centre and you are facing the sea then you will find the vast area of sand dunes to your left.  We walked alongside the beach, spotting wild bee orchids along the way and then came across our first sign board welcoming us to the sand dunes.  It’s always nice to slow down and take in your surroundings and as we weren’t in a rush we stopped numerous times for the kids to look for bugs and to take in the incredible views.  When you reach the big sand bowl you’ll see lots of children playing games and since it’s a huge wind free sun trap you’ll also find families in there enjoying a nice picnic.  Our children loved this sandy playground and we sat down for a drink while they ran up the hill and rolled back down again!


From here we carried on our path going past mature dunes covered in gorse and birch scrub and spotted multiple species of dragonflies which indicated we were near Little Sea.  This 33 hectare freshwater lake is surrounded by dense wet woodland of willow and the area is a wonderful haven for many bird species.  Beavers have recently settled at Little Sea which is great for the area as activity can actually increase biodiversity by providing habitats for a wide range of species including fish, amphibians, mammals, water-loving plants and insects.


We walked alongside a stretch of Little Sea before going back up and over the sand dunes.  We knew sand lizards lived on the dunes but they are very shy creatures and no matter how much I tried to spot one it wasn’t to be, possibly because the children we’re often leading the way and they scarpered upon hearing their noisy footsteps.  Studland is a very important site for many bird species, including the nightjar and brown speckled meadow pipit.  The dune heath is also home to certain species of fungus and lichen, including the sand earthtongue fungus and light green reindeer lichen.


After looping around we found some picnic tables and my husband and the kids stopped for a break while I wondered into the woodland.  A couple of steps in and I looked over to a small body of water to find a sika deer looking directly at me.  We both froze and I wanted to call the kids over but I didn’t want to scare the deer away. After a few minutes of watching I messaged my son and told him to come to where I was quickly and quietly.  Bless them, they tiptoed over but they took so long doing it that the deer got bored waiting and then left me standing alone.


Why is the work by Dynamic Dunescapes so important?  Over the past 100 years, Studland’s sand dunes have become over-stabilised and have declined in biodiversity.  Climate change, air pollution and previous overprotective management have all accelerated plant growth and seen these sand dunes slowly turn into heathland and woodland. In the 1930’s about 30% of Studland Bay was bare sand, now it’s just 2%.  The aim of the project is to restore 15% of the land back to bare sand. By doing this, they will restore the landscape of the dunes and hopefully see an increase in rare wildlife that depend on such habitats.

Before leaving Studland we had a lovely lunch in the restaurant and walked to Middle Beach to find the large Seahorse Sculpture which is located up near the car park.  We also took a stroll up to Fort Henry which is a WWII observation bunker and well worth a visit.  By the time we got back to the car we were all pretty hot and tired but it was well worth it and I’ll look forward to going back again to explore areas we may have missed.

If you would like to read more about the sand dunes at Studland and to download activities which the children can take part in then please visit Dynamic Dunescapes.

If you visit Studland beach and sand dunes, please remember, take nothing but memories and leave nothing but footprints.

Dynamic Dunescapes Studland June 2024 10



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  1. Janine

    We love it at Studland - we're national trust members so visit often. We've never visited fort Henry or seen the seahorse sculpture though so I'll add those onto my list for next time. Thank you for sharing!

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