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Last Updated:  Friday, 14 March, 2003, 11:35 GMT
Imported sand saves wildlife dunes
Talacre lighthouse
The sand dunes have receded upshore
A stretch of sand dunes which are home to some of Wales' rarest wildlfe species has been saved by a special conservation project.

An estimated 150,000 cubic metres of sand has been added to Talacre and Gronant beach, near Rhyl, to protect the dunes, where a colony of rare natterjack toads has been reintroduced.

The dunes - one of only two remaining beach dunes in north Wales - are a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and they have been under threat of erosion from high tides.

Within the last three decades, the beach's lighthouse has shifted out of the sand dune belt and is now part of the beach itself.

Now tonnes of imported sand have been placed on the beach to add protection against high tides.

Nature then takes its course by blowing some of the sand into the existing dune system, improving their stability.

Talacre beach - special species:
Scarce plants - bee, marsh and pyramidal orchids
Rare liver wort (plant) - Petal ophyllum ralfsaii
Insects - sand wasps and mining bees
Sandhill rustic moths

Natterjack toads used to live in the dunes at Talacre and Gronant but died out 40 years, before being reintroduced six years ago.

The Countryside Council for Wales has been overseeing the conservation project alongside the beach's owners, oil and gas company BHP Billiton, which has an operations base nearby.

The focus of interest is to preserve and maintain species such as the Sandhill Rustic Moth, orchids and the pink-flowered Seaside Century.

BHP Billiton's land management officer Kim Norman said it was important to maintain one of north Wales' only remaining sand dune systems.

"The dunes used to stretch right round the north coast and the rest have been bulldozed, moved or built on," she explained.

Natterjack toad
Natterjack toads are thriving at Talacre

"There is only now one other dune system on Anglesey and it is important to keep this one alive," she said.

"It is home to very rare and interesting species such as the petal ophyllum ralfsii liver wort and nationally scarce vascular plants, such as marsh and pyramidal orchids."

Ms Norman said the plants had become rarer as their habitat declined.

But the delicate eco-system at Talacre and Gronant beach has to live with some robust visitors.

It is also one of Flintshire's busiest tourist spots, with thousands of day-trippers and caravan holiday makers visiting the area.

To carry out the conservation work, tonnes of additional sand were taken from local navigation channels - under supervision from officials at Defra, the government's environment department.

Work was carried out alongside the Port of Mostyn's dredging work and the scheme had to receive approval from the Countryside Council for Wales and Environment Agency.

Flintshire Councillor Meirion Matthews, who is an executive member for transportation, planning and the environment, said it was a worthwhile idea.

"This process will be carefully monitored by the council to assess the effectiveness of the project and the merits of possibly repeating the exercise at some point in the future."

If the conservation scheme proves successful, the council may repeat the project again in future, to keep up the dune levels.

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