At the end of January, the University of St Andrews teamed up, once again, with St Leonard’s High School in St Andrews to deliver a field trip for their International Baccalaureate students.
Dr Clare Maynard, University of St Andrews, Ranald Strachan, Fife Coast and Countryside Trust (FCCT) Ranger, and James Hutchinson, St Andrews Links Trust Environmental Officer, led the students, aged 16-17, on a walk and talk across at West Sands and along the Eden Estuary.
The students were given an insight into the sand dune restoration project at West Sands by Ranald. Where FCCT are contending with not only the enormous power of the sea and storm events but well meaning tourists and locals venturing off paths and causing damage to the dune themselves.
The northern end of West Sands sits at the mouth of the Eden Estuary; a local nature reserve, special area of conservation, a site of special scientific interest, specially protected area and Ramsar site. In summary, a very important area for plants, animals and people. The students were walked along the estuary and Clare provided an insight into her work (salt marsh restoration) and why the Eden has been given so many designations. The estuary is especially important for breeding and overwintering sea birds and harbour seals.
The St Andrews Links (the most famous and oldest golf course in the world) flanks the Eden Estuary and the salt marshes and mud flats on the Eden provide a valuable and free flood defence. However, over time the mud flats and marshes have become degraded because of human impact (this is why Clare is restoring the marsh). Because of the loss, the Links Trust have built hard flood defences to defend the golf course form the sea, salt marsh restoration will provide a more effective long term measure.
Finally, the student were taken on a whistle stop tour of the St Andrews Link by James (golf was being played and we did not want to be to much of a nuisance). We finished at the Trust’s composting area, where grass cuttings are mixed with gorse clippings to produce compost. However, as the mulch is too rich to be put on the course, the Trust give it away to the public.
The walk and talk was not just a jolly for the students, they produced an interpretation board for their school.