Some people dream of living on the beach, but not if you are a plant.  The ground around your roots is unstable and moves about, the sun scorches you, fresh water is in short supply, and then there are the storms, a shingle beach is not an easy place to live if you are a plant. 

Despite all the problems, there are some plants that have adapted to beach life,  on sand, shingle or salt marshes.  Although these plants are in decline and even endangered for a number or reasons, some have made their home on our shore.

In 2012, the volunteers from Sidmouth In Bloom set out to protect our beach plant community and, with support from the Devon Plant Heritage Group, enhance it by reintroducing some beach specialist plants that were no longer here.  

Over the years, there have been stormy disasters and setbacks, but some of the plants have spread and now there are two areas giving shelter to delights such as Viper’s Bugloss with its electric blue flowers, and the deep buttery Yellow-Horned Poppy, both a rich source of food for pollinating insects.  

Since Covid, there have been fewer volunteers to look after the plants and things have got out of hand.  Some of the more robust plants such as Sea Beet now dominate the area, and some nuisance invaders such as Three-Cornered Garlic have moved in.  Also, the very important information board explaining about the plants has been blasted by wind and sun until it became unreadable.

Sid Valley Biodiversity Group has joined with Sidmouth In Bloom’s volunteers and, supported by the Town and District Councils, they are hoping to improve the area for the rare and endangered plants, and to provide better information to improve people’s understanding of why the plants are so special.  That way we will have a haven for nature that will enhance the reputation of Sidmouth among green tourism visitors. 

The area needs an initial clearance of the invading plants, some basic gardening.  If you would like to help, come along to the beach in front of the Belmont Hotel from 10-12 on Sunday 24th March.  It is very difficult to get a spade into the shingle and most of the work involves simply pulling up unwanted plants so gardening gloves and small hand tools will be a good idea.  There will be people to guide you on which plants are important and which to remove, we hope to see you there.

Ed Dolphin

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