The Hightown Dunes and Meadows nature reserve stretches from Hall Road Coastguard Station to the mouth of the River Alt forms part of the Crosby Coastal Park.
Within the 150 acre (60ha) site are sand dunes, a small saltmarsh, freshwater ponds, willow and poplar scrub and wildflower meadows. These are complemented by the Alt estuary which is of international importance for shore birds.
Area and features
The dunes are older than those to the north of the Alt and are the last fragments of a much larger dune system which lay to the south of the river. Most of these former dune areas are now covered by housing and docklands. Over the last century the River Alt gradually changed course and severely eroded the coastline. Between 1913 and 1928 the coast at Blundellsands was eroding at an average of 10m per year.
On the beach, by Blundellsands Sailing Club, tree trunks and roots, of the 3-4000year old submerged forest are clearly visible lying in a peaty layer. The presence of a submerged forest indicates the dramatic changes in land and sea levels.
Much of the Sefton coast is of national importance to wildlife and Hightown is botanically very rich. The small saltmarsh at the mouth of the Alt is a miniature version of the Ribble Estuary to the north and contains many interesting plant species.
In the future the site will be designated as a Local Nature Reserve. The River Alt Estuary emerges at Hightown and is part of the Ribble and Alt Estuaries Special Protection Area (Ribble and Alt Estuaries (external link) and the Sefton Coast Special Area of Conservation. There are both national SSSI and international agreements (Ramsar) which recognise the importance of the Alt Estuary as a home to wading and shore birds.
Another interesting feature of Hightown beach is the "brick beach" which has been exposed due to weather conditions over the years. This section of beach takes its nickname from the mix of building debris from former merchants houses that fell into the sea due to coastal erosion and the remnants of buildings damaged or destroyed during the Liverpool Blitz during World War Two.
Visitors to this site are advised not to disturb the site due to the very small risks posed by white asbestos. When adverse weather disturbs the site, it is checked by Sefton Council's Green Sefton team to ensure the continued safety of residents and visitors who enjoy this stretch of coastline.