ARC's Gems in the Dune Project Manager, Fiona Sunners explains how they have been getting creative to engage new audiences with wildlife on the Sefton coast.

It’s great getting out for a walk on the sand dunes and throughout the Gems in the Dunes project it’s something we’ve done many times, inviting people to join us to discover more about the wonderful wildlife and landscape of the Sefton coast. We certainly enjoy enlightening people with facts about everything around them; toads, lizards, beetles, flowers… but that’s not for everyone, so we took a different tack and used the landscape for inspiration and to look at it in a different way, without being bombarded by 120 facts per minute!

A year and a half ago, the wonderful writer and poet Hazel Mutch led a series of walks with us through the dunes – we didn’t get far, but as the saying goes it’s quality not quantity that counts. On the walks we wandered along stopping here and there to look at our surroundings and write down words to describe what we saw, what we heard and how we felt. We looked out wide and right down close adding more words until short stories or poem had formed.

That seems so long ago, so we invited Hazel to join us once again – this time virtually, as we held our creative writing event online. The coast was still our inspiration and a series of images over time provided the inspiration for ‘The Long Story – looking at the dunes through time and space’.

Ainsdale 28 sept 2018
© North West Coastal Monitoring Programme

A few words from ourselves, briefly set the scene about the project and what we are doing but then Hazel took over, showing us this image (right) she asked us to imagine ourselves as a character looking down on it, and who were we and what did we see?

The imagination is great and everybody saw something different from a ‘Toblerone and coffee ice cream’ to an ‘alien landscape and wondering where might be safe to land’ and even ‘an angry dragon upset there was nothing to flame’!
Simply writing a list of ten words of things found on the beach led one of our attendees Ian to create a great poem:

Life On The Beach

Shadows of dogs
Reflections of logs
In the pools on the sand
Shells coloured in bands
Rigs and brine
Twigs and twine
Float over the sea
Their ripples spread closer to me

Participants will be back for the another two session, where our focus will be ‘Secrets in the Sand – the hidden lives of creatures in the dunes’ and ‘Wild Wonders – the astonishing plant-life and fungi of the dunes’. All these sessions are fully booked, but thanks to our NLHF funding, as part of the national Back from the Brink programme, we’ll be running more similar events, so checkout our events page for what’s coming up, but in the mean-time take a look at Hazel’s blog