The recent tide of pollution, sewage and algae blooms have got us to raise our voices to protect our outdoor spaces, government and big industry need to start acting responsibly. But also, so do we. It can be easy to think that individually our walk, swim or hike is insignificant but, perhaps not.

We joined the Protect Our Dunes campaign at Magheraorty Beach;

Exploring rock pools and learning about their inhabitants followed by a construction competition that was fiercely fought by each family group. The aim; to build not only a sand castle but a sand dune system to protect it from the wild winter storms.

David McCann of Leave no Trace and the Sea Collective
©Paul McCambridge

Marine biologists David and Cat McCann took the families on a sea shore safari, describing the lifestyles and habits of each creature we found. With excitement and a wonderful story-telling ability, David told the families how barnacles start life floating around like tiny pieces of plankton. As they mature, they search for a rock with other barnacles as they like to be en masse. When they find a suitable rock, they bash their heads into it releasing a glue that sticks them onto it. They raise their legs and a shell forms around them. A strong trap-door at the top, closed tight when the water retreats, opens each time the sea returns, the barnacle extends its legs to wave in the water and trap it’s food!

3 year old Eoin exploring with William of Leave No Trace
©Paul McCambridge

While the children were encouraged to explore these rock-pools and examine the creatures, Cat and David explained how important it was to replace the animals back to the pool they had discovered them in saying;

“If that fish you lifted from the rock-pool was guarding eggs and you put it back into a different pool, who would guard the eggs?”

Cat McCann of Leave No Trace and The Sea Collective
©Paul McCambridge

Another key point was, if you are going to explore the shore, go an hour or two before low tide. You can easily get so absorbed that you lose track of time and get caught by the incoming tide!

With suggestions of seaweeds that are good to eat, one seemingly like salty raisins and another a replacement for lasagne – that may be another day’s foraging.

Moving from the rocky shore to the beach and guidelines for the competition were explained.

The Ferry family construction site…
©Paul McCambridge

Each family would have 40minutes to build their sandcastle and a dune system to protect it. The castles would be judges on their architecture and on how well the dunes protected them from the storm that was David and a large bucket of sea water!

Moya, the Community engagement officer from Life on Machair was called into judge alongside William from Leave No Trace.

Impressive structures were forming; a pirate’s castle complete with an angry pirate at the door, a huge turtle with stones to form his shell, a small town beneath a replica of Errigal Mountain and two towers with a bridge connecting them. All protected with huge walls of sand, rock, grass and seaweed.

©Paul McCambridge

Not one succumbed to Storm David!

©Paul McCambridge
Belle Harkin putting on the finishing touches
©Paul McCambridge

There are several of these roadshows around Ireland to promote awareness of how important and delicate our dunes are and how we can protect them. The grasses that allow the dunes to form are vulnerable to being trampled, only seventy steps on a piece of grass will kill it – if the grass dies the dune cannot hold its form and the sand shifts. No more protection from the wind and sea.

©Paul McCambridge

Our first act can be to walk only on the designated paths and boardwalks.

Roadshows this weekend:

Grattan Beach, Salthill, Galway City – Saturday 26th August

Keel Beach, Achill Island, Co, Mayo – Sunday 27th August

Happy shore exploring!