An afternoon at Coatham Dunes 21st June

Posted on 21st June 2015

Rather windy and chilly for mid-summers day but fortunately the occasional black cloud scurrying across the sky did not rain on us.

We started by looking at some yellow-flowered plants in the Brassica family growing on the waste areas at the edge of the caravan park; Perennial Wall-rocket, a well-established alien in the area turned up later in the dunes as did the tiny Biting Stonecrop a succulent-leaved native that can grow in dry bare areas. Walking along the path by the side of the caravan park we saw the flower spikes of Great Lettuce, a surprisingly spiny relative of the garden lettuce and then Horse-radish, a young Apple tree and a large patch of Spearmint of which the latter three were possibly there as garden escapes or in the case of the apple tree, a discarded apple core from a visitor.

Walking along the edge of the golf-course we stopped at the pond to see the large buttercup like flowers of Greater Spearwort a rare pond plant in our area and we were to see its more common and smaller relative, Lesser Spearwort, later on. Some turfy areas between the dunes and the golfing greens yielded Quaking-grass, the semi-parasitic Yellow-rattle, Salad Burnet and a few plants of pink Sainfoin. The blue-green leaved Lesser Meadow-rue was spotted first in bud and then in full (and possibly slightly underwhelming…put it this way, everyone was distracted by a baby toad at the time I pointed out the flower and I’m not at all bitter about it just because I rather like the flowers on Lesser Meadow-rue and you could see a toad just about anywhere, right? I digress…) flower.

Onto the dune slacks where in the lower damper ground many Northern Marsh-orchids could be found.


The locally rare Few-flowered Spike-rush was growing well around the well-trodden path and the tiny pink-flowered Sea Milkwort carpeted a small area nearby.


Few-flowered Spike-rush

From the dune slacks we went up onto the dune tops through the Marram grass and on towards the sea where we found large sheets of Kidney-vetch in full flower coating the dunes and looking stunning  plus being much frequented by bees. Also here was the nationally rare Rush-leaved Fescue in flower and a white-flowered Common Restharrow, which was a pleasant surprise from the usual pinkish purple.


And so to the beach where we saw the establishing seedlings of a very grey-leaved Goosefoot along the front of the dunes and then walked back along the dune tops admiring the view and noting how clearly the different plant species grew together, grouped in zones depending on distance from the sea and relating to how old the sand dunes where. A brief stop to admire a couple of Bee Orchids and then back through Marram grass dotted with Parsley – another garden escape which has established itself happily in the dunes.