Ainsdale and Birkdale Sandhills Local Nature Reserve

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The Ainsdale and Birkdale Sandhills Local Nature Reserve is one of the largest areas of wild dune land left in Britain. 

The reserve was established in 1980 and now covers 988 hectares of open dunes and beach. It is typical of most sand dune systems with high dune ridges and dune valleys containing slacks. Slacks are low hollows formed by wind-blow, often flooded during the winter which contain many unusual plants and animals. Some slacks provide ideal breeding pools for Natterjacks.

The reserve is rich in plant life. During the summer months damp slacks are carpeted with flowers including Early-marsh Orchid, Marsh Helleborine and Grass of Parnassus. In drier slacks the Round-leaved Wintergreen and nationally rare Dune Helleborine can be found.

The Velvet Trail

The trail is a circular route following the Green Beach from Weld Road southwards, then winding through the dunes back to Weld Road. The trail takes its name from the carpets of lush vegetation seen there in the early summer months. It was well known at the turn of the century, when it proved to be one of the coasts main attractions. 

The dune trail is a circular walk through the reserve and passes through examples of the diverse habitats on site.


  • The nature reserve can be entered from the beach or from the car park at Ainsdale discovery centre 
  • The toilets at Shore Road are open during the summer
  • Way-marked footpaths link the reserve with the Ainsdale Sand Dunes National Nature Reserve

The beach is zoned and vehicles are restricted by barriers north and south of the main beach entrance. Please respect the wildlife on the coast and keep any dogs under control and out of the dog free area.

How to get there 

Ainsdale Discovery Centre


Last Updated on Sunday, September 5, 2021

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