WHERE DOES ALL THE BLOWN SAND COME
Nuisance Which is Becoming a Commercial Asset.
Portion of Clifton Drive North,
near Squires Gate, made impassable by blown sand.
NOT for many years has there been so much
blown sand in St. Annes as during the past winter. To householders and gardeners it is a
nuisance, and to people who use the streets the high wind, carrying dry sand from the shore into
the streets, is apt to be uncomfortable and oftentimes painful. No wonder that at such times
the promenade is deserted.
But to-day blown sand is not for the Town
Council the source of expense it once was To-day, thanks to the age of concrete, sand has a
commercial value. Many years ago, when high sandhills adjoined building areas, it was common to
see a board bearing the notice, “Sand may be removed free.’ To-day I believe the price is
somewhere round 4s. 6d. a load—and do your own carting. So that when blown sand piles up two or
three feet deep on North Drive there is no lack of people willing to clear it away for
Sand Foundation Makes the Town
When we grumble about the blowing sand we
are apt to forget that it is sand which makes St. Annes so dry and healthy in winter. Water
percolates quickly through the sandy sub-soil. Similarly, I understand, it is because the wind
blows over so much salt- impregnated sand that we get what T. P. O'Connor called “the champagne
air of St. Annes.
Yet it can be a nuisance. The old Urban
District Council found it so. Its removal from the esplanade gardens and streets used to cost
hundreds of pounds a year, and a sand shield was built to stop it. During the past winter it has
come over this shield in dense clouds ten and twenty feet high, in something of the nature of a
Sahara Desert sandstorm.
For years this sand has been causing the foreshore to rise, and a fisherman native told me that in
the last 30 years the shore has risen 20 feet.
Where Does it Come From?
Where does all this sand come from and will
it ever stop coming? Is it nature's attempt to compensate for the erosion which takes place on
If one studies old maps and navigation
surveys there appear to have always been sandbanks in the Ribble estuary exposed at low tide.
The Horse Bank, between here and Southport, was tremendously high, and fishermen have told me
that when out in the channels at low tide if they wanted to see the shore they had to climb the
mast to look over the banks.
Sand and sand banks are never constant.
Wind, tides and even rains alter their formations, and the sand bank of this year may be the
channel of future years.
It has often been asked where all the sand
comes from, and perhaps the best explanation is contained in the appendices to the minutes of
evidence issued by the Royal Commission on Coast Erosion and Tidal Reclamation in
In that very interesting volume, Mr. T.
Mellard Reade, a Fellow of the Geological Society and an Associate Member of the Institution
of Civil Engineers, wrote:‑
“If we turn to the chart of the Irish Sea by
Captain Beechy, republished in a reduced form in Beardmore's ' Manual of Hydrology,' we may find
a possible explanation.
“The tide of the Irish Sea, entering by the
South Channel, meets the previous tide entering from the North Channel, creating a maximum
rise of the tide at Fleetwood and Morecambe Bay. These tides bring with them sand that has a
tendency to accumulate on the South- West Lancashire coast, producing that shallowing of the sea
that exists. The accumulation of this deposit on the foreshore gives free play to the winds
which sift the grains of sand from the small quantity of mud with which they are
That, of course, is a logical explanation
for the accumulation of sand on the foreshore at St. Annes. But many people are not satisfied
with that. They want to know exactly what sand is, and from whence it came before the tide cast
in on our shore.
What Sand Is.
Mr. Mellard Reade maintains that it has its
origin in the destruction of the pre-existing Triassic rocks, and intermediately, Glacial
Drifts and some of the Post-Glacial beds. As a rule, it consists of grains much rounded by
Nature may be very wonderful, but she is no
conjurer, and for every ton of sand dumped by the tides and the wind on our shores there must,
at some place and at some time or other, have been a corresponding loss either on the shores of
this country or on the shores of another. In short, you cannot have accretion unless you have
To a great extent this was borne out by
evidence given before the Royal Commission in 1907, and one witness, expressing concern at the
building of sea walls, told the Commissioners that unless erosion was allowed they could not
protect the coast. That, at first glance, may seem paradoxical; but it is none the less true.
This particular witness told the Commissioners that, if they put up sea walls, they would
ultimately be compelled to quarry from other parts to replenish the beach.
Gaining What Others Lose.
On the face of it, it seems that, though
sand can be an almost intolerable nuisance at times, it is, in reality, a boon and a blessing.
Briefly, we are gaining what other coasts are losing, and this accounts for the constantly
changing coast line.
As far as we in Lytham St. Annes are
concerned we are not so much interested in the accumulation of sand as the best methods of
preventing it from interfering with the essential services of the town as it has done in the
past. Sandstorms have cost Lytham St. Annes a pretty penny, one way or another, in recent years,
and so far we have not been able to effectively combat them.
Planting Starr Grass.
As I have already mentioned, the sand shield
did to some extent minimise the quantity of blown sand, but with the rise of the sand banks and
the shore much of that benefit has been lost. Then, again, the greatest inconvenience, as is
only to be expected, is caused along North Drive, where there is no effective form of
protection. Attempts have been made to stop the sand nuisance along this stretch but with
indifferent success. Perhaps the most effective method was the old one of planting starr grass,
and I have it on good authority that, when this was done by the Clifton Estate, there was very
little blown sand on the Drive.
Before long we may decide that old methods
are best and emulate the action of the Estate by profusely planting this grass. I for one am
convinced that by doing so we should lay the sand bogey once and for all.
Lytham St.Annes Express,