Last weekend I was out and about at Formby joining a guided walk to the ‘Devil’s Hole’. The walk was organised by Sefton Coast Landscape Partnership and led by John, one of the rangers, and Phil Smith, an acknowledged expert on the dune system and its flora.
We walked down Range Lane and followed the signs for the ‘Devil’s Hole Trail’. Phil pointed out some of the features of the area and its history. Flat areas where asparagus was farmed and sunken areas where sand had been excavated for building purposes.
When we reached the Devils Hole I was surprised. On my previous visit in April it had contained several feet of water but now it was almost dry with just a few areas of surface water. The base was now covered in vegetation which was what we had come to see.
There was lots of Grass of Parnassus.
I also spotted some Marsh Helleborine.
Phil pointed out some Round leaved Wintergreen, Pyrola rotandifolia. Approx. 8 flowers hang down on a short stem. I had to get down on my hands and knees to get a photo.
The plant contains Oil of Wintergreen, Methyl Salicylate. It is used as a medicine in liniments but the oil is extracted not from these plants but from the twigs of the Silver Birch tree.
We also saw some Knotted Pearlwort which is an indicated plant for this type of dune slack. Unfortunately I was unable to get a decent photo.
It was not all about plants. We saw some Northern Dune Tiger Beetle and some baby Natterjack toads. They were only just over a centimetre in length and were just starting to develop their characteristic yellow stripe on their back. Phil and John arte authorised to handle them and picked one up so that we could obtain a photo.
It was a fascinating afternoon and considering it is so local must go back.
Blow outs form when the protective cover of vegetation of the sand dune ids damaged. The sand is then blown downwind creating a hollow which gradually deepens until the water table is reached The wet sand is then incapable of being blown away.
It is believed that this hole began to form in 1941 possibly as a result of a German aircraft releasing its bombs after an abortive attack on the docks at Liverpool. The hole has now increased in size to 4 hectares.