I would like to believe a yarn heard about Gibraltar Point, a windswept nature reserve on the Lincolnshire coast, near Skegness. The story goes that one day the driver of a huge articulated truck from somewhere in eastern Europe pulled into the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust Car park there and seemed surprised that there was no sign of a car ferry to Morocco.
Seems he was using a satnav. Not as surprised perhaps as the wildlife trust ranger.
Hard to believe, but true or not, I am reminded of the story every time we go to this wonderful miniature wilderness, all the more fascinating for the extreme contrast with one of England’s iconic seaside towns, only two miles away. Skegness, famous for the street known locally as chip alley, the famous slogan “It’s so bracing” and the thousands of day trippers and weekenders who trek from the landlocked West Midlands for a paddle in the North Sea and to sample the delights of the amusement parks.
Actually I love both places. A few weeks ago, making the most of our Indian Summer sunshine we spent a happy day in both of these places. Skegness first for fish and chips at Eptons, then Gibraltar Point to blow away the cobwebs on the beach and to check out whether Norfolk was still there, across the Wash. It was.
Nobody seems to know why Gibraltar point is so-called, but it owes its existence to the fact that this part of the east coast has always been on the move and the tip of the reserve is still growing. “The reserve consists essentially of a pair of almost parallel dune systems separated by saltmarsh. The innermost dunes, or West Dunes, which run alongside the access road, were clearly marked on a map of 1779 and are believed to be at least 300 years old; at that time, they would have been the outermost dunes.” [Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust Website]
The reserve is now managed by the Trust under lease, having been declared a National Nature Reserve in 1984. Until 2013, visitor numbers at Gibraltar point were on the up, but on on the evening of 5 December that year we were all reminded of the destructive power of the ocean when the visitor centre and Wash study centre were flooded by the storm surge, which also wreaked havoc elsewhere on the Lincolnshire coast . “The saltmarsh and main car park at Gibraltar Point do occasionally flood on the highest of tides but staff had never seen anything like the floods caused by the storm surge. The flood defence bank called ‘Bulldog Bank’ breached in five places from the sheer weight of the water. The Gibraltar Point visitor centre, café and study centre was flooded to a depth of half a metre causing damage so severe that the entire centre needs rebuilding.” [Lincolnshire Willdife Trust website]
Since the surge, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust volunteers have done wonders with a temporary café and toilets, while an exciting new centre is being constructed.
The new buildings are now indeed rising from the marshland. Though visitors can only view the works from a safe distance, you can see that the new buildings are being constructed on stilts, as a precaution against further flood damage.
The new visitor centre is being part-funded by Lincolnshire County Council and Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust and last year an application was made for a grant from the Government’s Coastal Communities Fund to cover the remainder of the funding.
We are really looking forward to the opening of the new visitor centre of course, but meanwhile Gibraltar Point remains a true favourite for a day out, especially in winter when it is is a birdwatcher’s delight.
“The Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust’s Observatory at Gibraltar Point, opened in April 1949, was one of the earliest. Years of observation, ringing and examination of birds has provided a wealth of information about their location and movements throughout the seasons, their physical condition and changes in their populations, all information essential for framing and implementing measures for conservation.” [Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust website]
Lincolnshire Wildife Tust Gibraltar Point pages
Beating the Bounds: Gibraltar Point