Embryo dunes on the spit                 

The main fore dune at the back of the beach


Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve is an important breeding site for ground-nesting birds. Visitors between late March and late June should keep to the paths. No dogs are allowed.


Dunes of Aberlady Bay

Aberlady dune succession   Aberlady links   Aberlady processes   Aberlady salt marsh   Aberlady Sands

The dunes at Aberlady form a series of ridges at the rear of the beach. Over time the dune front has advanced to its present position as sand has accumulated behind the beach. The oldest, most landward, dune ridge meets the coast south of Jophies Neuk. The younger ridges now rest on sand spits which originally built up southwards from the oldest dune ridge. The Google Earth image shows that the northern dune ridges have been much altered by later wind erosion, with interruption of the ridges by blow outs and realignment of the dune crests. Behind the dune ridges lie dune slacks which widen to the south.

The youngest dunes are forming on the shell sand spit that is growing into Aberlady Bay. Sand couch grass is colonising the upper surfaces of the spit. Its growth is trapping sand blown off from the surrounding beach to form embryo dunes. Low dune ridges appear a few tens of metres inland, increasingly stabilised by marram grass. The broad slacks in this area are inundated by the sea at spring tides, with the waterlines marked by lines of trash.

The 4m high main dune ridge backs the beach north of the outfall pipe. At its foot lie small embryo dunes. During storm conditions these nascent dunes may be removed, allowing waves to attack to base of the main dune. During periods of strong onshore wind and beach drying sand is blown on to the main dunes and accumulate as an unstable apron at the rear of the beach. The main dune has a generally dense cover of marram. Blow out hollows are seen just behind the main ridge.

Other dune ridges start further south.  These ridges are lower than the main ridge and separated by areas of slack. The third ridge is again dominated by marram but the low ridges inland show vegetation characteristic of an old dune, with bents and fescues replacing marram as the dominant grass. The old ridges merge with herb-rich grasslands on the links now occupied by the golf courses.