The sand dunes at Winterton on Sea (see previous blog) seemed in a pretty good condition, with the Marram Grass doing its vital job of stabilisation, but elsewhere along the coast I noticed worrying signs of erosion. In many places such as Formby and along the Essex coast Christmas trees are being strategically placed to augment the work of the Marram Grass and help in the job of re-establishing dunes. Most communities seem to arrange a post-Christmas collection (our local authority certainly does) and I'll be dragging our tree out and adding it to the heap shortly.
The tree most commonly used for decoration purposes at Christmas is of course the Norway Spruce Picea abies. It is not native to Britain but where plantations have been established self-sown seedlings are common. This is not surprising as it certainly has been native to our islands during more recent interglacials, with the pollen sometimes being found in considerable quantities. So, although "alien" species are often unwelcome, we should perhaps not be too alarmed if the tree becomes a minor feature of suitable terrain. Furthermore it does support a number of interesting insects such as the Spruce-cone Bug Gastrodes abietum, the Great Spruce Bark Beetle Dendroctonus micans and a tortrix moth Cydia illutana - although it has to be said that some of these insects are not welcomed in plantations! A couple of fairly mature Norway Spruce are present in Byfield Pocket Park and I'll be monitoring them in the coming year.