Local Greens among community taking action

Musselburgh residents gathered at Fisherrow Sands in January to use old Christmas trees to strengthen the historic dunes.

The experiment was inspired by similar projects from St Andrews, Liverpool, and Ayrshire. The old trees were partially buried in sand just in front of eroded areas of dunes, absorbing wave energy and providing a structure in which more sand can build up.

Musselburgh Flood Protection Action Group will monitor the site in coming weeks, adding more sand and transplanting marram grass among the trees to further restore the damaged dunes.

This year's action is intended in part as an experiment, with trees placed in a few different patterns so  volunteers can observe their effect. 

Roger Crofts, former head of Scottish Natural Heritage, explained:

The distribution of driftwood and other debris on a beach is an important part of the natural coastal process and helps to strengthen dune systems. What we’re doing with the Christmas trees is simply mimicking the natural process to protect that ecosystem. This action is a great example of local community engagement, demonstrating what can be done to lessen the effects of sea level rise and storm surges. I hope this involvement will be positively welcomed by East Lothian Council and its consultants.

A call for Christmas trees on social media was met with a great response from the community, with 70 trees donated.

People of all ages, including families with young children, helped to dig them in on the beach. Local historian Stuart McHardy and former council chief George Wanless, OBE, both dropped by to offer encouragement.

Scottish Greens’ local elections candidate for Musselburgh ward, Shona McIntosh commented:

It’s fantastic to see the project has captured so many people’s imaginations. The council would have had to pay for the uplift of all these trees to take them for composting and instead here we are using them directly to restore a damaged ecosystem and shore up our natural flood defences at the same time. It's a great example of a nature-based solution: protecting ourselves by protecting nature.