Royal Dornoch to tackle coastal erosion with rebuilt natural defences


Royal Dornoch to tackle coastal erosion with rebuilt natural defences
Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley

Royal Dornoch Golf Club on Scotland’s east coast is investing in a natural way to protect its Struie course from flooding and coastal erosion.

A number of gaps in the saltmarsh habitat means that areas of the Struie course are vulnerable to problems caused by exposure to the sea.

But a new project is aiming to curb these issues by implementing hundreds of greenhouse-grown native saltmarsh plants in an attempt to help restore natural defences.

Green Shores is a project aimed at restoring areas of saltmarsh on Scotland’s Eden Estuary, Tay Firth and Dornoch Firth. The project is being led by Dr Clare Maynard, a research scientist at St Andrews University and chair of the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Coastal Forum.

Royal Dornoch is putting £10,000 a year over the next three years into the Green Shores project to help protect its course, in particular the tenth fairway on the Struie course.

The materials used will be grown by pupils at the nearby Dornoch Academy school, with support from greenkeepers, researchers and community volunteers to help ensure the transplant goes smoothly.

“In 2010, we noticed a gap appearing in the saltmarsh affecting the tenth hole,” explained Neil Hampton, Royal Dornoch’s general manager. “If nothing was done we could have lost the whole fairway. We tried a number of methods to break the power of the waves, but when we learned of Dr Maynard’s work we decided it was the best way to tackle this potentially serious issue. It’s a natural solution and it involves the local schools and other local people, so it fits well with our commitment to the environment and the community.”

Once ready, individual plugs of saltmarsh plants will be planted in the necessary areas along the coastline around Royal Dornoch. Each plug measures around five centimetres in diameter. The plugs will be supported by bio-rolls filled with coir – a natural and sustainable waste product made from the husk of coconut shells, which will act as a wave break.

“Coastal erosion is at its worst at the gap in the protective saltmarsh,” said Dr Maynard. “There are flooding issues in the winter as well as year-round energy from waves degrading the edge of the course. There is a growing awareness in Scotland, and around the world, that saltmarshes and sand dunes play an important and underappreciated role in protecting our coastline. Projects like this, which work with nature to protect our important assets, will be critical in turning the tide on the increased erosion we expect with climate change. Our efforts here on the Dornoch Firth will help ensure the course remains playable for decades to come.”

As well as Royal Dornoch Golf Club, the Green Shores project is supported by Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the St Andrews Links Trust, the Ministry of Defence, Fife Council, and the Scottish Rural Development’s LEADER programme.