Take a dune safari and unlock the secrets of Camber’s sands

Sand dunes are rare in south-east England, which makes the magnificent ones at Camber all the more precious.

Marram grassThe dunes form as sand is blown inland and builds up around plants – particularly deep-rooted marram grass (left) – and the traditional chestnut fences put in place to help stabilisation.

It’s that combination of native plants and fences that stops the dunes from shifting inland and burying Dunescape and the rest of Camber village.

Dunes have their own distinct eco system, and the plants and animals found here have adapted to living in sands that constantly shift, where rainwater soaks quickly down into the earth, and salt is driven in on the wind.

So while on a bright summer’s day it’s glorious on the dunes, this can be an arid, windswept, salt-scorched place.

But there is plenty of wildlife to be found, and flora to spot: over 250 different species of plants and animals. So it’s a great place for a sand-dune safari with the kids.

But take care, because while the wildlife is well adapted to life on the sands, much of it can’t survive elsewhere, and some of it is getting rare.

The eco-system works like this – the grasses and other tough plants stabilise the sands and protect the more delicate plants. The plants attract insects that find sustenance, lay their eggs or collect nectar from the flowers. The insects get eaten by spiders, birds and the common lizards (above) that live here.

Here are some of the things you might spot on the dunes

Listen out for the song of the skylark (above), singing as it spirals ever higher above the dunes.

Look out for the brown tail moth (left) that lives on the sea buckthorn (right) – a spiky bush with blue-toned leaves. Cuckoos eat the moths – no other birds will touch them because of the long hairs that cover the moth’s body. Those hairs can give you a rash if you touch them, so keep your distance.

Here are four plants you may spot:

Sea rocket (above) is a succulent with pinky-white flowers and fleshy leaves that can retain moisture.

Sea spurge (above) – a type of euphorbia – is another plant with fleshy, pale green leaves, but with tiny yellow flowers.

Sea bindweed (above) is a trailing plant with bright pink, white-striped flowers and kidney-shaped leaves.

The black nightshade (above) has white flowers and black, poisonous berries – so  don’t eat them!

The common lizard is a small, shy reptile that feeds on insects. You may see them darting between the plants or, if they don’t spot you coming, sunbathing on the hot sand.

The silver Y moth (above) gets its name from the distinctive markings on its wings.

Here are some things you might find down on the beach, especially at low tide

Those clusters of dry, off-white spheres (above) are the cases of whelk’s eggs.

The black hard cases that look a bit like a stag-beetle’s antenna are actually skate’s egg cases, and are sometimes called Mermaid’s Purse.

Then there are the shells.

The big fan-shaped ones like the Shell petrol logo are scallops.

The long straight ones are razor shells.

There are loads of others – muscles, cockles, winkles, oysters. You’ll find a full guide here

One thing to be wary of is the Weever fish (above), which lives on the sandy sea bed.

When the tide goes out, it buries itself in the sand, but the ridge of sharp spikes across its back sometimes protrudes. If you tread on a Weever fish when paddling, the spikes can give you a nasty sting. If you do get stung, you will need to seek first aid.