Gibraltar Point Nature Reserve

Posted on 2nd January 2018

When staying at Greetham Retreat all those who are interested or fascinated by conservation and wildlife must make the time to visit the famous Gibraltar Point nature reserve which is unique beautiful and is recognised internationally. Gibraltar Point is about a 20 to 25 minute drive away from Greetham Retreat.

Gibraltar Point Nature Reserve is made up of sandy, muddy seashores, sand-dunes, salt marshes and freshwater habitats on the Lincolnshire coast.

Covering 1100 acres of pristine coastline and recognised as an area of international importance, the reserve extends about three miles along the Lincolnshire coast from Skegness to the entrance of the Wash. Sandy and muddy seashore, sand dunes, saltmarsh and freshwater marsh with ponds and lagoons are home to a rich assemblage of coastal wildflowers and many birds. The visitor centre includes cafe and gift shop, also residential field centre and bird hides.

Visitor Centre

The spectacular new £1m building replaces the former visitor centre and has now opened to the public (in May 2016).   The old visitor centre suffered extensive flood damage during the storm surge in December 2013 and had to be demolished. The new building is raised on stilts to protect it from any future flooding.
The new centre (see image on left) was designed to make the most of the reserve’s stunning views, with expansive windows facing the dunes and sea, and a rooftop viewing deck.

The Gibraltar Point Visitor Centre is open daily from 10am until 4pm.

Gibraltar Point is a great visitor attraction with something for everyone.  Plenty of parking and lots of different trails.

Wildlife and flora in abundance located just 5 minutes from Skegness, but is in a very different world of it’s own.

Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust manage this unspoilt stretch of coastline for all to enjoy, Conservation of the natural habitats often involves traditional methods such as livestock grazing.

Landscape and wildlife.

Gibraltar Point impresses by its sheer scale and diversity of wildlife but to appreciate it fully you need to see it in different seasons. In spring, when the first of the migrants stop off to refuel or establish territories. In summer, little terns may be seen fishing in the shallows and skylarks are in full song above the purple haze of the salt marshes. In autumn, huge whirling flocks of waders can be seen on the high tides. And in winter, there brent geese, shorelark and snow bunting as well as flocks of redwing and fieldfare.


The sea still covers the marsh on the higher tides. The plants are adapted to cope with saltwater. Sea aster, sea purslane and sea couch-grass thrive but the most striking plant is sea lavender which covers the marsh with a carpet of lilac from late July.Large numbers of skylark and meadow pipit nest on the saltmarsh. They can be seen performing their song flights during spring and summer.

Foreshore and Beach

The beach provides nest sites for little tern and ringed plover. During the breeding season, they are protected in a Shorebird Sanctuary. Beach ridges provide a roost for thousands of wading birds even on the highest tides.

Sand Dunes

The youngest sand dunes were formed within the last year and are sparsely covered in grasses such as marram. The oldest are 500 years old and have developed a thick scrub of sea buckthorn, elder, privet and hawthorn.The open grasslands are rich in wildflowers and insects. This habitat is maintained by grazing sheep and cattle.

Lagoons and Ponds

The open water attracts many birds. The lagoons of Tennyson’s Sands and Jackson’s Marsh were, until recently, farmland. They were created to provide habitat for breeding and migrating waterbirds.

Trails and Walks

There are a wide selection of trails and walks that you can follow through many of the above landscapes.  Dogs must be kept on leads and under your control. They can accompany you on some trails and paths but must remain with you on the trail paths in order to prevent potential conflict with the local wildlife and to protect ground living or nesting birds.

Bird Migration and Population

Bird migration and populations have been studied at the Gibraltar Point Bird Observatory since 1949.

Concern about the decline of some of our best known summer migrant birds like turtle dove, spotted flycatcher and cuckoo has highlighted the work of Britain’s seventeen bird observatories.

The Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust’s Observatory at Gibraltar Point, opened in April 1949, was one of the earliest. Years of observation, ringing and examination of birds has provided a wealth of information about their location and movements throughout the seasons, their physical condition and changes in their populations, all information essential for framing and implementing measures for conservation.

Hundreds of thousands of birds of many species fly through or over or make landfall at Gibraltar Point during the course of a year. There are in fact few periods when there are no bird movements or migrations to be expected.

The work of the observatory is carried out voluntarily by local and visiting ornithologists. A dedicated local team is responsible for day-to-day management with the oversight of the Reserve Manager. The observatory fulfils a valuable training role in bird ringing, residential training courses have been held almost annually for several decades.

History of Gibraltar Point

This part of the east coast is a very dynamic one and, in contrast to many parts of eastern England, the tip of the reserve is still accreting.

The reserve consists essentially of a pair of almost parallel dune systems separated by saltmarsh. The innermost dunes, or West Dunes, which run alongside the access road, were clearly marked on a map of 1779 and are believed to be at least 300 years old; at that time, they would have been the outermost dunes.

The changing face of the coastline has affected the population of the area. The nearby town of Wainfleet was once a busy port in medieval times, but its access to the sea gradually silted up until it became completely isolated. For a while, Gibraltar Point was the closest the larger boats could get to the town, and a small community grew up at “The Haven”, with a pub “The Ship Inn”, coastguard station, farm and cottages.

By the early part of this century, the sea had retreated further eastwards, with new lines of dunes forming, and the Haven itself no longer had satisfactory access to the sea. The last commercial boats to use The Haven ceased in the 1920’s.

After this, the buildings were abandoned and neglected and gradually fell into disrepair. The last coastguards left in 1925. Several ideas for Gibraltar Point were considered after this, including a speedway track and a new town, but fortunately neither saw the light of day.
In 1937, Lindsey County Council bought most of the point, to safeguard it against further development. In 1949, the Lincolnshire Trust for Nature Conservation proposed that the site should be a nature reserve, and in 1952 it was declared as a Local Nature Reserve.

The reserve is managed by the Trust under lease. It was extended later by bringing in an area of dunes owned by Skegness UDC (now East Lindsey District Council), and the Trust purchased land around Sykes farm in 1978. To complicate the tenure slightly further, the foreshore is owned by the Crown Estate Commissioners, who lease it to the District Council.

The image above right shows the Wash Viewpoint restoration which was carried out in 1985.

In 1984, the site was declared a National Nature Reserve.

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