Formby is a spectacular stretch of coast on the northern edges of Liverpool. The beautiful, windswept beach stretches for miles in either direction. On clear days, you can see out into the Irish Sea and even to the mountains of Cumbria. Erosion of the beach over time is steadily peeling back the incredible history of the area. With footprints of humans, wolves, wild boar, and aurochs being revealed from 8,000 years ago. The beach is fringed by a mosaic of sand dunes, grasslands, and pine forests. Covering over 500 acres of these rare and fragile habitats, Formby Nature Reserve provides a home to a number of the UK’s most threatened creatures, including sand lizards, dune tiger beetles, and natterjack toads. However, the real wildlife stars are the cute and charismatic red squirrels. The pine woodlands surrounding the dunes are one of the last hold-outs of these threatened creatures in England.
Average rating: 3.7 (good)
Average cost: visiting Formby is free. If you want to park in the car park it costs around $10 unless you’re a member of the National Trust. In which case it’s free.
Best time to visit: the golden sands of Formby are at their best on clear sunny days in spring and summer – although these also tend to be the busiest. If you’re visiting on a busy day try taking the train instead of driving to avoid congestion. It’s also worth heading to areas of the beach to the south of the Squirrel Walk to avoid the crowds.
How to get there: Formby is a short drive from Liverpool and you can park in the National Trust car park. You can also take the train to Freshfield Station which is a short walk from the beach. On the way, you pass through the pinewoods and can look out for squirrels.
Typical activities: animal watching, dog walking, sunbathing, swimming, walking
Number of reports: 3
WILDLIFE IN Formby
According to reports submitted to WildSide, the most popular species that can be seen here are:
Red Squirrel – 0% OF WildSide Users (0/3) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
The pinewoods of Formby are one of England’s red squirrel strongholds. There are a series of feeding stations in the woods and a dedicated Squirrel Walk you can follow to give yourself a good chance of spotting them. You can see them scampering through the trees year-round, although the best time to see them is in spring and autumn when they are most active. They come out first thing in the morning to feed so get there before 10 am for the best chances of spotting them.
Sadly, in 2007 the squirrel pox virus reached Formby and wiped out around 80% of the squirrel population. This virus is spread by grey squirrels and is the main reason they are a threatened species today. While squirrel sightings used to be pretty much guaranteed – growing up we have memories of them stealing biscuits out of our hands! – they are now much harder to spot. The population did begin to recover although – as of 2020 – the pox is back and the squirrel population is struggling again. You can find out more on the National Trust website. Hopefully, with the work of the reserve’s staff and a bit of luck, they will bounce back again soon!
Photo credit: WildSide team member Chris White