Thursday, 1 April 2021

Dog Zonation Trial 2021

        Dog Zone Initiative

Birds that are nesting, resting or feeding need undisturbed space to live, survive and thrive.

What is Proposed ?

Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve (LNNR) will introduce a trial dog zoning scheme for spring and summer 2021. This will consist of three zones shown in the map below:

·         No dogs area - the area around the Wide Opens extending to Ross Back Sands south and north to the Beacons and Blackl Law; and the western section of Budle Bay

·         An area where dogs will be allowed to be exercised off their leads -  the North Shore on Holy Island (maximum of 2 dogs per individual & owners must still be in control of their dogs and must be able to get them back to heel quickly)

·         The remainder of the LNNR - dog owners will be required to keep their dog on a short lead (1.5 metre) at all times (maximum of 2 dogs per individual)


How long will the scheme be in place?

The three new zones will initially be introduced on a trial basis from 1 May - 1 September 2021. The Scheme will be fully evaluated and, if seen as successful, in consultation with the local community and other partners, Natural England will look to implement the Scheme fully.  The measures will be in place during the Shorebird Protection Scheme, and we will also assess the benefits in extending the Scheme to cover winter months to protect Lindisfarne NNR’s internationally important autumn and winter avian visitors.


Why is this scheme necessary?

Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve is internationally important for a range of wildlife and their habitats.  The NNR is home to between 50,000-60,000 birds during the autumn and winter making it the most important site in the north-east.  Both Grey and Harbour seals seek refuge to haul-out and rest at several locations throughout the site. During spring and summer, it provides refuge for the largest population of breeding Little Tern and Ringed Plover in the county.  The four other UK Tern species either breed and/or use the NNR to roost and feed.

 During the summer months, Lindisfarne NNR has for many years established a series of protection zones (five in total) for breeding shorebirds. These areas are fenced off from the public to reduce disturbance, with shorebird wardens and trained volunteers patrolling these sites and monitoring bird activity.  However, breeding shorebirds are particularly vulnerable to disturbance from dogs.  Studies have shown that even when a dog is on a lead, the presence of the animal can result in the altered behaviour of birds and other species.   This can cause ground-nesting birds to leave the nest, resulting in the abandonment of eggs or chicks.  There is evidence that dogs are having an impact at Lindisfarne NNR particularly on Ringed Plover.

Visitor numbers have been increasing exponentially for years and this was exacerbated by COVID.  Last summer saw a significant increase in the number of visitors to Lindisfarne NNR due to the impact of COVID on international travel; and the main visitor season was much longer. It is predicted the visitor numbers will increase during 2021 and this is having an impact on the Northumberland Coast and its unique wildlife.  This comes at a time when there also has been a significant increase in dog ownership.  North East England has the highest proportion of dog ownership in the UK (36% of households have a dog compared to 23% nationally) and since 2000 the number of pet dogs in the UK has increased by nearly 40%.  This initiative will hopefully help manage this increasing pressure in a proactive manner.


How will dog walkers know where they can and cannot walk their dogs?

At the main entry points and car parks, new temporary signage will be erected to explain which dog zone is in operation at that particular location. Notices will explain to dog owners that beyond a certain point they will either not be allowed to enter with their dog, enter with their dog and allow it off the lead or enter with their dog and keep it on a short lead.  Repeater signs will be erected along routes leading to the dog zones, and staff and trained volunteers will be patrolling to engage with visitors to explain the zoning system and where dogs are allowed.  Key entry points will be at informal parking and access sites across the NNR including Holy Island, Ross Links, Elwick, Waren Mill, Kiln Point, Budle Point and Cheswick and Goswick Sands

At the car park at the Snook on Holy Island, notices will inform visitors wishing to use the North Shore to responsibly exercise their dogs, that dogs need to remain on leads through the sand dunes and can only be taken off their leads once they reach the beach.  Repeater signs will be used on the route from the Snook to the North Shore beach.  Clear “you are here” maps indicating the location of the zone will be displayed.


How will the scheme be enforced on the ground?

During the trial period, the scheme will operate on the basis that most visitors will adhere to the signs, and, where they don’t, staff or trained volunteers will engage with visitors to ask them to remove their dogs from a no dog zone or put a the dog on a lead in a dogs on lead zone.  Part of the evaluation process of this trial will be to see how effective clear signage is in securing compliance.

If the Scheme is proved to be successful, it may be incorporated into the revision of the current bye-laws, which will give Natural England additional powers should there be evidence of deliberate violation of these rules.


How will the scheme be evaluated?

Our staff and volunteers will keep a record of any encounters that they have with visitors within the various zones, to assess the level of compliance.

Natural England will continue to collect data on the breeding and loafing success of the birds within the protected zones and will also use data on the number of casual passage birds and nesting Ringed Plover.  Increased numbers will be an important indicator of the success of the trial dog zone scheme.  Data on seal haul-out locations, size and activity will also be gathered.


  1. I am very pleased about this.On my recent stay a dog bounded toward me (did the impolite sniff) on the beach twixt Chare Ends and St Cuthbert's Island. I told the owner that it should be on a lead, ''Not if it lives on the island'' he said, I replied, '' Yes it should!'' He walked on and his female companion looked embarrassed. He had a Yorks/Lancs accent and assumed I was a normal tourist (My family have had a house here since the early seventies-Toulmin,Allen,Hall) I assumed he was a day visitor. Not a good example to the rest of the community!
    The dog was mead coloured, not nasty but not under control.

  2. Hi are kite powered buggys allowed on goswick beach below the high tide line between April
    And November ?

    1. Kite buggys are not permitted anywhere on the Reserve due to feeding and roosting birds.