The sand dunes of Troon beach may appear nothing special, but they harbour a unique, fragile, and important eco-system – which is why one woman was shocked to see a football team using them as a training site.

The woman concerned, who wished to remain anonymous, was walking along the beach at the South end near the Pow Burn on Sunday, August 8 when she witnessed around 15-20 children and teenagers, guided by adults, running up and down, dislodging the marram grass.

The grass binds the dunes together and helps act as a flood protection measure by protecting the land which lays behind them.

She said: “I found this situation very sad, on a number of counts. Neither the adults or children seemed to have any understanding of the valuable natural asset that the sand dunes represent, and the value of the biodiversity that the dunes host.

“There was also an obvious lack of knowledge about the work being done to conserve the dunes, and the damage being done by running up and down them.

“I also find it sad that from a wider view neither the children or adults had an understanding of the value of conservation of natural resources and how this can help to combat the impacts of climate change which we are now experiencing more seriously and frequently.

“From a pragmatic, financial point of view, if it were possible for children and adults who use the beach to be discouraged from damaging the dunes, it would be less costly as less restoration work would have to be carried out.”

The Troon Dune Restoration Project was set up in 1999 to help restore and protect the valuable habitat. In 2016 the project won a silver award at the COSLA Excellence Awards.

The woman who contacted the Advertiser suggested the erection of better signage and an education drive for local children on the importance of the habitat.

She added: “If children do not have an understanding of the value of natural assets and habitats in their own neighbourhoods it is unlikely they will understand the impacts of their loss, or the need to conserve them.”

A council spokesperson, responding to the woman’s concerns, said: “We’re keen to work with groups and individuals to foster a better understanding of the natural environment.

“Our rangers team already support local groups to get out and about in nature, and enjoy and learn about the spaces and places they’re using.

“It’s important we work with nature, and our rangers team are there to ensure our activities are sympathetic and don’t impact on the plants and animals that live here.”