Locally-inspired sculpture unveiled at Crymlyn Burrows SSSI

Dynamic Dunescapes

Sunday 16th July 2023 was an exciting day for the Dynamic Dunescapes project team working in Wales. Co-hosted by Plantlife and seven other partners through Dynamic Dunescapes, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to celebrate an entryway sculpture created by Welsh Artist Blacksmith Eifion Thomas (JET Blacksmith).  

We have recently unveiled a locally-inspired sculpture intertwined with butterflies, birds and dragonflies in Wales. 

The new sculpture at Crymlyn Burrows, which has taken four years to create, has been a huge part of the work of the Dynamic Dunescapes project at the SSSI in Swansea Bay. Backdropped by Swansea University’s Bay Campus, Crymlyn Burrows is one of 10 Dynamic Dunescapes sites in Wales. 

Ben Sampson, Swansea University Sustainability Officer and Crymlyn Burrows Warden

“Crymlyn Burrows is one of the last remaining pockets of wilderness around the Swansea Bay coast, its dunes and marshes are home to an amazing range of plants and animals. Having such an important area for wildlife so close to the city and free for all to explore makes it a wonderful place for people to experience nature on their doorstep, and all the more special”.

Beginning the design journey 

The initial ideas for this project ranged from a single statue to a panel that would frame the diverse landscape of the SSSI. Through consultation with local visitors in 2022 the idea of an archway was selected, and key themes were voted upon.  

A purple wildflower with spiky leaves
A purple flower
A butterfly on a purple flower
The installed sculpture is one of a pair, and high on the design priorities for visitors was the inclusion of butterflies, bees, plants and flowers, birds, and the local landscape in the design.

Through a similar voting process, it was decided that the sister sculpture would more heavily reflect the surrounding landscape, with elements of the local dune systems of Crymlyn Burrows and sister site across the Neath Estuary at Baglan Burrows incorporated.

The beach with marram grass blowing in the wind. The shoreline is in the distance
Acknowledging the local area's industrial history, both sculptures would be made of metal.

With ideas at hand, we set to finding a Welsh Artist Blacksmith who could bring this project to life. Pembrokeshire-based blacksmith Eifion Thomas (JET Blacksmith) was successful in capturing the windswept nature of the dunes of Swansea Bay 

A pencil drawing of the initial sculpture design
In his dynamic sculpture concept we saw an archway that looked like it was almost already blowing in the wind, lifting up and off into the sky

As the months of 2023 began to tick by, each new update on the process of forging the sculpture was met with admiration for Eifion’s skills.

A man holds a metal leaf with tongs during the forging and design process
A piece of the metal sculpture is forged in the fire
A red hot metal butterfly cools on an anvil
Metal leaves made for the sculpture

Gradually we began to see red hot butterflies and delicate flower petals emerging from flames.

Fast forward to July 2023!

As well as the ribbon-cutting, the day involved guided walks, arts activities, a full day of bio-blitzing and a scavenger hunt! Local vendor Van Goffi provided lots of refreshments for attendees, while photographer Andy Davies captured the day through his lens. Once the rain and wind had calmed down, the day's activities kicked off with visitors exploring the dunes with site warden Ben Sampson.  

A man gives a guided walk to a group of people. He kneels in the grass to show them something
Visitors checked out the range of habitats found at Crymlyn Burrows with Ben Sampson (Swansea University) and discovering birds, mammals, fungi, amphibians, a rich diversity of coastal plants and the work being undertaken at the site to rejuvenate the space for local wildlife.

After wrapping the sculpture in a bow, we were joined by visitors and special guests for the official unveiling. Proceedings began with a short speech from Professor Charles Hipkin, who reflected on the significance of this special place both ecologically and to him personally. 

Five people pull the ceremonial ribbon from a sculpture
Our VIP guests pulling the ribbon to formally celebrate the installation! L-R Prof Charles Hipkin (Neath Port Talbot Local Nature Partnership), Martyn Evans (NRW), Eifion Thomas (JET Blacksmith), Penny Neyland (Swansea University) and Lizzie Wilberforce (Plantlife)

With the rain at bay Ai-Lin Kee of Nature On Your Doorstep introduced visitors to the pollinators of the dunes, highlighting the work of the B-Lines project 

A group of people look for wildlife in long grass
As well as bees, butterflies and moths, visitors were also treated to up-close views of colour-changing flower crab spiders, grasshoppers and more as they explored with Ai-Lin Kee.

We’re thrilled to be able to share with visitors the story of the sculpture as well as the installation itself, which will be there to be enjoyed by all for many years to come. We greatly appreciate the support we have received from the landowners of Crymlyn Burrows, St Modwen, in bringing this project to life. 

Stay tuned for more as the second sister sculpture is set to be installed elsewhere on site. To stay up to date, be sure to follow Sustainability at Swansea University on social media, and if you visit don’t forget to tag us in your photos!