Anglesey and Gwynedd
Off the north-west coast of Wales, Anglesey is a large island known for its beautiful coast, which is home to long beaches, rocky outcrops and several large sand dune systems - some of which are internationally important sites. On the mainland coast, several dune systems can also be found down the coast of Caernarfon bay, and further along Cardigan Bay.
Our work in the areas of Anglesey and Gwynedd covers 1000 hectares of dunes and is led by Natural Resources Wales, working with National Trust, local authorities, Wildlife Trusts, Plantlife and private landowners. We will be working at, Cymyran, Tywyn Trewan, Tywyn Llyn, Tywyn Fferam on Anglesey, and Morfa Bychan in Gwynedd.
Aerial images of Welsh sand dunes dating from the 1940s show that most dunes were very mobile and had many large areas of bare sand. Stabilisation of sand dune habitats has left them less healthy, and means we’ve also seen a big decline of species which need bare sand; there are many fascinating pioneer species which naturally love the shifting early successional stages of sand dunes. To create more bare ground, patches of thick scrub and invasive plant species which have stabilised the dunes, such as Japanese rose will be removed. By exposing more bare sand, we will create more space for mobile sand-loving species and allow more sand to be blown through the dunes, restoring some of the dune’s mobility.
The beautiful marsh fritillary butterfly used to be a common sight on the dunes at Tywyn Llyn, Tywyn Fferam and Morfa Bychan, but haven’t been seen in recent decades. By improving the dune slacks – the dips between dune ridges – we will make these dunes more inviting for marsh fritillary butterfly populations to move back into.
Dunes typically are very low in nutrients and many of the species that live in sand dunes are adapted to live in nutrient-poor environments. As more and more plants grow, they fix more nitrogen and add more nutrients into the dunes, and the top layer of soil becomes full of enough nutrients to allow even more plants to grow. As the soil changes, the dune-adapted species are less comfortable growing and these new plants can take up lots of their space. By removing some areas of enriched soil, we will restore the nutrient-poor environment that many of our dune species need.
Wildlife you might see around Anglesey and Gwynedd
On a sunny, quiet day, you might spot rabbits, brown hares, foxes and hedgehogs in the low dune grassland.
You may spot brown-banded carder bees and mason bees, and several species of butterfly including the common blue, grayling, small heath, and dark green fritillary enjoying the dune wildflowers.
Reptiles such as the slow worm, adders and the common lizard like to sunbathe on bare sand and live in short grassland. Common toads are also spotted often, with the dune slack ponds alive with toadlets in the summer.
The beautiful skylark can be heard singing in the early summer, while wheatear and stone chat call from their perches. The red-beaked chough which feed on short dune grassland, the impressive kestrel can be seen around many of North Wales’ sand dunes, and the tiny common linnet can be spotted at Morfa Bychan. Short-eared owls can even be seen in the winter.
Within the marram grass, tiny pansies may be seen and low-lying dune slacks are ablaze with colour in summer when flowers such as kidney vetch and orchids bloom. At Cymyran, in late summer wide expanses of flowering heather are a treat for our eyes, and for feeding insects.
Morfa Bychan is home to the rare and spiky sharp rush which lives in the dune slacks, and several plants which will benefit from more open sand, including the dune fescue, sticky storksbill, the small restharrow and the adders tongue fern.
Meet Your Friendly Face in Wales
Hi! I’m Hannah and I’m joining the team from the Dornoch Environmental Enhancement Project where I was both a researcher and a member of the science communication team; engaging with government, other researchers and introducing the public to the underwater world of oysters at science festivals. While interning with the Marine Conservation Society, I connected pupils in the UK and the British Virgin Islands, teaching classes about climate change and supporting students in the two countries to connect and meet online. I continue to volunteer with the MCS organising beach cleans and supporting volunteers with litter surveys. Since January 2020 - as a co-host of the podcast Wild About Conservation - I have been lifting the curtain on the world of conservation for listeners, exploring ecosystems and animals with the people who work in the field.
How can you get involved?
We are planning a whole host of events, guided walks, nature talks, citizen science projects, volunteering and training or work experience opportunities for the whole community to get involved in.
We’ll also be offering opportunities for local schools to explore the dunes and learn about the importance of sand dune habitats and species. We will regularly update our events page, so remember to check back often to see what we’ve added to our exciting calendar!