Swansea, Neath, Port Talbot

Sand dunes in Wales are rare and threatened, with very few of them currently in a healthy state to maintain the diverse wildlife populations that rely on them. Some of the biggest challenges they face are over-stabilisation of the sand – which we now know needs to be mobile – and invasive species, which wouldn’t naturally be growing on the dunes, taking over the habitat. With little shifting bare sand left, there’s little environment available for dune pioneer species – plants and animals which are the first to live in shifting sand.

Our work in the area will occur at Baglan Burrows, Crymlyn Burrows, Pennard Burrows, Penmaen Burrows, Oxwich dunes and Broughton Burrows, and 21 hectares of sand dune will be restored or recreated during the project. Dynamic Dunescapes work in Wales is led by Natural Resources Wales, working with National Trust, local authorities, Wildlife Trusts, Plantlife and private landowners.

As part of this project we will try to restore some of the dynamic processes of sand dunes here; by exposing bare sand there will be more free movement of sand through the dune systems and a greater area for bare sand-loving species, such as the common lizard, to live in.

Dune heath is a rare habitat in Wales ¬- and one which needs our help. This project will help restore the dune heathland at Pennard Burrows and Penmaen Burrows by clearing areas of dense scrub and bracken. Removing dense over-grown vegetation which shades the heather and heathland wildflower species, allows the area to flourish again. Mowing in some areas will be used to keep growth low, and rabbit grazing will also be encouraged.

At Oxwich, rabbits used to be a big part of the sand dune environment, helping keep vegetation short and the dunes mobile. However, Myxomatosis (a disease introduced into Britain in the 1950’s) and more recently RHD (Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease) devastated many of the UK’s rabbit populations. This project aims to reintroduce some rabbits to the dunes and also encourage the small remaining rabbit populations to increase by creating new warrens and mowing dune grassland.

The damp dips between the dune ridges, known as dune slacks, also need some attention. We will aim to restore old overgrown slacks at Crymlyn Burrows and at Oxwich, using techniques such as surface scraping and scrub removal. This will lower the ground level, allowing the dips to flood seasonally and remain moist for most of the year. Once restored, these slacks will be a better home for rare plants such as the tiny, rare fen orchid, and amphibians such as the common toad.

Photos from Swansea, Neath and Port Talbot

Wildlife you might see in Swansea

On a sunny, quiet day, you might spot rabbits hopping across the grassland on the dunes at Oxwich, grazing in areas where vegetation is low.

The dune slacks are home to several amphibian species, such as the great crested newt and the common toad, which live and breed in the shallow pools.

Common lizard, slow worm and grass snake can be spotted enjoying the sun on the sand or in low grassland.

Sand dunes are important habitats for birds too, and the skylark can often be seen at Broughton, where it nests on the ground in areas of open ground with little vegetation.

In terms of plant life in the dunes, the small pretty purple-flowered dune gentian can be seen in bloom between June and September at Oxwich.

A smiling woman with long brown hair holds up a piece of seaweed

Meet Your Friendly Face in Wales

Hannah Lee

Plantlife

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!

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