Work starts to breathe new life into Wales’ sand dune
After years of becoming over-stabilized and
overgrown by vegetation, with some rare plants and insects driven
to the brink of extinction, work is now starting to rejuvenate
Wales’ sand dunes.
photo by Clive Hurford ©CCW
Thanks to Welsh Government funding, a pilot project starts this
month at Kenfig National Nature Reserve. The aim is to create new
areas of bare, open sand dunes which will help wildlife thrive and
stop the devastating loss of stunning coastal flowers such as Fen
Orchids which make our dunes so special. Other declining flora such
as round leaved-wintergreen, marsh helleborine and early marsh
orchids will also benefit from the work that’s being carried out at
And it’s not just wildlife that will benefit – naturally mobile
sand dunes provide a more dynamic coastal defence system which can
adapt to storms and sea level change. They are also fantastic
landscapes and great places for recreation.
This week, bulldozers are moving on to Kenfig National Nature
Reserve to get the sand moving once again. By enlarging existing
blow-outs near the mouth of the Afon Cynffig, sand will start to
move inland within the dune system so that bare and sparsely
vegetated young dunes and dune slacks start to form once again.
Plantife’s Andy Byfield who is managing the work says "The
diggers at work may look aggressive, but the management is clearing
away the thick thatch of choking grasses, to reveal a bare and
moist sandy seed bed for rare and colourful flowers to reseed into.
Over the coming decade we expect swathes of orchids to recolonise
lost ground, bringing colour to the dunes, and restoring Kenfig to
its former glory as one of Europe's most magnificent havens for
sand dune wildlife".
If successful, the approach could be applied to other sand dune
systems along the Welsh coast. The project is being managed in
joint partnership with Bridgend County Council, the Countryside
Council for Wales, and Plantlife.
Scott Hand, the Countryside Council for Wales’ officer for
Kenfig said: “Because sand dunes around the Welsh coast have become
more stable over the last 50 years, we have lost 64% of areas of
open, mobile sand dunes, eliminating the conditions necessary for
the special wildlife of dunes to flourish.
“Just two per cent of the dune system at Kenfig is now bare
sand, down from about 40% in the mid 1940’s. It shows just how much
the reserve has become overgrown and heavily vegetated.”
Bridgend County Council Kenfig Reserve Manager, David Carrington
stated: 'The communities of plants and animals special to dune
landscapes thrive on a regime of periodic disturbance and recovery.
This disturbance has historically been caused by extreme storms and
periods of wind erosion but for the last sixty years or so, the
wind speeds seem to have reduced and the dunes have stopped moving.
This pioneering work, using machines to copy what the extreme
weather has done in the past, could prove a vital life-line for
several of our most endangered plants and insects.'
CCW is grateful to the Kenfig trustees for their support with
this work, which is taking place well away from property and poses
no risks to people's interests.
The work at Kenfig will build on previous work by Bridgend
County Borough Council, which manages the NNR. The reserve team has
already opened up small areas of bare sand and for the past 20
years they have tackled coarse vegetation by mowing. Cattle now
graze the northern dunes.
Kenfig National Nature Reserve is also a Special Area of
Conservation and Site of Special Scientific Interest. This
management work is being undertaken with due regard to habitats and
species of national and international importance, with the aim of
improving their condition.
Alongside the project at Kenfig, the Welsh Government funding
also enables CCW to commission a study of 10 major sand dune sites
around the Welsh coast, to identify areas that need rejuvenating.
Together with the trial at Kenfig, this could lead to a
recommendation for similar work in other Welsh sand dune systems in
NOTES TO EDITORS
DV footage of the work taking place and interviews are available
For more information contact: CCW Press Officers Helen Evans on
01248 387377 or 07717225589, or Brân Devey on 02920 772403 /
07747767443. Justina Simpson, Plantlife, on 07584 995 929.
Andy Byfield, Plantlife, is co-ordinating the work at Kenfig.
The project is managed by Dr Mike Howe, CCW Invertebrate
This work was funded by the Welsh Government, Countryside
Council for Wales, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Million Ponds,
Biffaward, and Environment Wales.
The Countryside Council for Wales is a Welsh Government
Sponsored Body, working for a better Wales where everyone values
and cares for our natural environment www.ccw.gov.uk.