Conservation on the Carmarthenshire Coast

Dai Hart, Lead Ranger Dai Hart Lead Ranger
A group of volunteers pose at Ragwen Beach with COASTodian kit

In Wales, the National Trust own and protect 1 in every 4 steps of the wild Welsh coast. We’re extremely proud to be the guardians of such special places and, as a conservation charity, are committed to the protection of the landscape and the wildlife that thrives upon it.

Here in south west Wales, most people would have visited or at least heard of some of our coastal jewels like Rhosili and 3 Cliffs Bay on the Gower or Barafundle and the Saint David’s Peninsula in Pembrokeshire - Areas famed for its natural beauty, pristine beaches and wild coastal cliffs that many a family day out remains a fond memory.

It’s heart-warming to see how much these areas mean to people, locals in particular, and how they commit to leaving nothing but footprints after every visit.

Nestled between the coastal giants of the south-west are the numerous lesser known sites of Carmarthenshire.

Though a little less accessible and a little more remote, areas like Mwche and Wharley are equally important for wildlife and just as visually rewarding.

I am fortunate to manage Ragwen Point (or Morfa Bychan) on the Carmarthenshire coast. A beautifully secluded pebble beach just a short walk from Pendine, the area was acquired by the National Trust to safeguard the nearby SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and 3 Scheduled Ancient Monuments that can be found on the headlands of the beach. The walk of approximately one mile from the village to the beach is a real treat for the senses during the springtime with Wild Garlic carpeting the flanks of the footpath- a satisfying result after managing the Japanese Knotweed that once covered the area.

Ragwen is a tranquil yet rugged spot that is steeped in history. Concrete structures that were used by allied forces to practice for the Normandy landings still stand on the beach front and many hours of reflection can be enjoyed without seeing a soul. 

However Ragwen’s anonymity has, on occasion, been its downfall - attracting a number of unwanted activities over the years; mostly relating to illegal camping and the aftermath that such activities leave.

The occasional ethical wild camper we can deal with but motor homes, camper vans and touring tents, sometimes there for weeks on end, meant that every time they left for the season a large clearance operation was needed.

Regular litter picks go some way to control the damage but the woodlands and heathlands which had been scoured for fire wood and torn-up after off-roading takes longer to recover.

Through partnership working with the Local Authority and Community Council, we have restricted vehicular traffic to the site which has reduced instances of illegal camping and the associated problems that go with it.

Through the National Trusts COASTodian initiative we have recruited several dedicated and determined volunteers who patrol the beach and access tracks every week, collecting any rubbish that has been left or washed up. They are now our eyes and ears on the ground and an invaluable resource that enables us to react quickly to any problems that arise.

With forward momentum on the human factors of the site it was time this year to start looking at our conservation objectives for Ragwen. The management plan allows us to build a bigger, better and more joined up environment for plants and animals to thrive.

With the support of our COASTodian volunteers, tenant farmers, stakeholders and of course the general public, we will be working on scrub clearance, and woodland management at Ragwen before  introducing controlled grazing to reduce bramble and bracken. This conservation work will help us lift the site from its perceived average nature quality status to a high nature standard.

National Trust Rangers and volunteers work hard to protect and conserve the special places on coast and countryside. Sometimes it’s our responsibility to change hearts and minds of those who frequent our properties and to nurture a respect for the land and marine life. It’s always pleasing to see positive change towards sites like Ragwen, so they can be appreciated by everyone who visits.