Cemlyn's Changing Coastline

Sunset at Cemlyn Bay with the lagoon to the left

Cemlyn is a place of big skies; a refuge for wildlife and a sanctuary for those wishing to escape everyday life. But we face a big challenge keeping it that way…

Climate Change: Challenge or Opportunity?

This two-mile stretch of National Trust land, half a mile from the village of Cemaes on the North Anglesey coast, is of exceptional environmental and cultural value.  It is home to an internationally important colony of Sandwich terns, includes an historic mill and medieval church and was the site of Anglesey’s first lifeboat.  

The estate includes two family-run farms, two smallholdings and is a popular destination for walkers, bird-watchers and kayakers.

But Cemlyn faces an uncertain future.  Much of the estate is low-lying and is already affected by coastal flooding and erosion.  Wildlife, historic features and the farming way of life are all threatened by climate change, raising serious questions about the future of the estate.

Sea-level rise projections require a radical re-think about land use and access routes on the estate (Predicted 1m sea level rise shown in light blue)
Cemlyn Flood Risk Area

The land also sits right next door to the site of the proposed Wylfa Newydd nuclear power station which, if it goes ahead, will be one of Europe’s biggest construction sites.

If ever there was a need for a clear conservation vision, this is it.

Stormy Waters

Sea levels are rising.  Since records began at nearby Holyhead in 1965 there’s already been a 17.8 cm rise in mean high water.  By the end of the century, land currently being used for hay, silage and grazing at Cemlyn will be underwater at the highest tides.  The shingle ridge that protects the islands which support 20% of the UK Sandwich terns may be breached and access roads, car parks and footpaths will be unusable.

Parking problems? Cemlyn's main car park is frequently flooded by the tide, making it necessary to plan for its relocation
Flooded car park at Cemlyn, North Wales
" The 12 highest recorded high tides [at nearby Holyhead] have all occurred since 1997"
- Prof. Ken Pye, Environmental Scientist and advisor to the Cemlyn vision project
Storms overtop the shingle ridge, lowering its height and flooding farmland
Storm at Cemlyn

Seeking a shared vision

We’ve recently started to share our ideas for Cemlyn’s future with our farming tenants, conservation partners and the local community.  This follows two years of detailed research, which has involved studies of the hydrology, geomorphology, soils and farming practices of the estate.  A picture is emerging of threatened habitats, livelihoods and farming traditions that stretch back for generations.

We’ve taken our stand to the Anglesey Show and held a Cemlyn Open Day to share our vision and gather feedback from locals and visitors.
Cemlyn Open Day
We are sharing the latest climate change predictions with our farming tenants and helping them plan for the future
Highland cattle on NT coast
North Wales Wildlife Trust volunteers repairing storm damage in 1974. The NWWT has been managing the tern colony for 40 years. Their expertise has been invaluable in developing a conservation vision for the estate
Cemlyn volunteers 1970s
" Our role is to defend the beauty and wildlife of this amazing stretch of coast. By working with our farming tenants and partners, we we can seize the opportunity of climate change to make it even better"
- Richard Neale, Wales Coast Project Manager

Check out the vision

We've prepared this summary of our Cemlyn vision.  If you'd like more information or have any comments on the vision, please feel free to contact me on richard.neale@nationaltrust.org.uk

Cemlyn Vision summary document (PDF / 3.2470703125MB) download

Did you know?

Did you know that Cemlyn was one of the first nature reserves in Wales and has a fascinating conservation history?  Check out the main milestones in this conservation timeline document:

Cemlyn's conservation story (PDF / 2.2314453125MB) download

Cwm Ivy marsh at high tide

Our shifting shores  

Find out how we're adapting to rising sea levels on the Welsh coastline.

Dunwich Heath is at risk of coastal erosion

Shifting shores report 2015 Welsh version 

Shifting Shores - Playing our part at the coast (PDF). Read the Welsh version of our Shifting Shores 2015 report.

The storms battering the dunes

Living with change: Our shifting shores 

We're tackling the threats of a changing coastline to safeguard the coastline you love.