Coastal adaptation in action at Cwm Ivy

Cwm Ivy marsh at high tide

Welcome to the Cwm Ivy saltmarsh restoration project site

Cwm Ivy marsh, on the North Gower coast, was claimed from the sea as farmland in the 17th Century. It was protected by a sea defence which over the years was increased in size and strength. Now after nearly 400 years the embankment has been breached and the sea is reclaiming the land.

Looking to the future

Rather than repairing and maintaining the breached sea wall in its original state, we are now focusing our efforts on looking for alternative ways to ensure we can maintain access and helping the area adapt to a changing coastline.

It's a decade since we released the Shifting Shores report which held one clear message … as a nation we can no longer build our way out of trouble on the coast. This means at sites such as Cwm Ivy we no longer try to defy nature by holding back the tide, instead we let nature takes its course.

The sea wall at Cwm Ivy was breached by storms in 2014, and a new area of wildlife-rich salt marsh is now developing.  But working with nature isn’t straightforward.  We appreciate that the breach in the sea wall has resulted in the loss of a popular circular walk and is an source of frustration for many.  


Why allow the sea in?

In places like Cwm Ivy on the Gower peninsula in Wales, rising sea levels are having a big impact. Here, we decided not to repair a damaged sea wall, and allowed the sea once again to the grazed fields. This animation explores the two possible future outcomes we faced: Whether to repair the sea wall or let nature take its course.

From before the breach we’ve been doing weekly monitoring surveys for plants, birds, mammals, invertebrates and sediment.  This builds up to a unique record of saltmarsh restoration which will be useful for planning similar projects elsewhere.

When we started, most survey plots looked like this
Undertaking a quadrant plant survey at Cwm Ivy, Gower
The rapidly developing tidal creek system is providing a haven for sheltering young fish - and the otters that feed on them
Cwm Ivy salt marsh

Cwm Ivy from the sky

Witness the transformation of Cwm Ivy from grazing pasture to wildlife-rich tidal salt marsh. Triggered by a winter of bad storms, this video shows a bird’s eye view of the early stages of the transition, with footage before and after the sea wall was breached.


If you build it, they will come

Ospreys are regularly seen in the area during their spring and autumn migration. So we built a nest platform to encourage them to set up home here. Check out the time-lapse video of its construction

" The rate of change has been amazing. In the first year after the sea wall failed, we were finding plant species we’d expect to see after about 5 years. "
- Corrine Benbow, Salt marsh Project Officer


Planning to visit Cwm Ivy?

Check out the Trail below and download this poster we comissioned for one of the bird hides. Cwm Ivy Cheriton Hide Panel (PDF / 1.3701171875MB) download

Latest posts

14 Dec 17

Saltmarsh plants get everywhere

Specially adapted, salt-tolerant plants really are all over the place at Cwm Ivy-here is some Thrift Armeria maritima growing on one of the trees..!

Saltmarsh plants grow everywhere - even on the trees at Cwm Ivy Marsh, Gower

07 Nov 17

Conservation Grazers

Here are the latest addition to our Gower team-these fantastic Welsh Mountain ponies are perfectly adapted to living on the marsh. They are doing a vital job for us, keeping the habitat at its very best for nature.

Ponies, used for conservation grazing on Cwm Ivy Marsh, Gower

18 Oct 17

Dawn at Cwm Ivy

It’s always worth getting up before the lark to watch the sunrise over Cwm Ivy marsh-how beautiful is this picture, taken from one of the bird hides

Dawn at Cwm Ivy, Gower