Playing our part at the Welsh coast

Freshwater West in Pembrokeshire
Published : 26 Nov 2015 Last update : 27 Nov 2015

National Trust Wales is calling on Government agencies, Welsh organisations and the people of Wales to support its far-reaching vision to make Wales’s coast ‘fit for the future’ at its Shifting Shores conference, being held at Swansea’s Waterfront Museum today.

Calling for urgent action at the coast, we are urging all major players involved with managing our shorelines to ensure that all coastal areas in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are ready for the enormous challenges of increased erosion and flooding presented by climate change and rising sea levels.

An adaptive approach

Ten years after the publication of our original Shifting Shores l Glannau Ansefydlog report, Playing our part at the coast / Chwarae ein rhan ar yr arfordir' calls for a crucial shift ‘from saying to doing’ if we are going to avoid even greater problems in future.  We are restating our preference for an adaptive approach to coastline management and the increasing importance of working across boundaries with partners, local communities and beach users to consider the landscape as a whole.

" No-one at this conference will be under any illusion about the scale of the challenge we face. But we will also be recognising the great work has already been done to make our coast resilient to change."
- Richard Neale, National Trust Wales Coastal Project Manager

Richard Neale, National Trust Wales coastal project manager, said: 'Coastal Management Policy is moving in the right direction but there is still more we can do. Wales’ Shoreline Management Plans are now in their second generation, but their integration into local plans is patchy. We would like to see stronger guidance as to how SMPs can be integrated and a better review process to monitor progress.'

'Our most pressing challenge is how to get all those involved talking to each other, sharing experience and developing shared solutions.'

'This year National Trust has been celebrating 50 years of its landmark Neptune Coastal Campaign. That campaign has saved hundreds of miles of coastline from decline or development.'

'As part of that campaign, I’ve personally trekked and sailed round large chunks of the Welsh coastline with volunteers to highlight the work we have done in the past 50 years and how we are looking forward. I personally couldn’t imagine a world without the wonderful pristine coastal places we can enjoy in Wales.' 

'The principle of coastal adaptation presents challenges, but also great opportunities to allow nature to thrive on our shores. Without stretches of naturally evolving coastline, the quality of life of the millions of us who enjoy our Welsh coastline will be greatly diminished.'

Keeping Wales’s coast wonderful

People living in Wales have always had a strong sense of connection to the coast. Fifty per cent of Welsh residents live within 20 minutes of the coast and we aim to get the backing of those people and more for their coastal vision to secure a healthy future for the Welsh coastline.

Shorelines are under threat from environmental change and that means the enjoyment we all experience from our coastal visits is under threat too.

Forty per cent of people in Wales visit the coast once a month and the top five things people from Wales value most about our stunning coast are:

1.    Fresh air (73%)
2.    Peace and freedom (56%)
3.    Fun and enjoyment (51%)
4.    Getting close to nature and wildlife (39%)
5.    Exercise (37%)

But all these coastal connections could fade away unless policy makers and key bodies adopt a more positive approach to coastal adaptation. National Trust Wales is bringing together key policy informers and makers to ensure we don’t have to imagine a world without our amazing coastal places and experiences.

Beyond our boundaries

We are working with others to understand the changes we face at our coastal places and put in place coastal adaptation strategies as a framework to inform actions and decision making over the coming years.

This work involves a landscape-scale style approach; working ‘beyond our boundaries’ and in partnership with local communities and other organisations to create more joined up and better managed stretches of coastline that are more resilient to the impacts of a changing climate and can continue to be rich in wildlife and provide great coastal places for people to enjoy.

We have started working in this way at many of the coastal locations we care for including at Freshwater West in Pembrokeshire. Here, our vision aims to breathe new life into one of Wales’s most treasured stretches of coastline where the effects of climate change are already being felt.  Large areas of the farm are only 15 centimetres above the high watermark, with the precious wetlands inevitably due to turn tidal by the end of the century. Working in partnership with the local community, neighbours and other organisations, the landscape-scale project is already gradually restoring and extending reed beds, fen meadows and dune grasslands. Farming and wildlife are adapting and thriving hand-in-hand.

Nature knows best

Twelve coastal sites in Wales have been identified as being at major risk from coastal change, requiring urgent action to be taken by National Trust and other bodies including Natural Resources Wales.  At many of these sites, we are learning that a ‘Nature Knows Best’ approach is providing a more beautiful, wildlife-rich and resilient coastline than would be the case if we went for engineered solutions that have a limited life-span.

Searching for shared solutions will be a major call to action of the Shifting Shores conference focussing on key case studies at Gupton Farm, near Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire, Cwm Ivy on Gower and Fairborne in Gwynedd.

Shifting shores report

Our shifting shores report is calling for an imaginative approach to coastline management.

Give today

It costs £3000 a year to look after 1 mile of the Welsh coast.