Our work: coastal change at South Milton Sands
South Milton Sands is a much-loved beach in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in South Devon. However, it has also experienced the effects of coastal change significantly over the past few decades. Find out how the National Trust has been tackling this ongoing process, from wooden piling sea defences to regenerating a dune system, all with the help of hundreds of volunteers.
Tackling coastal change at South Milton Sands
The National Trust acquired the land at South Milton Sands in 1980.
In 1990 a wooden piling sea defence was built to protect the land behind from erosion.
By 2002 this was reaching the end of its natural lifespan so we consulted with the local community and a wide range of stakeholders to find a more sustainable solution to deal with the coastal change.
A more natural approach
We decided to switch from hard coastal defences (which have a limited life and effectiveness) and adopted a more natural process-based approach.
In 2008 we regenerated an existing dune system which we hoped would flex and adjust with rising sea levels and coastal change. Rotten timber piling and many tons of rubble and waste were removed, and new parking and access created.
The work was supported locally with hundreds of volunteers helping to plant marram grass to establish the dunes. The project was viewed as a great success.
The storms of 2014
Six years later, a dramatic combination of storm-force winds and extreme high tides had significantly damaged the dune system and the access track that lies behind it.
Richard Snow, Countryside Manager, explained: 'We are committed to public access and protecting the beach for public enjoyment. However, we also need to recognise that coastal change is something we have to accept and adapt to.
‘We now need to work with local people to develop a plan for the area which properly reflects the future impacts of coastal change.’
With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.
Follow the coast path to the pretty village of Hope Cove, enjoy some water sports or stay longer and enjoy some stargazing – there's something for everyone at South Milton Sands.
We believe that nature, beauty and history are for everyone. That’s why we’re supporting wildlife, protecting historic sites and more. Find out about our work.
Read about our strategy 'For everyone, for ever' here at the National Trust, which will take the organisation through to 2025.