Responding to climate change at Mount Stewart
Mount Stewart estate in County Down is positioned on the east shore of Strangford Lough. It’s exposed to the elements and vulnerable to climate change. Find out how we’re adapting to rising sea levels and creating new wildlife habitats.
Keeping Mount Stewart’s wildlife safe
With its dramatic coastal views and abundance of marine life, Mount Stewart estate is home to light-bellied brent geese, harbour seals and terns. These species are vulnerable to the effects of climate change; as rising sea levels threaten the salt marsh, mudflats and islands, their habitat is under threat.
Threatened birdlife at Strangford Lough
Strangford Lough is one of the few marine nature reserves in the UK. One of the impacts of climate change is erosion of the islands in the lough, which are important for breeding seabirds. The low-lying islands are under significant threat and in danger of being submerged, which will cause a decline in seabird populations as they lose their breeding and resting habitats.
The rising sea level also has an impact on the mudflats which are vital for the wintering birds that visit Strangford Lough on their migration. They provide food for the birds and are in danger of being submerged, which would dramatically change migrating wildlife populations.
The impact of the changing weather
As well as threats to wildlife, some of the estate’s infrastructure is also impacted by the severe changes in weather. Winter storms are damaging the estate's access routes and roads (some of which date back to 1744) and pose a flood risk to gardens and historic buildings.
Landslides and coastal erosion
There are regular landslides on the coastline around the world-famous Giant’s Causeway as a result of increased rainfall. Eighty miles away on the east coast of Northern Ireland, Mount Stewart has worked hard over the last decade to tackle the effects of coastal erosion partly due to rising sea levels around the shores of Strangford Lough.
To mitigate this, the car park has been relocated to more sheltered ground and the area has been re-purposed by using flora to act as a dense shelterbelt from the incoming sea water.
The Mount Stewart sea plantation
The Mount Stewart estate's sea plantation was created in the early 19th century. It acts as a buffer against severe weather, reducing wind speeds and preventing sea spray from depositing sea salt onto the garden and buildings. We have maintained the historic section of the seawall around the sea plantation as we know this piece of land and the woodland on the coastal boundaries of the estate creates Mount Stewart’s microclimate, but we realise that this is unlikely to be sustainable given predicted changes in sea levels due to climate change. We are introducing more detailed monitoring at the site to understand the pressures it faces, and will be looking at alternative forms of coastline management as part of our response to climate change risks.
The work at Anne’s Point
At Anne's Point, a piece of farmland surrounded on two sides by the seawall, we worked with the Rivers Agency at Northern Ireland’s Department for Infrastructure to create a breach in the wall. This has helped us adapt to rising sea levels and create new wildlife habitats. We’ll be carrying out further work on the breach so that it fills and empties with the tide, allowing the salt marsh to develop and provide a natural defence for the Portaferry Road and the estate.
Our carbon footprint
Much of the farmland on the Mount Steward estate has been converted to pasture, which means that there is a lot less carbon being released, which is not only better for the environment but works towards the National Trust goal of being carbon net-zero by 2030.
We champion renewable energy at Mount Stewart. Since 2010, we've heated the buildings using a biomass boiler, which uses wood chip from a sustainable and certified willow coppice managed by local partners on a neighbouring estate.
Tackling climate change at Mount Stewart
Discover what is being done to make this precious landscape more resilient for people and nature.
Discover how our work helps to create space for nature to thrive. From revealing an 800-year-old Norman motte to providing diverse habit for squirrels, barn owls and the native black bee.
Take a stroll through the world-class garden at Mount Stewart and discover an extraordinary scope of plant collections and original, historic features.
Find out how we’ve been completing important work to restore historic garden spaces. Discover how you can support this work for future generations to enjoy.
Find out how you can volunteer and help all visitors to enjoy this well-loved historic family home. There’s something for everyone with roles ranging from meeting visitors to sharing the history of this special place.
Pull on your walking boots, choose your route and head out for a walk on the Mount Stewart estate. Spot seasonal wildlife as you go, or run wild in the natural play area.