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Our work to combat coastal change in Wales

View of the coastal village of Porthdinllaen with the sea and waves in the foreground in Gwynedd, Wales
The coastal village of Porthdinllaen, Gwynedd | © National Trust Images

Discover how we’re looking after 157 miles of Welsh coastline and how we’re adapting to the challenges of climate change. From creating new coastal habitats, to working with communities facing rising sea levels, learn about our work to protect the coasts of Wales for people and nature for future generations.

Living with coastal change in Wales

Our dynamic coastline has long been a place of change, but with sea levels rising by up to 1 metre over the next 100 years and our climate becoming stormier, we can expect life on the coast to become ever more threatened.

Coastal hotspots

Over the last few years, we’ve been identifying stretches of the 157 miles of Welsh coastline in our care where flooding and erosion is expected. We’ve also determined what the likely impacts will be. These are our 'coastal hotspots'. At each of the following sites we're preparing Coastal Adaptation Strategies to inform our management decisions:

  • Cemlyn
  • Plas Newydd
  • Dinas Dinlle
  • Porthdinllaen
  • Porthor
  • Aberdaron
  • Traeth Llanbedrog
  • Ynysgain (Eifionydd)
  • Morfa Bychan
  • Harlech (Llandanwg)
  • Mwnt
  • Barry Island (Abereiddi)
  • Porthclais harbour
  • Southwood Estate
  • Stackpole
  • Mwche and Pentowyn
  • North Gower
  • Rhossili
  • Pennard – Pwlldu cottage

Protecting coastal habitats

A changing coastline isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Many coastal habitats, such as sand dunes and salt marsh, are constantly shifting and the plants and animals that live there adapt to changing environments. However, when these dynamic habitats can't shift naturally inland, we lose them along with their wildlife.

Coastal Squeeze

Habitats can become trapped or squeezed, between rising sea levels on one side, and infrastructure such as sea walls, roads and natural features such as hills on the other. This concept is known as coastal squeeze. Where possible, we avoid getting into a costly cycle of building and repairing sea defences, and instead work with nature by taking an adaptive approach.

Sea holly and grass on the side of a sand dune in Whiteford Burrows, Gower Peninsula, Wales
Sea holly on a sand dune, Gower Peninsula | © National Trust Images/David Noton

Roll back for rare habitats

By not maintaining or removing hard defences we allow valuable and rare habitats to ‘roll back’ further inland so that they are more resilient to rising sea levels. The areas where it’s possible to roll back are important for keeping coastal wildlife thriving. Working with our neighbours, we're putting these principles into action at Abereiddi in Pembrokeshire.

Compensatory habitats for salt marshes

Coastal squeeze means that an equivalent to nearly 250 football pitches of salt marsh is being lost every year. Where a disappearing salt marsh can't be ‘rolled back’, then we need to look for suitable sites elsewhere. At Cwm Ivy Marsh in the Gower, our project has proven an excellent example of creating compensatory habitats.

Managed realignment

The type of adaptive approaches we can take will vary from site to site. In some places, this means forming partnerships with neighbours to allow nature to roll back. In others, we need to work together with communities to plan for a time when homes and businesses will be threatened by erosion or flooding. Our Cemlyn vision demonstrates how we are planning for change through managed realignment.

Our work for future generations

Find out how we’re working towards a healthy, resilient, wildlife-rich coastline that future generations can enjoy. These are some of the sites we’re looking after on the coasts of Wales.

Adults and juvenile sandwich terns on the shingle beach at Blakeney Point, Norfolk
Sandwich tern colony | © National Trust Images / Ian Ward
Cwm Ivy Marsh, South Gower
The damp fields at Cwm Ivy were claimed from the sea in the Middle Ages and managed for agriculture. Rather than repairing the eroding sea wall, we recreated a salt marsh, which has become a wonderful haven for wildlife.
Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire
The dunes and marsh were once part of a busy commercial farm. Now we’re managing the area for nature and people, while still supporting the farmer's work.
Historic quarry worker cottages were on the front line as winter storms hit Abereiddi. We surveyed the site and carefully dismantled the storm-damaged buildings, making the material available for local conservation projects.
Dinas Dinlle, Gwynedd
This amazing hillfort stood far from the coast in Roman times. Rather than stopping the constant erosion, we allow landslips to replenish the beach, whilst managing access and recording the archaeology before it disappears.
Cwm Tydu, Ceredigion
The isolated Iron Age fort of Castell Bach at Cwm Tydu is gradually falling into the sea. Volunteers have been recording valuable remains so we can learn more about this mysterious site before it’s lost.
Cwm Swden, Ceredigion
This wooded valley near Cwm Tydu is slowly evolving into dense woodland. We’re working to create and maintain glades for woodland edge flowers and the butterflies that feed on them.
Porthdinllaen, Gwynedd
The cottages and famous Tŷ Coch Inn at Porthdinllaen stand on the front line of climate change. With an expected one-metre rise in sea levels in the next 100 years we’re working with tenants to improve resilience to more frequent flooding.
Cemlyn, Anglesey
Cemlyn’s lagoon is the nesting site for 20 per cent of the UK’s population of rare Sandwich terns. However, this area is threatened by rising sea levels caused by climate change. Careful management is needed to allow the coastline to change, whilst protecting threatened wildlife.
Ranger in National Trust fleece inspecting white blossom on tree in orchard

For everyone, for ever

We protect and care for places so people and nature can thrive. Find out who we are and what we stand for.

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