Cwm Ivy on the North Gower coast
Cwm Ivy marsh is a small parcel of land on the coast of North Gower. It was claimed from the sea to be used as farmland in the 17th century and was protected by a sea defence which over the years increased in size and strength. In 2014 the sea wall breached, and the sea reclaimed the land, transforming Cwm Ivy freshwater marsh to salt marsh.
Shifting Shores at Cwm Ivy
Our 2015 Shifting Shores report 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 take its course.
Sea wall breach
In November 2013, Cwm Ivy sea wall was showing signs of distress. Repeated heavy rain had welled the inland stream to unprecedented levels and the sluice gate designed to drain the marsh simply wasn’t able to remove the water fast enough.
The pressure of water forced a small hole under the wall and the following winter of storms, rain, high tides and storm surges began to widen the hole and allow significant amount of sea water into the freshwater marsh.
By August 2014 the summer storms finally caused the wall to fail, effectively ending its time as a sea defence.
Almost as soon as the breach occurred the vegetation underwent a radical change. The farmland grasses died back within days and the trees rapidly began dropping leaves and most were standing dead wood by spring 2015.
Was this a problem? Visually this was not an improvement over the lush greens we used to see, however this transition phase, unsightly as it was, was temporary until the salt marsh plants started to take over.
Salt marsh returns
Fast forward to March 2015 and the first signs of life from salt marsh plants could be seen; delicate scurvey grass, Salicorina (samphire) species, sea blight, thrift and sea spurrey. By June 2015 the whole marsh was alive with the vibrant greens of a healthy salt marsh.
Three years on from the breach Cwm Ivy marsh has transformed from grazing pasture and by the winter of 2017, we had a fully functioning wildlife-rich tidal salt marsh.
Birds to see at Cwm Ivy
The tidal nature of Cwm Ivy marsh brings in a host of fresh nutrients, fish and invertebrates with it, providing a veritable feast for a range of bills. Look out for:
The bright white plumage of little egrets makes them the most noticeable species. They can be spotted daily, often bent over a shallow pool, patiently looking for fish trapped by the receding tide, along with their larger cousin, the grey heron.
If you’re lucky you may even see the dazzling flash of electric blue as kingfishers dive in for prey. They prefer slow moving water where they hunt for fish and aquatic insects.
They can be seen here throughout the year, listen out for their distinctive ‘peewit’ sounding calls. They also breed here in small numbers and lay their eggs on the ground around the outskirts of the marsh.
There are two bird hides - Cheriton hide and Monterey hide, located either side of the marsh and perfect for enjoying the sights and sounds of this evolving marsh, which also forms part of the wider Whiteford National Nature Reserve.
A scenic spot for coastal walks, water sports and wildlife. With 3 miles of sandy beach there’s plenty of space for the whole family to play in the sand or fly a kite.