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Our work at Cwm Ivy

A view looking east from Cwm Ivy Tor overlooking Cwm Ivy saltmarsh and Whiteford Burrows sand dunes, North Gower, Swansea.
A view of Cwm Ivy marsh and Whiteford Burrows | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Cwm Ivy marsh on the North Gower coast, is a salt marsh teeming with wildlife. It supports a thriving ecosystem from tiny, rare snails to grass snakes, otters, and bats. Learn more about our work at this special habitat near Whiteford sand dunes.

North Gower coastal super-habitat

Cwm Ivy marsh is part of a much wider series of habitats all joined together on the North Gower coast. Salt marsh meets woodland, as well as freshwater marsh full of newts and frogs. There are limestone grasslands and reed beds where hen harriers can occasionally be found hunting during the winter months. Nearby Whiteford Burrows sand dunes are full of rare plants and invertebrates.

A rare landscape

Whiteford and North Gower is a rich and dynamic coastal landscape, just as nature intended. There are very few places left where you can see such a range of undeveloped coastal habitats in a single view. Unfortunately, salt marshes are becoming increasingly rare on a world scale. Urban development threatens to take over these coastal ecosystems. Our salt marshes are going to be even more under threat, as sea levels are predicted to rise over the next 50 years.

Wildlife at Cwm Ivy salt marsh

When the sea wall was breached at Cwm Ivy in 2014, we let nature take its course. The land evolved in just three years from a sea of mud to a flourishing salt marsh. The abundance of wildlife ranges from sea slugs to otters and even visiting ospreys.

Salt marsh plants and pollinators

Seeds of specialist salt marsh plants such as native salt marsh grass has arrived here with salt-laden mud. Drifts of sea lavender, flowering sea aster and thrift all attract an abundance of pollinators at Cwm Ivy. Bees and butterflies during the day, and after the sun sets the salt marsh is alive with thousands of moths.

Sea lavender flowering in a saltmarsh on a sunny day.
Sea lavender growing in the saltmarsh | © National Trust Images/Rob Coleman

Marine creatures and mammals

As well as specialist plants the mud brought tiny marine animals to Cwm Ivy, such as mud shrimps, sea slugs and snails. These tiny creatures are in such abundance, they provide food for huge amounts of fish and other wildlife. All the small creatures in the salt marsh support larger predators. You can find otters here, as well as badgers, foxes, and even polecats.

Cwm Ivy birdlife

As the salt marsh has developed so has the birdlife. Large flocks of songbirds including pipits and finches come here in the autumn and winter. During the worst of the winter weather, wildfowl shelter in North Gower, feasting on marine invertebrates.

Rare species at Cwm Ivy

A real success story for Cwm Ivy is the discovery of a tiny and very rare snail called the narrow-mouthed whorl snail. The habitat restoration in North Gower has more than doubled its potential habitat. This is great for its long-term survival.

The salt marsh habitat has also supported top predators like the osprey. Meanwhile the abundance of invertebrates attract the rare lesser and greater horseshoe bats.

Our projects at Cwm Ivy

From monitoring wildlife and checking up on species, conservation volunteers and scientists have plenty to do at Cwm Ivy salt marsh.

Otter emerging from the water and eating a fish.
Otter with fish | © National Trust Images / Ian Ward

Monitoring change

We regularly monitor the plants, birds, mammals, invertebrates, and sediment composition at Cwm Ivy. This helps us understand the habitat transformation after salt water breached the sea walls. It also helps us understand the complexity of the developing ecosystem and how it compares with similar coastal conservation sites.

Sharing knowledge

Through monitoring we can keep a close eye on how the habitat has changed, comparing records from before and after the breach. We then share this knowledge with the public, schools, scientists, and researchers, as well as land managers across the UK. 

Science projects

A lot of students come to Whiteford and North Gower to learn about the natural world. We’ve run science projects with Swansea University including a project on the diet of Cwm Ivy otters. Volunteers collected otter spraints to learn what the animals were eating. It turns out that crab, stickleback, and the bearded rockling are popular with our resident otters.

Thank you

With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.

A view of the Cwm Ivy Marsh, Whiteford Burrows, Swansea. There's white-tinged marshy terrain with some trees in the foreground, while a forest high up on a hillside is visible beyond.


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