‘It wasn’t pretty at first’: the Welsh wildlife haven born out of disaster | Wales


Swallows dart above the reed beds whereas an egret hunts amongst the bluey-green marshland grass and a pair of curlews circle, lengthy, curving payments clearly seen, earlier than heading out to sea. It’s so quiet you can hear the crackling sound that mud shrimps make as they feed of their burrows.

For hundreds of years, this parcel of land on the Gower Peninsula in south-west Wales, Cwm Ivy, was an abnormal dot of sheep-grazed seaside pastureland. Then the stormy winter of 2013-14 hit, inflicting the sea wall to be breached and letting salt water pour in.

Relatively than rebuilding the defences, the Nationwide Belief, which owns the land, let nature take its course and 7 years on Cwm Ivy has become a pristine salt marsh, wealthy in wildlife.

Birds discovered at Cwm Ivy which can be on the conservation purple listing embrace curlews, skylark and lapwing. {Photograph}: Dimitris Legakis/Athena Footage

Alan Kearsley-Evans, the belief’s common supervisor for Gower and Brecon, stated Cwm Ivy was an instance of what might occur if people took a step again. “At nearly each different web site we’re considering: what do now we have to do subsequent? Right here all we do is preserve fences to maintain the sheep again however other than that, we sit again and let it occur.”

Rising sea ranges and excessive climate imply that tough selections need to be made about learn how to defend, or not defend, areas of shoreline. Kearsley-Evans stated if the sea wall had been breached in a extra populous space similar to Llanelli throughout the estuary, it might have to have been rebuilt to guard properties.

However at the extra distant Cwm Ivy, permitting the water in fitted with the belief’s shifting shores policy, below which it doesn’t merely try and cease change similar to coastal erosion however adapts with it. “We tried to again off right here, to present nature area,” stated Kearsley-Evans.

The winter of 2013 was a time of relentless rain as Atlantic storms battered the west of Britain. Villages in the Somerset Ranges have been reduce off for weeks and half of a railway line in Devon was washed away.

A row of trees at once marked the old sea defence at Cwm Ivy
A row of timber that after marked the outdated sea defence at Cwm Ivy. {Photograph}: Dimitris Legakis/Athena Footage

At Cwm Ivy, a stream become a torrent and created a gap in the sea defences that had saved the land drained for a whole bunch of years. Residents have been upset at first when the Nationwide Belief defined that it was not going to repair the wall. The salt water killed off the pastureland, turning it into mud. The stately Corsican pines and willow timber died. “It wasn’t pretty at first,” stated Kearsley-Evans.

However the tides instantly started to herald marshland and wildflower seeds. Otters have been noticed, tempted again as a result of as soon as the sheep had been eliminated, there was cowl for them.

A younger osprey, the spectacular fish-eating chook of prey, stopped off for an autumn break at Cwm Ivy whereas in transit from north Wales to Africa. “That helped,” stated Kearsley-Evans. “Folks started to know what we have been attempting to do.”

An aerial view of the salt marsh at Cwm Ivy
An aerial view of the salt marsh at Cwm Ivy. {Photograph}: Dimitris Legakis/Athena Footage

The ranger Corrinne Benbow stated one of her favorite creatures to be discovered at the salt marsh was tiny – the narrow-mouthed whorl snail, a threatened species solely discovered at a handful of websites in the UK.

Birds on the conservation red list right here embrace curlews, skylark and lapwing. All three British woodpeckers have been noticed on the hulking skeletons of the Corsican pines.

A minimum of 150 species of vegetation are discovered on the marsh together with sea purslane, sea aster, sea arrowgrass (which smells of coriander) and sea lavender.

“It’s nonetheless altering but it surely’s pretty a lot reached its full potential now,” stated Benbow, who used to camp on the marsh when the seawater first got here in to regulate the fast adjustments. “I like it out right here.”

The National Trust’s Alan Kearsley-Evans and Corrinne Benbow at Cwm Ivy
The Nationwide Belief’s Alan Kearsley-Evans and Corrinne Benbow at Cwm Ivy.
{Photograph}: Dimitris Legakis/Athena Footage

Cwm Ivy is the solely web site of its type in Wales and one of few in the UK. The Nationwide Belief local weather change adviser Keith Jones stated: “We have now allowed nature to map its personal future and are actually benefiting for wildlife. The salt marsh additionally proves a useful device in tackling local weather change by sequestering carbon.

“Clearly this sort of challenge can’t be replicated throughout the UK, and we could have some tough selections in the many years to come back, however Cwm Ivy is a wonderful instance of how we have to begin fascinated by the results of local weather change and dealing with it.”


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