Earlier this week the long running saga concerning a breach in the seawall at Cwm Ivy Marsh finally reached its conclusion (read my original post on the subject here). For those locals who were lobbying the National Trust to make immediate repairs the announcement that the area is to be turned into a new tidal saltmarsh will no doubt come as a bitter disappointment. Not only will the seawall be permanently lost (a structure dating from the Middle Ages) but along with it what was once a popular walking route (I guess the Wales coast path just got a little longer as well!). I share this feeling of loss but as I’ve previously stated this controlled retreat was really the only sensible option available. With sea levels on the rise and an increase in both ferocity and frequency of winter storms any repairs to the old defenses would likely only ever have been a temporary measure. The costs involved in such upkeep are simply not justified by the grazing pasture they protect and with pressures elsewhere on saltmarsh habitat this seems a highly sensible option.
The new project is to be undertaken by both Natural Resources Wales and the National Trust and will ultimately result in the creation of almost 100 acres of new saltmarsh. When I last visited fresh water vegetation was already dying off, a process that has only accelerated as the breach worsens with each high tide bringing in silt and potential new colonisers. The hope is that this new habitat will become an important feeding and nesting site for birds and other wildlife, a tantalising proposition given the areas good accessibility and clear views. The one problem with the North Gower marshes is that they are often difficult to watch so I look forward to enjoying many evening roosts at Cwm Ivy as the transformation advances. My main hope is that Hen Harriers, a regular winter visitor here, take advantage of this new landscape and allow even more people to enjoy these spectacular birds.
If you want to read more on this story there are several news items about though I’m looking forward to reading a more detailed plan and timeline. In the meantime all we can do is watch and see how this exciting new initiative develops.
Natural Resources Wales: New project to create compensatory saltmarsh habitat