Posted by: KimBoland | August 6, 2015

Cwm Ivy Sea Wall – An update …

Cwm Ivy Sea Wall – An update …

Photo by Gordon Howe

Photo by Gordon Howe

Whilst the current diversion through the Cwm Ivy woods means the Wales Coast Path remains continuous around the Cwm Ivy coastline, ensuring people can still enjoy the area, we’d like to give you a progress report on the current situation:


We are one of three partners – along with NRW and the City and County of Swansea – involved in looking after Cwm Ivy, with responsibility for public access across the sea wall lying solely with City and County of Swansea.

Coastal storms in 2014 breached a medieval sea wall allowing salt water to come into marshland behind the wall. It has always been the intention of all the partners to allow the development of a saltwater marsh habitat in the area. However, a massive breach of the sea wall – which is in poor condition – by the coastal storms accelerated this process.

Current situation:

At present a public consultation is taking place, following independent expert surveys, about introducing a saltmarsh habitat and the viability of bridging the sea wall. Natural Resources Wales are the lead organisation in this work and expect to present a preferred option in September 2015. We have been liaising with them on the financial, technical, environmental and sustainable aspects that need to be considered. More info can also be found here: LINK. We hope this helps, thanks.

Looking forward:

The Cwm Ivy situation is a complex one and as such is subject to a lot of speculation regarding the breach and subsequent failure of the wall.

So we wanted to take this this opportunity to explain what has happened and how we are managing the situation.

In 2001 and 2010 the Welsh Government’s Shoreline Management Plan, which directs policy and planning, for the Welsh Coast was created and reviewed.

The policy covering Cwm Ivy Marsh was set as ‘No active intervention’. This means letting nature take its course, on the shoreline where there is no justification to intervene with coastal defences or operations.

In practice this  means existing defences will not be maintained and will fail over time or undefended shorelines will be allowed to evolve naturally. There was extensive public consultation before these policies were set.

The recent situation at Cwm Ivy has been that sea level rise meant that the Cwm Ivy sea wall was being overtopped by high tides and storms  – particularly at either end of the embankment. This caused the naturally occurring breach that happened last year in the sluice gate area.

The Welsh Government Shoreline Management plan precluded us from significantly repairing the wall and breech. We have also taken the decision to take a long-term view, choosing to work with nature and adapt to coastal change. Ultimately, nature will rule, and our duty is to look after places such as Cwm Ivy through a pragmatic approach.

Since the breach occurred we have been working with Natural Resources Wales to run with the situation with regard to habitat creation. Even in a relatively short period, the change in habitat has been remarkable as has been the significant increase in wildlife species.

With regards to the footpath access, it has always been our desire to have the Welsh Coast Path continue across the front of the Cwm Ivy Marsh, and we very much wished we would be able to span the gap.

However an independent expert engineering survey has assessed the embankment as unsustainable, and unable to take any significant weight. The report had also shown there is a high risk of the wall failing in more locations along the length in the near future.

This has raised considerable public safety concerns about bridging the breach across the sea wall, but  currently no final decision has been taken.

The responsibility for public access across the sea wall solely lies with the County and City of Swansea, who are a partner on this project.  They are currently looking at the expert engineering and safety advice.

It is our opinion, after reading the independent report, that it is not viable to continue the path on the existing route.

However, this is only our opinion and there is more information still to be presented that could alter that perception.

Fortunately, if we are correct then there is a good alternative diversion.

Archaeology across the Welsh coastline such as this is faced with inevitable loss as sea level rises and coastal erosion increases. We have identified and prioritised these assets and have undertaken to record and learn as much about them as possible before they are lost, the embankment at Cwm Ivy is one that has been recorded.

We will continue to work with the National Resources Wales and City and County of Swansea to explore  whether the foot path across the wall is sustainable or not.

We believe the independent expert consultancy firm will giving their conclusion and advice soon.

Following that report National Resources Wales, Swansea City and County Council and ourselves will decide upon our preferred option for Cwm Ivy. Our decisions will be based on technical feasibility, environmental impact, sustainability and health and safety recommendations to ensure it delivers the best outcome for Cwm Ivy and future generations.

For more information on the National Trust’s Shifting Shores policy, which is guiding our decisions as sea level rises around the coast, click here



  1. A sensible and valid summary – well done!

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