The Neptune Story

Places of outstanding beauty like Rhosili Bay, Stackpole, and the stunning, secluded beaches of Ceredigion, Llŷn and Anglesey, are only in our care through the success of the Neptune Coastline Campaign, a special fundraising campaign launched in 1965.

A view across an area of rippled sand at Whiteford Burrows, Gower Peninsula, Wales ©National Trust Images/David Noton

A view across an area of rippled sand at Whiteford Burrows, Gower Peninsula, Wales
©National Trust Images/David Noton

In the 1930s, at a time when the Trust’s protection of the coast in Wales extended to a mere eight miles, historian Charles Trevelyan visited Pembrokeshire and was shocked at how development was threatening the beauty of the coast. He said “It is urgently desirable that the coast should be preserved in its natural beauty”. It took until the mid-1960s to launch the appeal with the purchase of Whiteford Burrows on Gower. Since then, our protection of the very best of the Welsh coast has increased to a total of 157 miles, which is approximately one mile in every ten.

The idea of a coastal preservation appeal was first officially broached by Christopher Gibbs, the then Chief Agent, at an Executive Committee meeting on 16 March 1962 when it was proposed that a campaign might be launched “for money to buy land or covenants for the protection of the English and Welsh coasts” in conjunction with the Council for the Protection of Rural England.

Originally named EnterpriseNeptune, the first official function of note was held on 12 November 1964. This was a small dinner at the Fishmonger’s Hall which aimed to bring the project ‘to the notice of the leaders of industry and commerce.’

The appeal was brought to the attention of Trust members at the annual National Trust gathering at the Royal Festival Hall on 8 March 1965 and to the attention of the public at large on 23 April 1965 when a series of beacons and bonfires were lit on high points throughout the country by various youth organisations to signify the commencement of the campaign.

The official launch of the appeal took place at a luncheon at Mansion House on 11 May 1965 when Prince Philip, who had consented to become patron of the appeal, gave a speech to 250 selected guests enlisting their support. As a result of this function a number of sizeable donations were received (in addition to a contribution of £250,000 which had already been given by the Treasury), and Neptune had made a promising start.

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Fighting back against the threat to the Welsh coast

A team of specialist workers are braving the heights of the dramatic Welsh coastline to eradicate an invasive plant that threatens to kill off some of the UK’s rarest species.

Climbers scale the Pembrokeshire cliffs dealing with the cotoneaster invasion ©National Trust

Climbers scale the Pembrokeshire cliffs dealing with the cotoneaster invasion
©National Trust

We are leading the campaign to rid Gower coastline of cotoneasters, which were brought to Britain from China and the Himalayas by plant hunters more than 200 years ago. In partnership with Natural Resources Wales and Plantlife, £86,000 has been secured from the Welsh Government to remove the aggressive invader.

One of the plants at risk of being smothered by cotoneaster is yellow whitlowgrass and the Gower peninsula is the only place in the UK where it grows in the wild, making it one of the country’s rarest native flowers.

Alan Kearsley-Evans, the National Trust’s Coast and Countryside manager for Gower and Ceredigion, said: “Certain species of cotoneaster have an aggressive growth form and can do very well in exposed coastal positions.

“It can cover an area fairly quickly and it effectively smothers other plants, preventing them from accessing water and light.”

“The fact that birds can carry cotoneaster berries for long distances before dropping the seeds means that tackling cotoneaster will be an on-going management action for these sites.We will be relying on the help of local recorders to alert us to new infestations which can be controlled very cheaply if spotted in the initial stages.”

The project has seen teams of workers abseiling cliffs to access even the most remote parts of the Gower coastline which was the first place in Britain to be named as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1956.

Don’t fence me in

Whiteford Burrows, the beautiful dunes on the Gower peninsula, may seem quiet during December, but our ranger teams are hard at work, come rain or shine, protecting and conserving them as an internationally important feeding ground for wading birds and wildfowl.

A view across an area of rippled sand at Whiteford Burrows, Gower Peninsula, Wales Credit: National Trust Images/David Noton

A view across an area of rippled sand at Whiteford Burrows, Gower Peninsula, Wales
National Trust Images/David Noton

The stewardship of the countryside is neverending through the seasons, but winter is the traditional time for repairing and replacing fencing.  Right across the dunes, mudflats, saltmarshes and pine plantation, the work helps to protect the rare and exceptional species of plants that grow there including early marsh orchid, fen orchid and dune gentian.

At least 250 species of flowering plants have been recorded at Whiteford, making it one of the richest dune systems in the UK.  It is a tranquil place with an ever-changing landscape of mudflats and tidal ditches with access available from dawn till dusk.

With hedge-laying and scrub-clearance activities going on right across Gower, December is no time for our rangers to put their feet up.  You can learn more about access to the Gower peninsula HERE.

Share your love of the Welsh coast to win an amazing prize

Will you be the lucky winner of a day’s kayaking or coasteering at the beautiful Stackpole Quay in Pembrokeshire?  Worth £450, this amazing prize will give you and up to five friends a day’s free kayaking and coasteering with one of our experienced guides. 

I Oakleaf Welsh Coast

All you need to do is to tell us why you love your favourite place on the Welsh coast.  To help you do this, we’ve set up a special App on our National Trust Love Wales Facebook page where you can choose from a selection of our most famous coastal places.

Or, why not leave ‘a message in a bottle’ for us.  At six places around the coast of Wales you’ll find special signs where you can pick up a free postcard with a tear-off card that you can pop back into the bottle-shaped sign.  The six places are: Cemlyn, Anglesey; Porthdinllaen & Llanbedrog, Llŷn; Penbryn, Ceredigion; Stackpole, Pembrokeshire and Pennard Cliffs, Gower.

A happy visitor leaving a ‘message in a bottle’ at Porth Dinllaen.

A happy visitor leaving a ‘message in a bottle’ at Porth Dinllaen.

The most inspiring and original comment will be chosen by our Director for Wales, Justin Albert, and the lucky winner will be able to take up their prize before the end of September 2014.

Butterflies, bugs and bombs

Where’s all the bare sand gone? 

This is what older visitors will question when they visit sand dunes around our coast. The contrast between childhood memories of jumping off sand cliffs and running through acres of golden sand and today’s grassy dunes may set them thinking that something’s changed.

Wildlife in one of Gower’s finest nature reserves has received an unexpected boost from the Ministry of Defence during a search for unexploded bombs.

Wildlife in one of Gower’s finest nature reserves has received an unexpected boost from the Ministry of Defence during a search for unexploded bombs.

They’d be right. Over the past 20 years, areas of bare sand have been taken over by coarse grasses and scrub. Delicate rare plants are disappearing, along with the butterflies and insects that depend on them.

A novel solution to this problem has been found at a sand dune nature reserve on Gower. Our head ranger Alan Kearsley-Evans takes up the story:

“We usually prefer not to intervene and let nature take its course. But when we realised Whiteford Burrows was losing rare plants like the fen orchid, we decided it was time to do something to rejuvenate the dunes and get the wildlife back.”

Military excavators at Whiteford burrows on North Gower.

Military excavators at Whiteford burrows on North Gower.

Alan and his contacts at the Government’s wildlife agency, Natural Resources Wales asked Ministry of Defence contractors searching for unexploded bombs if they could lend a hand by digging up more of the dunes.

Danger unexploded ordnance

Danger unexploded ordnance

“It’s been a real win-win situation. Whiteford Burrows has been made a safer place and precious wildlife is already benefiting by having more areas of bare sand.”

Nature’s hairdryer, Worm’s Head, Rhossili

Worm’s Head at Rhossili is my favourite place on Gower to escape to for a ‘get-away-from-it-all walk’. On a weekend, when the tides are right (it’s accessible a couple of hours either side of low tide), I love to just pack up a picnic and head to Rhossili, across the rocky causeway and have lunch sitting on the outer head.

Walking on the Gower

Walking on the Gower

Out there the views over Rhossili Bay are the most amazing you’ll get anywhere on Gower. The first time I ‘walked the Worm’, my children were about six and ten. Even though the terrain is uneven and craggy in parts, my kids managed to scramble over the causeway much more easily than I did. The blow-hole on the outer head always fascinates the kids – nature’s own hairdryer as I like to call it.

If you are lucky, you’ll get to see grey seals basking on the rocks below, and there’s always a great selection of seabirds to be found – guillemots, kittiwakes, razorbills, oystercatchers, and also the occasional puffin on the sea. Worm’s Head truly is magical – my special place! Kim Boland