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.”

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