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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Bees, burrows and bloody crane’s-bill

An exciting new venture is well under way to help understand and protect the wonderful limestone grassland on Gower.

Volunteers carry out a survey at Cwm Ivy Tor in Gower ©National Trust/Corrine Manning

Volunteers carry out a survey at Cwm Ivy Tor in Gower
©National Trust/Corrine Manning

Cwm Ivy Tor is an impressive limestone outcrop, which looms out of the surrounding sand dunes of Whiteford Burrows. From late spring through to autumn, these rocky slopes are awash with an incredible array of colourful, nectar-rich flowering plants, many of which are specialist to limey soils. Species found here include bloody crane’s-bill, burnet saxifrage, quaking grass, greater knapweed, squinancywort and the delicately beautiful fairy flax. At least seventy-five species have been recorded on the western slope alone. These in turn support an enormous number of bees, butterflies and other invertebrate species.

On a world scale, such species-rich limestone grasslands are pretty rare. Monitoring of the Tor is vital if we are to assess the condition of the grassland to inform its management and ensure that a rich variety of plants continue to thrive on this beautiful site.

This summer saw the first trial of the new monitoring packs assembled by Nature Conservation Advisor Helen Buckingham and Gower & Ceredigion Manager Alan Kearsley-Evans for use by staff and volunteers. They were met with great enthusiasm on training sessions held in the summer, which means we have a small group of trained and keen volunteers who are ready to continue the monitoring next year. In the autumn they have also helped input and analyse the data, feeding back the results into the management plan for the tor.

Projects such as this are a really effective way of boosting confidence, increasing knowledge, skills and job prospects for our volunteers; a fair reward for the wonderful work they do.

A fine legacy at Whiteford Burrows

Wildlife watching at Whiteford Burrows just got more comfortable with the opening of a new observation hide. The area, at the far end of Gower’s north coast, is widely recognised for its ecological diversity and varied birdlife.

The beautiful new bird hide at Whiteford Burrows © National Trust

The beautiful new bird hide at Whiteford Burrows
© National Trust

The old bird hide, provided in memory of Sir William Wilkinson by friends, was located at Berges Island since 2000. It withstood all the elements threw at it, in an exposed site. However time took its toll and timbers started to rot.

The new bird hide has been made possible by a legacy from SC John, who wanted the money to go towards work on Gower. Inside the hide are beautiful illustrated panels of the birds you likely to see in the area, thanks to an additional donation by the Abertawe Centre.

It was a week’s work for Andy Roberts to build the hide – a man who obviously takes a great pride in his work. The new hide is bigger with more windows and has a ramp for easier access. It also boasts a turf roof.

We’d like to thank all who contributed to this project and we hope the hide will be enjoyed for many years to come.

The Gower has so much to offer – click here for more information.

 

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.

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.”