Shingle ridge facts
A vegetated shingle habitat is exactly what it sounds like - a pile of small shingle stones that has been colonised by plants along the coast.
This habitat is made up of three zones:
- The beach zone: closest to the sea where the waves are strong and powerful. Very few plants can survive here due to the harsh waves and regular flooding by the tide.
- The fragile ridge crest: here the shore is hit hard by wild storms and high tides but it is not regularly covered by the tide. Pioneering salt resistant and drought resistant plants such as sea kale, yellow horned poppy and sea radish colonise the ridge.
- The backslope: protected from the sea by the ridge, it has more developed, less specialised vegetation. A conservation issue occurs here when certain grasses dominate and form a separate grassland habitat. This is good for mammals and birds of prey but reduces the overall species richness.
Each of these zones has a distinctive habitat character and associated wildlife.
The coastline is home to a variety of important coastal bird species including ringed plover. Returning each year to the same area, ringed plovers lay a clutch of eggs amongst the stones and plants. Without true nests, both birds and eggs are very vulnerable to being disturbed or preyed upon throughout the breeding season until fledging in August or September.
The naturally forming shingle ridge has been partially affected by coastal flood defence work and rock groynes further west down the coastline. This affects the supply of new shingle at the western end of the ridge, meaning when shingle is washed away during storms it doesn’t get replaced naturally.
This is a form of soft engineering which involves artificially supplying sediment by importing it from elsewhere. We’ve used this type of management to counteract the erosion at the western end of Pensarn Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). We have imported rounded stones from a local quarry of a similar grade to the natural material. Yellow horned poppy plants have since flourished in the area that was disturbed.
An area of Pensarn SSSI is a dog exclusion zone, between the wooden bollards by the cafe and the concrete bollards at the western end of the promenade. The restrictions are in place 01 May to 31 September when ringed plovers try to nest. The birds lay a clutch of eggs among the stones and are vulnerable to being disturbed while protecting them.
Byelaws are in operation at most of our managed wildlife areas.
You are not allowed to camp, have open fires, litter, or damage or remove plants.
We hope you enjoy your experience at any of the 20 wildlife areas we look after. We manage the human impact on the environment by regularly maintaining paths, steps, benches, fencing and signs, and litter picking.