Pembrey Coast: Carmarthen Bay & Estuaries IPA

Location: South and east of Carmarthen Bay in South Wales. They stretch from Pendine Burrows, east of Pendine and south of the A4066 to the Pembrey Coast and Whiteford Burrows, west of Llanelli on the River Loughor estuary.

Grid Reference: SN 386 024

Pembrey Coast: Camarthen Bay & Estuaries IPA has been recognised as one of 165 Important Plant Areas in the UK.

The key features of this IPA are:

  • One of the best UK examples of threatened habitats of stoneworts on humid dune slacks
  • This area of estuaries, coastal lowlands, sand dunes and intertidal sand bars lies around Carmarthen Bay, on the South Wales coast. Behind the long expanses of sand dunes of the bay, on the east and west sides of the estuary mouths of the Rivers Taf, Tywi and Gwendraeth, lie large areas of low lying marshland.

    At Pembrey a forest beside the sea, planted to help stabilise the dunes, is a fascinating mixture of pine forest, sand dune and wide expanse of beautiful beach. The location is home to a variety of vascular plants, and is one of the few sites in the west where the fen orchid is still known to occur.

    Dunes are moving all the time and have differing stages. They begin as small embryo dunes just above high tide. Plants able to tolerate the high salt concentrations here include sand couch grass, prickly saltwort, sea holly and sea rocket. Large semi-stable yellow dunes dominated by marram grass form behind the embryo dunes. More stable areas behind these, which are ‘lime rich’ due to tiny shell fragments, are carpeted with flowers in spring and summer including dune pansy, dune gentian, sand catchfly, bloody cranesbill, biting stonecrop, seaside centaury, fragrant evening primrose and kidney vetch.

    Dune slacks occupy damp depressions between dune ridges and here you might find orchids such as southern marsh or pyramidal orchid, and, if you are lucky, the fen orchid. The ungrazed saltmarsh is home to the rare rock sea lavender which fills the saltmarsh with purple flowers in August. Golden samphire and sea aster also flower later in the summer with a blaze of yellow.