Skomer, Skokholm and Dale Peninsula IPA
Location: The far western tip of South Wales, west of Milford Haven.
Grid Reference: SM 761 093
Skomer, Skokholm & Dale Peninsula IPA has been recognised as one of 165 Important Plant Areas in the UK.
The key features of this IPA are:
Large shallow inlets and bays;
Sandbanks which are slightly covered by sea water all the time;
Mudflats and sandflats not covered by seawater at low tide;
Salt tolerant vegetation on intertidal saltmarshes;
Submerged or partially submerged sea caves
The Dale peninsula is at the extreme south west tip of Pembrokeshire, at the far south west corner of Wales, and to its west lie the islands of Skomer and Skokholm.
The peninsula and islands are bounded by dramatic cliffs, whose ledges and shores are home to a variety of maritime plant species. There are some important lichen communities, both on the rocky shores and inland.
The plateau vegetation is much affected by salt spray, rabbit grazing and nutrient enrichment from seabirds. The islands have mixed grassland and maritime heath vegetation in varying proportions. There is a ferry service in the summer to Skomer from Martins Haven, on the Pembrokeshire coast, from where some summer day trips to Skokholm operate.
Crevice communities with rock samphire and rock sea-spurrey are frequent along the cliff edges of the peninsula, and maritime grassland occurs in a fringe along the coastline in most places. Thrift and red fescue dominate, with much kidney vetch and locally common wild carrot. Inland, scattered areas of maritime heath are to be found with heather, bell heather and wild thyme.
The sheltered, south-facing cliffs above Marloes Sands support well developed coastal scrub with privet and blackthorn, and occasional wild madder. Gorse replaces the coastal scrub on less precipitous slopes. Notable plants you might find are the nationally rare shore dock and the prostrate broom. The prostrate broom favours the cliffs but can be found amongst the maritime heath, particularly at the western-most end of the peninsula. Nationally scarce plants on the cliffs include rock sea-lavender, Portland spurge and chamomile. An assemblage of nationally rare and scarce lichens also occurs along the cliffs, including the golden hair lichen.
In May, the islands are carpeted with bluebells and red campion - a good time to visit. Skokholm supports a large population of sea stork’s-bill and wild pansy, and on the cliffs, out of reach of the rabbits, small colonies of tree mallow and sea-purslane. The wet depressions also contain interesting plants such as the nationally scarce three-lobed crowfoot, lesser water-plantain, chaffweed, lesser marshwort and divided sedge. The three-lobed crowfoot may also be found in shallow pools or scrapes on Skomer. Other interesting species to be found there are the nationally scarce lanceolate spleenwort, Portland spurge and rock sea-lavender, chaffweed, sea stork’s-bill and the large, fleshy-leaved variety of buck’s-horn plantain.