Habitat in Focus; Coastal heath

Benefits of grazing for coastal heath

Grazed coastal heath Llyn Peninsula

Coastal heath is classified as lowland heath, occurring at an altitude of 300m or below along the coastline of Wales. It is a broadly open landscape on impoverished, acidic mineral and shallow soil, characterised by over 25% cover of ericaceous shrubs

Ponies conservation grazing Penmaen Burrows above three cliffs bay pont cymru

Ponies conservation grazing Penmaen Burrows above Three Cliffs Bay

including heather species, bilberry and western gorse. Scattered clumps of trees and scrub, bracken, bare ground and patches of acid grassland may also be present. Lowland heath can be classified as dry or wet, depending on soil moisture content.


Overgrazing, undergrazing, burning and change of land use threaten coastal heaths in Wales. Undergrazing leads to an overdominance of bracken, which shades out the heather species.


On the Gower peninsula, an area of degraded dune heath is now in conservation grazing management as a result of a collaboration between the National Trust and PONT. Penmaen Burrows, which is owned and managed by the National Trust, can be found nestled between Oxwich Bay and Three Cliffs Bay.

Heather regeneration penmaen burrows PONT Cymru

Heather regeneration following grazing at Penmaen Burrows, Spring 2019

Woodland, cliff tops, sand dunes and rare dune heath can be found here. Lack of grazing threatened the dune heath habitat here. Grazing ponies were introduced back onto the headland last year to help address this. At the request of National Trust, PONT installed electric fencing and a small herd of Gower hill ponies spent the summer grazing the headland. We were really pleased this year to see heather regeneration beginning on the site. Ponies are back out on the headland for winter and we look forward to seeing them continue their good work!

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