SCA 1 – Afon Tywi, Taf and Gwendraeth estuaries

Summary description 

The SCA, otherwise known as the Three Rivers complex, comprises of the Afon Tywi, Taf and Gwendraeth estuaries and the rivers upto their tidal limits at Carmarthen, St Clears and Kidwelly respectively. The river courses wind their way through a gently undulating old red sandstone landscape to combine in a dramatic estuary seascape with shifting tidal sand banks and bars fringed by saltmarsh to the east and west. This flat, ever changing expanse is contained by sharply rising coastal slopes, some wooded, with dramatic historic features such as Llansteffan Castle and Laugharne Castle commanding views. The former used to be a strategic point controlling the ferry crossing across the Tywi to Ferryside. Culturally, the area has been made famous by Dylan Thomas who was based in Laugharne for the last part of his life. The tidal waters are rich in wildlife, with spawning and nursery beds for fish, migratory fish and cockles beds. They are used by small leisure craft but can be hostile in certain conditions, as evidenced by wrecks in places. There is generally low key leisure use of a few beaches and there is a noticeable caravan park on the Gwendraeth. The MOD use the adjacent dunes and estuary for training, and a scenic railway line fringes the water to the east. Otherwise the area feels relatively tranquil.

Key characteristics

  • Three tidal rivers with sinuous courses and muddy banks extending far inland through undulating landscape with no crossings.
  • Wide combined estuary of shifting sandbanks and narrow tidal channels with some rocks to the east at Salmon Point Scar, and fringed by salt marshes to east and west.
  • Dramatic coastal slopes, some wooded and some grassland mosaic, at Wharley Point and around St Ishmaels containing the estuary with low dunes and levels to the south east and south west.
  • Strong historic landscape features, in particular Llansteffan Castle and Laugharne Castle, command the coastal waters and evidence of historic trade exists at Kidwelly Quay.
  • Rich wildlife including spawning and nursery grounds for fish such as Bass and use by migratory fish such as Sewin and Salmon up the rivers, especially the Tywi.
  • Culturally, the area has been made famous by the poetry of Dylan Thomas who was based in Laugharne.
  • The tidal waters are potentially hazardous with the current use mainly for a few small leisure craft served by low key small scale moorings.
  • There is occasional cockle and mussel picking.
  • Limited coastal leisure uses are one linear caravan park, light use of beaches and beach related uses.
  • The coastal slopes and most of the water edge are unspoilt with very limited development.
  • The area has a strong sense of place and is generally tranquil with limited access.
  • Long and varied and unspoilt views are possible, some as far as the Gower peninsula.

Forces for change

These can be divided into:

  • Natural processes
  • Visitor pressure
  • Marine use- commercial and leisure fishing
  • Offshore energy or minerals
  • Development pressure
  • Land management changes
  • MOD use

Initial thoughts are:

The natural forces for change are the estuaries which are currently sediment sinks with changing patterns of sand and mud, dunes vulnerable to storm damage and low lying marsh vulnerable to flooding.

Sea level rise will greatly affect this area. The SMP long-term objectives are to enable the natural evolution of the estuaries where the coast is adjacent to agricultural land, semi-natural areas and privately owned leisure complexes. Here it is expected that the existing defences would be deteriorate and fail and natural processes would resume with sea level rise. Managed realignment of the coastline is proposed at Laugharne and to the south west of the Taf estuary. The objective is to hold the line to protect critical infrastructure and larger residential areas such as adjacent to the railway along the Tywi and Gwendraeth to the east, at Llansteffan and just south of St Clears.

Other forces for change include:

  • Use by the MOD of the sand dunes and outer estuary for training which degrades the aesthetic and physical character of the area, reducing tranquillity.
  • Possible withdrawal of MOD with potential for improvement of character, although increased access may increase other impacts.
  • Potential expansion of leisure facilities such as caravan parks which can be visually intrusive and reduce tranquillity.
  • Mussel and cockle harvesting putting pressure on the resource.
  • Motor-based sea uses reducing tranquillity.