SCA 10 – Neath estuary

Summary description 

The River Neath (Afon Nedd) tidal estuary extends from Baglan Bay up beyond Briton Ferry and Neath. To the south, it is flanked by sand flats and dunes. Upstream the sinuous muddy river is flanked by old wharves, a derelict Brunel dock, industrial land, flat grazing marsh and the edge of Neath. The wharf at Giant’s Grave is still used for scrap and Monkstone Marina provides a shelter for recreational boats. The flat grazing marsh provides an open contrast to the surrounding developed land and the surrounding hills generally act as a positive backcloth. The M4 viaduct is the dominant visual and sensory feature in the lower reaches.

Key characteristics

  • The River Neath (Afon Nedd) tidal estuary extends from Baglan Bay up beyond Briton Ferry and Neath.
  • The river channel is flanked by sand flats and dunes near the estuary mouth. Upstream it is flanked by old wharves, industrial land, flat grazing marsh and the edge of Neath.
  • Crymlyn Burrows and Ferryboat Inn quarry are SSSIs.
  • The tidal estuary has historically given access to the mineral riches of the Neath valley and hinterland but has also acted as a barrier to east-west travel.
  • Routes across the river have been guarded by a Roman fort and two Medieval castles, one at Neath. The modern elevated routes of the M4 and A48 now visually dominate the estuary.
  • The river estuary was at one time served by many wharves and pills which in turn were connected to canals and latterly railways.
  • The wharf at Giant’s Grave is still in use, mainly for scrap, and historically gained its name from dismantling warships and other large vessels.
  • Briton Ferry dock was designed by IK Brunel and was a major coal exporting site but is now derelict.
  • The area was once known for its picturesque juxtaposition of wooded hills with water and early industry.
  • The river is not a safe harbour in heavy weather but the dredged Monkstone Marina is sheltered and used for recreational boats.
  • The lower part of the estuary is dominated by the M4 viaduct with its movement and noisy traffic, and is characterised by the derelict or run down industrial frontages, security fences, wharves and relict structures either side of the muddy tidal channel.
  • Further upstream the valley opens out to flat grazing marshes and marsh by the side of the sinuous tidal river which act as a foil to the surrounding industry, urban settlement and busy roads.
  • The partially wooded hills still act as a generally positive backcloth to the valley and its developed character.

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 area is sensitive to sea level rise.

The SMP long-term objectives are to hold the line the Neath estuary to avoid potentially contaminated fill from being released into the estuary. The dredged channel is the responsibility of the Neath port authority.

Another force for change includes further deterioration of wharf and dock infrastructure.