SCA 11 – Margam to Porthcawl

Summary description 

The SCA forms the south eastern part of Swansea Bay between Margam and Porthcawl Point with wide beaches exposed to the prevailing south westerly winds. The gently shelving seafloor is primarily sand and there are a series of parallel shoals offshore, some drying, which are a hazard to navigation. Scarweather Sands forms the outer limit of the area and has an anemometer mast and navigation marks. The coast is relatively straight and low and is backed by very extensive dunes at Kenfig to the north of Sker Point, which are a National Nature Reserve, and designated as SAC and SSSI. There are fairly wide beaches backed by rocky platforms in places and Rest Bay is popular for surfing. The primary local foci are the isolated Sker House and the seafront at Porthcawl, but there are wide views out to open sea and towards the southern Gower coast.

Key characteristics

  • The west facing side of Swansea Bay from Margam to Porthcawl Point slopes very gently offshore with a seafloor of sand with some areas of muddy to sandy gravel off the coast.
  • The wave energy is strong with prevailing south-west winds and waves and a high tidal range.
  • The southern edge of the area is defined by Scarweather Sands which is a drying sandbank which has an anemometer mast related to a former proposal for an offshore windfarm. Towards the coast there are the drying Hugo Bank and also the Kenfig Patches shoals.
  • These shoals make the area potentially hazardous for navigation and the area is generally avoided by commercial vessels although it is used for some leisure boating and recreational fishing.
  • The coast is relatively straight and low with minor Limestone rocky points such as at Sker and Hutchwns.
  • The beaches are generally wide backed by rock platforms south of Sker Point.
  • Kenfig and Margam Burrows extend far inland.
  • Kenfig Pool and Dunes are National Nature Reserve and with the beach form Kenfig SAC. An SSSI designation runs inland.
  • The dunes were formed by a series of storms in the mediaeval period which covered the port of Kenfig with its castle.
  • The coast to the north Sker Point was notorious for shipping losses. A typical loss was a schooner, the Trevaunance, carrying copper ore to Swansea in 1836.
  • Offshore, in the Second World War, the lightship at West Scar was accidentally sunk by a minesweeper and there were losses of aircraft either approaching or taking off from nearby Stormy Down.
  • Porthcawl developed as a coal port in the 19th century and the harbour remains. It became a popular resort for South Wales workers after the First World War.
  • The main accessible beach is at Rest Bay which is heavily used, particularly by surfers and body boarders.
  • This stretch of coast feels open and exposed south westerlies and has generally a simple, low, uncluttered hinterland.
  • The main visual foci are the Port Talbot steelworks to the north and locally, the highly distinctive, isolated Sker House, the Royal Porthcawl Golf Club buildings just back from the coast and the coherent seafront buildings at Porthcawl.
  • The Kenfig Dunes and adjacent beach provides some tranquillity compared to the busy seafront at Porthcawl and its landscaped promenade and busy cafes.
  • The key views from the beaches out to sea and across to the southern Gower peninsula coast.

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 and increasing severity of weather.

The SMP long-term objectives are to hold the line adjacent to the built up area of Porthcawl through maintaining and upgrading existing defences. The Kenfig dunes are proposed for managed realignment to allow the dune system to respond and evolve naturally with minimal interference. The objective for the intervening coast is no active intervention to allow the coast to evolve and retreat naturally although this would not preclude maintaining or improving existing defences at Rest Bay or Royal Porthcawl Links.

Another proposal for an offshore windfarm at Scarweather would change the character of the area.