SCA 4 – Rhossili Bay

Summary description 

The SCA forms the most westerly end of the Gower peninsula and faces the full force of the south westerly prevailing winds. It comprises of a shallow sandy bay with large sweeping beach framed by limestone rock formations to the north and south. The latter terminates in Worm’s Head which is a highly distinctive series of precipitous landforms linked by tidal rocks to Rhossili Point. Rhossili Down provides a simple coastal heathland backcloth and is visible from long distances. The headlands have strong currents and the bay can be treacherous in some weather conditions. Small boats use the sea for fishing and cruising and the beach is highly popular for surfing and body boarding. The beach is among the most highly rated in the UK and Rhossili is a popular visitor destination due to the superb views and exhilirating coastal experience.

Key characteristics

  • A simple shallow west-facing sandy bay, with a large long beach on the most westerly location of the Gower peninsula.
  • The bay is framed by limestone rock formations to the north and south and backed by the sandstone mass of Rhossili Down which defines the end of the Gower peninsula, and by dunes to the north.
  • The semi- natural vegetated backcloth of the Down is simple and unspoilt with only one building at its base.
  • The highly distinctive form of Worms Head is linked to Rhossili Head by a jagged tidal rock peninsula and defines and acts as a focal point for views.
  • The beach faces west and is highly exposed to the prevailing south westerlies and as a result often has large waves and surf.
  • The area is part of the Carmarthen Bay and Estuaries SAC and Carmarthen Bay SPA, and is an important bird area.
  • The exposed bay with its adjoining rocks and strong currents has several wrecks and the coast and hinterland has evidence of settlement from Paleolithic times onwards.
  • The coast and hinterland form part of Gower Landscape of Outstanding Historic Interest.
  • Small boats use the area for fishing and cruising round the coast and there is a day anchorage north of Worms Head.
  • The wide beach is one of the most popular in the UK and is a particular favourite of surfers and body boarders.
  • Rhossili is a popular destination for day trippers and acts as a honey pot to the south on the cliff top with an access out towards Worms Head.
  • The peninsula is owned and managed by the National Trust.
  • The caravan park to the north, though popular with surfers, detracts from the dunes’ natural character.
  • There are superb views of Carmarthen Bay framed by Worms Head and Rhossili Down, and visitors are often exhilirated by these and the elements in this highly distinctive bay.
  • The area is part of Gower AONB and Heritage 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 natural forces for change are changing patterns of sediment movement within the bay, overall sediment deficit and dunes vulnerable to storm damage.

The SMP long-term objectives are to allow this predominantly undeveloped coastline to continue to develop naturally potentially retreating in some places. For instance, the causeway to Worms Head could become permanently submerged. There is potential for measures to enable the dune complexes to respond naturally. The few socio-economic assets at risk from coastal erosion or flooding are recommended to be relocated in the longer term.

Other forces for change include:

  • Pressure of visitors on Rhossili and Rhossili Head.
  • Potential expansion of leisure facilities such as caravan parks which can be visually intrusive and reduce tranquillity.