The sand dunes at Poppit are an important feature, supporting an impressive range of wildlife and are a very popular attraction for visitors and local residents. They are managed for nature conservation and public enjoyment by the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority.
Sand dunes are a specialist habitat for a wide range of plants and animals that people don't often see. They are also interesting in their own right because they move over time in response to wind action and tidal processes in the estuary. Here are a few sand dune features at Poppit to look out for:-
The changing dunes at Poppit
Documentary evidence going back to 1878 shows how the dune system has changed and developed over time. The dunes are affected by processes going on in the Teifi estuary as a whole, including the changing course of the central channel, and the build up and erosion of the Poppit sand spit and the Pen yr Ergyd sand spit on the opposite side of the channel. Aerial photographs from the 1960's show that the seaward part of the sand dune system at Poppit only appeared during the last 30 years as the sand spit on the opposite side eroded. Now the sand spit is building again and the seaward dunes at Poppit have been eroding rapidly for the past 10 years. This cycle of build up and erosion is what makes this estuary environment so dynamic, and it's great for wildlife.
The range of dune habitats at Poppit
Because sand dunes move about (the shifting sands), different habitats develop on them. The dunes on the seaward side are most active and are called the strandline and foredune. Here you will find specialist plants such as sea sandwort and sand couch-grass. Where the dunes move inland slightly you find what's called the yellow dune, and here the most common plant is the marram grass, which is the tall, spikey and quite sharp green reed like plant people will associate most with sand dunes. Beyond the ridge at Poppit, further towards the road from the sea a large back dune area of gorse and hawthorn scrub has developed. Here the dunes are very stable and the scrub is quite thick, which is great for breeding birds. The National Park Authority regularly maintains wide firebreaks in this area as the gorse scrub is a major fire risk in summer. The firebreaks also double up as paths for people to walk around the site.