BLOCKS of conifer trees in one of Gower’s most picturesque corners will start to be felled and thinned next week.
Contractors will head to Whiteford Burrows, on the north-west tip of the peninsula, and cut down around three-and-a-half hectares of trees and thin a further four hectares.
It’s the equivalent of roughly seven-and-a-half rugby pitches.
The project aims to improve biodiversity at what is considered one of the UK’s best sand dune habitats.
It is one of 10 sand dune restoration initiatives being undertaken in Wales as part of a £4 million Sands of LIFE conservation project led by Natural Resources Wales (NRW).
Laura Bowen, from the Sands of LIFE team, said conifers – often planted as a cash crop – were not native to our sand dunes, shaded out and overwhelmed native species, and dried out naturally wet areas.
“Some of these conifers are reaching the end of their commercial life and will start to decline and blow over if not harvested,” she said on an NRW web page about the Whiteford Burrows project.
“Their removal will also help to restore the sand dunes by creating open areas of flower-rich dune grassland habitat.”
The trees due for felling or thinning are on the northern – or Loughor Estuary side – end of Whiteford Burrows.
Ms Bowen added: “The work has been planned to ensure that bands of conifers will still be present in the landscape and the aesthetics of the site will be maintained.”
It is expected to last 30 to 40 days, and access to the work areas will be restricted when felling and thinning are are taking place, although the rest of the area will be open as normal.
NRW said healthy sand dunes had multiple benefits for wildlife as well as helping to protect the land behind from coastal erosion.
The Sands of LIFE project will also focus on sand dune restoration at Pendine Burrows and the Pembrey coast, Carmarthenshire, Kenfig in Bridged, and Newborough Warren on Anglesey, among others.
More than 2,400 hectares of sand dunes will be restored.
The Gower work was meant to start on November 8 but has been delayed by a week.
Whiteford Burrows has a number of landscape designations, including national nature reserve and special area of conservation.
A Sands of LIFE spokesman said: “National Trust owns the land at Whiteford Burrows and Sands of LIFE have worked in partnership with them and colleagues at Natural Resources Wales to plan and carry out the work.”