Katie-Jane Martin, MOD Pendine Environmental and Community Liaison
Hidden amongst the dramatic coastal landscape of the Carmarthenshire coastline on a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) at MOD Pendine is Europe’s longest Test and Evaluation Track. The Ranges and Test Track are managed by QinetiQ as part of a ‘Long Term Partnering Agreement’ (LTPA).
Since the summer of 1940 MOD Pendine has been an establishment for the Test, Evaluations and Training support of the armed forces. The site is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for the coastal habitats; sand dunes, grazing marsh and one of Wales’s most important freshwater pools all occur within the Pendine estate. Water voles are found in the ditches, otters and waterfowl inhabit the freshwater lake, hares and deer use the sand dunes, wintering waders feed along the shoreline and common scoter feed just offshore in the winter.
The Range has a Conservation Group that meets to discuss management on the site taking place as part of the Pendine Integrated Rural Management Plan (IRMP). Expert advice from a number of organisations such as Natural Resources Wales (NRW), Carmarthenshire Biodiversity Partnership, Sea Trust and local experts contribute to the positive management of the habitats.
To help restore the important dune habitats and try to encourage the presence of fen orchid (Liparis loeselii) and petalwort (Petalophyllum ralfsii) a significant programme of scrub management commenced in the spring of 2013. Approximately 24 acres of sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) from the eastern end of the Range was removed. The dune slacks have been actively restored using a scraping method – these are an important habitat which forms between the ridges of the dunes where the surface is close to the water table, but many have been degraded by scrub invasion and lack of grazing. The scrape method removes the top layer of the soil down to the winter water table, exposing a fresh slack to encourage positive slack growth.
Defense Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) and NRW are also working with local tenant grazers to ensure that the grazing marsh and dune habitats of the SSSI are grazed appropriately, encouraging the natural dune habitat to rehabilitate. The latest survey by NRW’s bryophyte expert from has shown that Pendine has a number of nationally scarce moss species such as the Drepanocladus moss (Drepanocladus sendtneri) and new populations of petalwort (Petalophyllum ralfsii).
Witchett Pool is an important water body within the Range, providing a home for wintering and breeding birds, otters (Lutra lutra), water voles (Arvicola terrestris) as well as many invertebrates. In recent years reeds have started to encroach the open water, so in the winter of 2012 with the help of a specialist reed cutting boat and team provided by NRW the reeds were cut back over 3 days to create more open water