Developing recommendations for coastal cycle path management

As part of the SEACAMS project, the Catchment and Coastal Processes Team have developed a scientific management report on Swansea Bay’s sand dune system and cycle path for two local cycle companies.

Swansea’s Catchment and Coastal Processes Team completed the report earlier this month named ‘Coastal processes and the maintenance of the cycle path, Swansea Bay, Wales – Recommendations for the City and County of Swansea, July 2011 ‘.

The report was undertaken on behalf of two cycle shops, Urban Cyclery and Action Bikes, who are both located in central Swansea. Both businesses expressed concerns regarding the current status of the cycle path along Swansea Bay which was frequently covered by sand, hampering cyclists using the path for travel. In addition, the research project was in collaboration with Deborah Hill of the Nature Conservation Team at the City and County of Swansea: the findings and recommendations will be presented to the Nature Conservation Team later in the month of August 2011.

The report addressed three main research questions:

  1. What causes sediment to accumulate on the coastal cycle path, and why are some areas more prone to sediment accumulation than others?
  2. Are there any ways in which sediment deposition on the cycle path could be reduced, and if so, what are the associated advantages and disadvantages?
  3. What methods of dune stabilisation are available, are they sustainable, and what is their likelihood of success?

The report included both background scientific information and the results of recent fieldwork undertaken by the Catchment and Coastal Processes Team, which consisted of collection of sediment samples and mapping areas of sediment deposition along the cycle path. The team also investigated current and future dune management issues within Swansea Bay, dune stabilisation techniques and approaches to coastal management.

Unexpectedly, the research indicated that the cause of sediment deposition on the cycle path was two-fold. Towards Swansea University, sediment deposition on the cycle path was primarily related to erosion of access paths to the beach, which cut across the dune cordon. The extent of the problem at each access path was related to the slope of the path, the amount of bare soil exposed, and whether there was erosive undercutting of the path banks. In contrast, towards the Civic Centre, sediment deposition on the path was caused exclusively by sediment being blown onto the path by wind. A study of wind data from Swansea Bay indicated that there was no seasonal aspect as to when the strongest South-Westerly winds could be expected, suggesting that sediment deposition on the path was a year round phenomena.

Some of the recommendations that the team concluded in the report to improve cycle path management included:

  • Reducing the density of access paths to the beach in the region near Swansea University, while formalising the remaining paths to prevent further exposure to wind and water erosion
  • Towards the City and County of Swansea civic centre, construction of a low beach wall should be considered where the path is completely exposed to the beach
  • In areas where there is no dune cordon, stable dune formation should be encouraged using paired sand fences
  • Sand dunes should be encouraged to re-vegetate to alleviate problems from windblown sand, improve local biodiversity and act as a secondary form of defence against sea-level rise

For any further information please contact:

S. Grenfell & A. Mendzil (Catchment and Coastal Processes Team) at Swansea University on 01792-295454