Erosion constantly reveals new fossils
The most recent geological event to affect this coast was the last glacial period, which ended around 10,000 years ago. South Wales lay at the limit of glaciation, a vast tundra stretching to the south where the ground was locked in permafrost. The eventual thaw produced torrential flows of meltwater that gouged out the deep cwms now breaking the coast, which itself was redefined in response to a period of widely fluctuating sea levels.
Facing the onslaught of Atlantic gales and the second highest tidal range in the world, the cliffs are subject to differential erosion, where removal of the softer, intervening shale layers leads to undercutting and collapse of overlying bands of harder limestone.
The uncultivated fringe of the cliff top supports a wonderful diversity of wildflowers, with rock rose and wild thyme thriving on the nutrient poor limestone soils, while areas of richer soil and woodland give rise to cowslip, dog violet and bird’s foot trefoil.
The wind and salt-blasted cliffs harbour their own plants, including buck’s-horn plantain and sea carrot. In places, dense thickets of thorn line the cliff edge, their boughs bent by the relentless battering of the prevailing wind. Frustratingly they sometimes obscure the view, but their roots offer some stability to the ever-crumbling cliff edge.