'Gower is a land set apart from the rest of South Wales. It is a peninsular heading out into the Bristol Channel owing allegiance to neither east nor west Wales. And yet it is a region of contrasts, boasting much of the topographical diversity of Wales in miniature'. Diane Williams, Gower.
Gower is a unique location separated from the rest of Wales by the sprawling city of Swansea but contrasting in its open commons and spectacular beaches. Nowhere else can such a variety of habitats be accessed just five miles from the motorway. Gower’s diverse array of environments were recognised when it was designated the first Area of Outstanding National Beauty (AONB) in 1956. Since then Gower has remained unspoilt and provides the focus of visitors and educators alike.
Being an enclosed peninsular surrounded by the Bristol Channel and Atlantic Ocean Gower has become a haven for some of the richest wildlife in the UK. Within the 32 miles of coastline lies no less that twenty-five beaches ranging from dramatic craggy limestone cliffs to vast swathes of golden sand. These all provide varied habitats for marine animals within rock-pools, mudflats and nesting sites for seafaring birds. Further inland lies more managed habitats such as the commons, which are vital in supporting rare butterflies such as the Marsh Fritillary. A number of woodlands have public access and provide a great resource for natural history studies as well as more challenging activities.
The main sites on Gower which provide ideal locations for undertaking field work are:
Bishop’s Wood Local Nature Reserve Grid Ref SS 594877
Oak Ash woodland, parts of which are described as ancient woodland, and limestone cliff grassland. Interesting species include bluebells, wild garlic and herb Paris. An outdoor roundhouse has been built along a wheelchair accessible path and can accommodate 50 children.
Gelli Hir Nature Reserve Grid Ref SS 562925
Gelli Hir is predominately mixed broadleaf woodland ranging from oak/birch woodland to drier ask/elm woodland. Part of the site is ancient woodland. The variety of habitat types include open rides, streams and a pond. Dead wood supports an abundance of fungi and invertebrates.
Ilston Valley Grid Ref SS 556904
Ilston valley provides a perfect place to study river processes and features. The limestone valley contains swallow holes, meanders and flood prevention measures. The stream is also home to a good variety of invertebrates with a number of safe sites to undertake river study investigations.
Oxwich Burrows, Beach and Rock pools Grid Ref SS 501864
A good site for habitat comparison, adaptation studies, succession and zonation, as well as management issues. The site includes dune habitats, slacks, freshwater marsh, salt marsh, woodland and rock pools.
Port Eynon Beach Grid Ref SS 475855
Port Eynon offers an excellent site for rocky shore and stand-line studies. Also the limestone geology and fossils are well exposed. Historical features such as the Salthouse provide interesting associations with local pirate legends.
Ryer’s Down Grid Ref SS 449923
Ryer’s Down is part of the Gower Commons. The site includes ponds in different states of repair with one good for pond dipping. A little wooded area provides a good site for tree beating for invertebrates and the hill has many historical remains such as Medieval longhouses and Celtic hut platforms.
Crymlyn Bog NNR Grid Ref SS 685 942
Crymlyn Bog is the most extensive lowland fenin Wales; and this is all the more remarkable because thisfascinating nature reserve is surrounded by a dense industriallandscape. The bog lies on the eastern edge of Swansea, where itrests in a large depression gouged out during the last ice-age. Because thistype of bog is of such importance, and because of the incrediblerange of wildlife it plays host to, the reserve has a number ofdesignations at hand to protect it. The habitats available to visit and explore are; fen or bog, wet woodland, reedbed and grassland. There is also a large pond dipping pond full of life. The Reserve boasts a classroom at its centre as well as facilities; toilets and kitchen area.
Pant Y Sais Fen Grid Ref SS 711 945
Asmaller wetland site near the village of Jersey Marine - Pant ySais Fen - shares many similarities with the nearby Crymlyn Bog andthis forms part of the same National Nature Reserve. A circular boardwalk takes you through the reedbed and beside the Port Tennant canal.