Posted by: Ross Gardner | August 23, 2011

The Gower

The Gower is a very fine corner of the country.  A fairly small, 8km by 32km peninsula of land on the South Wales coast, it is a most scenic and interesting place to meet the sea in all of its guises.  In my book, ‘Never a dull moment’, there is a chapter on the sea and the different ways it finds the shore and meets the land.  It could easily have been written about The Gower coast.

Rhossili Bay. Copyright 2011 Ross Gardner.

There are the waves that buffet the long-fallen boulders and slabs of rock at the foot of the limestone cliffs that rise up to the south, frequently gaining further ground into the numerous and picturesque bays.  These are a low-tide heaven for the rockpooler.  There are Beadlet Anemone aplenty, wafting their tentacles where the water level permits, rectracting into dark red blobs, adhered to their crevices when left high and dry.  There is scarcely a pool without its Shanny and even more rarely one without its gangly-limbed prawns, which in all their weirdness and in their own way, are quite beautiful little creatures.

The Buzzard haunted tops of the cliffs themselves, in summer, are never without their colour, even if only washed with the vivid yellow of Gorse and rich purple of Bell Heather.  Always though, there are other tones to be sought out; the deepest of pink provided by the Bloody Cranesbill, the sprinkle of little white Eyebright flowers, the blue glint of Milkwort.  Trefoils and Lady’s Bedstraw;  Scabious, Marjoram and Wild Thyme add their own shades of yellow and mauve, adding to the wonderful richness of the clifftop carpet.

Bloody Cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum). Copyright 2011 Ross Gardner.

Where the rocks yield, sweeps of firm, flat sand take their place.  Not a habitat for gastropod molluscs: the limpets periwinkles and topshells of the rocky shore, but instead for burrowing bivalves, like Razor Shell, Necklace Shell and Rayed Trough Shell.  Worms burrow into the mud, protruding in tubes fashioned from grains of sand and little hermit crabs risk momentary exposure, being briefly uncovered between the waves of a tide at its lowest ebb.

On the northern shore, even the shelter of the saltmarsh is represented.  These acres of purslane-topped creeks must heave with waders and wildfowl in the winter, but for now they carried further the glorious sense of space of the open sea.

The Gower has much.  It has its woods and hedges, even a spine of rugged, almost moorland habitat within its interior.  It is arguably however, its coast that is most special, certainly in terms of the sheer variety of habitat.

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