Posted by: Claire Hannington | February 1, 2021

January 2021

January seems to have been a really long month especially with being in lockdown. Whilst we still won’t be able to have our volunteers back for a while we have been out and about undetaking some essential tasks around Gower.

We started the month on the Warren at Rhossili undertaking some fencing repairs. It took us two days to complete the repairs to ensure the area was stock proof from sheep wandering off Rhossili Down. We had a beautiful couple of cold days there watching the sun creep up over the hill and subsequently setting over Worms Head.

Also on the Warren we cleared the cattle grid before we do some resurfacing work when we are allowed to open up our holiday cottages again. Mark and me replaced one of the posts on the cleft oak fence outside the shop and put in a new shop sign on the grassy area in front of the shop.

We undertook a planning meeting for 2021, especially for the Vile at Rhossili where we will be able to put in some of our arable crops and sunflowers this year. It’s great to be able to have a positive plan for the area and we look forward to its rewards later in the year. Whilst having a walk round the Vile, looking at the plans and any potential work we would need to do prior to planting, we had a great view of a black redstart, which seems to have been hanging around this winter.

I did a site visit to Fall Bay to meet up with the councils countryside access officer. The wooden steps accessing the coast path from our fields have come to the end of their life. Fortunately the council have agreed to replace them with some stone steps built into the bank which will last far longer.

I spent a morning with Mark and Meg undertaking some strimmer/brushcutter training so they can get out and undertake some where necessary. We spent a morning in what we call ‘Mrs. Arthurs’ field after the lady who donated it to us, between the Warren and Rhossili village putting in a new gate to restrict the grazing and hopefully bring it back as a hay meadow.

Corrinne and Ali went on the first of a series of monthly wildlife walks at Rhossili to make a list of what can be seen at certain times of the year so we will be able to relay this information to visitors (when we welcome then back) and also to share on social media. It’s not all about the obvious things either, but looking out for smaller things such as lichen on the trees and walls.

It’s looking rather unsettled for the rest of this week but lets hope it dries out a bit and we can get on with some more practical conservation work.

Posted by: Claire Hannington | December 18, 2020

December 2020

December is a short one for us as we finish work today for a fortnight, but it started with us finally being able to bring Meg back off furlough to complete our team here on Gower. Meg is Kathryn’s replacement as our Ranger, having started in January and only being in the post two months before going into lockdown.

As a reunited team we all went out and did some fencing in ‘Furseland’ one of the fields in the Vile. We took the tractor and post driver with us as the ground had dried out enough after the previous wet month. With them not having not used the post driver before it was good to be able to show the others how to use it. We managed to replace about 200 metres of fence over the course of three days, finally stock proofing that block of fields.

Having done all that construction work the rest of the month has been spent in a rather more destructive fashion in Bishopston Valley. With the help of Stuart (Brecon, Area Ranger) and the team from Dyffryn Gardens (Holly, Chris and Rory) we have started to tackle the ash trees in the valley. Due to ash dieback, those trees that are a risk to the public adjacent to the footpaths are having to be felled. It’s very sad to have to take these trees out but it inevitably has to be done. On a positive note we hope it will encourage more ground flora and let smaller tree species establish with more light coming into the valley.

The usual checks of holiday cottages have been undertaken and this week we have done the log delivery run to all the cottages to ensure they have enough to see them over the Christmas holiday period.

I’ve been doing a few site visits this week planning the work for next year. We hope to get our volunteers back out with us in the new year once the intended lockdown has ended. We have certainly missed their enthusiasm, hard work and banter this year.

I’ll leave you with this beautiful sunrise here at our office last week. Have a peaceful, safe and happy Christmas from us all here at the Gower office.

Posted by: Claire Hannington | December 14, 2020

November 2020

I have just logged on to the blog to add some photos for the December post and realised I had forgotten to press publish on Novembers post. So better late than never here it is.

November was a comparatively wet month so this fair-weather ranger spent quite a bit of time in the office! Without the volunteers I have been able to choose which days I venture out on.

However I did get out and about a bit. I spent two days at Cwm Ivy processing the timber from the Monterey Pines, stocking up our log supplies in the woodyard. I collected some litter from Three Cliffs Bay and filled the potholes in the the track at our office at SPG.

It was great to be able to welcome back Corrinne and Mark from being on furlough in the second week of the month. With numbers boosted we spent a couple of days in ‘Sheep in Park’ in the Vile planting the lavender that we had looked after all year at the office. It was great to be able to get them out of the pots and into the ground replacing some of the plants that had failed over the last couple of years.

We spent a couple of days going around Gower and reacquainting ourselves with many of our sites that we had not visited for so long. We also continued to do the usual rounds of the holiday cottages and we fixed a barn door at the Rectory that was coming away from its frame.

Corrinne took a trip out to the coast here at SPG to look at some of the areas she had planned on surveying this year. The spiders had been busy in the fields creating this beautiful gossamer.

Towards the end of the month we had to go through an interview process as part of the restructuring process the NT has had to go through due to the pandemic and job cuts. I am pleased to say that we have retained our jobs here in the Gower Office albeit in slightly different roles. As you can imagine it was a stressful time for all of us but as a team we got through it. We are now settling in to our new roles and planning next year with the aim of getting our volunteers back up and running in the new year, government guidelines permitting.

Posted by: Claire Hannington | October 29, 2020

October 2020

As we are in a ‘firebreak’ lockdown it’s been an eerily quiet week on Gower. In saying that the weather hasn’t been that conducive for getting out and about, however we managed to get a bit more work done this month.

I started at Cwm Ivy repairing the fencing onto the marsh adjacent to where the tree had fallen over. Not that the grazing ponies were interested in trying to limbo dance under the tree and escape but it was a job that needed doing.

I collected some litter from Nicholaston beach, kindly gathered by some local volunteers, and also from Whiteford Beach. A bit more dry stone walling was undertaken at Rhossili fixing an end piece that had come down next to a gateway during the summer.

Alan and myself spent three days undertaking tree inspections covering Bishopston Valley, Penmaen, Bovehill and Cwm Ivy. Sadly there is a lot of ash dieback in the area so we have marked up the trees that will need to be felled in areas of high risk adjacent to footpaths. We had good weather for the duration and the autumn light shining through the canopy in the upper reaches of Bishopston Valley was beautiful.

There were also many signs of autumn in the valley including this lovely grouping of Fairy Inkcap.

I repaired a stile at Rhossili between the Warren and Hillend and then spent the rest of the week fencing in one of the fields in the Vile, named Hawkin Hole. Due to the circumstances this year we were unable to cut the hay meadows in the Vile so we are going to graze them with sheep over the next couple of months. I had to make sure they were stock proof before we let the sheep in.

This week we have felled the ash trees at Cwm Ivy that needed to be removed along the side of the track following the tree inspections and spent a day fencing in Glebe, the fields above Rhossili village adjacent to Rhossili Down. Today has been my office day, hence why I’m writing this.

Tomorrow I plan to empty the litter bin at Pwll Du and do a few bits and bobs at Penmaen Burrows, making the most of being the other side of the sinkhole in the South Gower Road after having to divert the long way round.

I’ll leave you with a photo I took last week of the ‘white horses’ at Rhossili during a brief break from fencing.

Posted by: Claire Hannington | October 2, 2020

September 2020

It’s definitely autumn out there today. It’s been a mixed month with hints of late summer warmth, howling gales, torrential rain and nearly cold enough for a frost.

On those wet days I’ve stayed in the office catching up with emails and going through our computer files as well as doing some tidying in the barn. Today is definitely one of those days, although earlier this morning before the rain came I collected some litter left at Three Cliffs Bay. Litter has also been collected from Rhossili and Whiteford this month.

I spent a day with the ryetec (cut and collect mower) in one of the hay meadows in the Vile. Having cut and collected the seed from the hay meadow I brought it back here to SPG and spread it around one of our fields here to help establish a more diverse range of flowers.

I spent four days at Rhossili repairing the dry stone wall along the track between the cliffs and the Vile. It’s great to be able to keep this traditional craft going and for people to see some consevation work in action.

I spent a day back up at Glebe rehanging the old gate into the new fence line. In the process of removing the old gate post I couldn’t resist the temptation to stage a once in a lifetime shot of the Worm’s Head through the old gate post.

I spent a couple of days at Notthill strimming the bracken and scrub and continuing with the rhododendron removal. I will be doing a bit more work up there this winter to control the scrub and diversify the age of the heather.

This week saw the last dry day forecasted for the foreseeable so I took the opportunity to spray the Japanese Knotweed I surveyed last month. It was a little earlier than I hoped to do it but I couldn’t risk delaying with the weather looking poor for the next couple of weeks and then it be too late.

It would have been the Saturday group tomorrow but again we are unable to bring our volunteers back in just yet. The Saturday group usually brings good weather with it but looking at the forecast I’ll be glad to stay tucked up at home.

Posted by: Claire Hannington | September 10, 2020

August 2020

It’s strange writing a monthly volunteering update without the volunteers being here but I hope it’s still giving you a flavour of what they would usually be doing to help keep Gower special.

August started with some fencing in Priest Hay, one of the fields in the Vile, stock proofing the field from a neighbouring garden, plus some fencing on Glebe bordering Rhossili Down.

I undertook the last strimming of the footpaths in the hay meadows at Rhossili. As the visitor numbers increased the footfall has kept any regrowth down. Litter collections have been undertaken at Rhossili, Nicholaston, Three Cliffs and Lucas Bay near Oxwich Point.

Lucas Bay

A couple of days have been spent at Cwm Ivy processing logs in the woodyard whilst Stuart from Brecon came down with a mini digger and dug a trench which enabled us to reconnect and bury the electricity cable to the Lodge.

I managed to clear the montbretia from the bank next to the memorial orchard as the thunder rumbled threateningly across the estuary. I made it back to the office just in time as the lightning began and we had the storm that lasted over three hours.

I replaced a plank on the boardwalk to the bird hide on the far side of Cwm Ivy Marsh and have spent some time strimming and tidying our holiday cottage gardens, as well as around the Lodge which was becoming at one with the surrounding vegetation.

After a damp start to the week its turning out really nice here so I’ve taken a quick walk around our orchard this morning. Despite the storm the crab apples are prolific.

There are also still many flowers out including the late flowering betony and some very late yellow rattle.

Its all down to the dedication and hard work of our volunteers that nature is flourishing so well. Some of our volunteers took some sunflowers seeds from last years crop, planting them at their homes and I’ve got a spectacular display of photos from them. Al did his bit here at the office too with these little beauties standing at a tremendous six inches tall!

Posted by: Claire Hannington | July 31, 2020

July 2020

This month has been busier as lockdown was eased and restrictions lifted. With holiday cottages opening this month we had to go around all the cottages, tidying the gardens, stocking the log stores and making sure they were all fit for purpose and ready for the guests. The front garden at the cottage here at South Pilton Green Farm (SPG) was looking rather unruly so I pulled up a rather large shrub and planted some more relaxing lavender next to the patio area.

SPG cottage garden 10 July

We had a bit of an issue down at Cwm Ivy which has resulted in us having to continue to cancel the Lodge bookings for the time being. Two of the Monterey pines along the track decided to give up the ghost and gracefully keel over which resulted in the electric cable running to the Lodge being uprooted! We are in the process of rectifying this and with the help of our woodland ranger from Brecon we managed to fell the trees safely, ready to reroute the cable in a new trench.

Fallen tree Cwm Ivy 22 July comp

I’ve spent more days at Rhossili mowing the car park and strimming footpaths through the Vile. It was National Meadows Day at the beginning of July and although the ox eye daisies have gone over they have had a new lease of life and are a haze of purple with knapweed and still full of life.

I finished scything the bracken on the Warren and whilst there fixed a stile and dog gate. I spent a day in the hay meadows pulling ragwort to remove it before we cut the hay in August. This week I’ve repaired some fencing at Fall Bay and spent today dry stone walling at Rhossili. I also took a trip to Rhossili Down to look at the ponds we created earlier this year in conjunction with ARC. They have nicely filled with water and will vegetate up over the next couple of years and provide a valuable habitat for many creatures.

Rhossili Down 1 ponds 24 July

This week has been a difficult one for the National Trust generally and for us here on Gower. The announcement by the Trust that we will have to make redundancies has come as no surprise and this will affect our team. Whilst the consultation process takes place it does mean we won’t be able to have our volunteers back to join us until at least November.

In the meantime I will try to keep up with this monthly blog and look forward to when we can all get back together again.

Enjoy the sun whilst it lasts. After a glorious week it’s got shy and hidden behind the clouds!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Claire Hannington | July 9, 2020

June 2020

It’s been another quiet month on Gower but I’ve been out and about undertaking various tasks whilst being able to enjoy the scenery and wildlife. I’ve spent a few days down on the Warren at Rhossili clearing bracken. We’ve been doing it for a few years and thanks to our volunteers efforts you can really notice the difference and it is much sparser in some areas.

I went to Pwll Du to empty the litter bin and also collected several bags of litter from Tor Bay. Slowly trying to work my way around the coast but it’s going to take some time. I’ve been keeping the footpaths on the Vile clear for local  walkers and am doing this most weeks. The hay meadows have had an amazing year and were absolutely buzzing with insects and clouds of butterflies in the air.

The arable fields, although not planted this year, have also had their fair share of wildlife and the poppies from last year have self seeded and giving a magnificent display.

Poppies, Vould 25 June

I spent a morning at Notthill clearing the montbretia and made a start on the bracken there.  I spent a day with Al undertaking tree surveys to look at the extent of ash die back on some of our sites.

Some fencing had to be undertaken at Glebe, which are the fields below the southern side of Rhossili Down. Rogue sheep wandering into neighbouring land needed to be contained, whilst also enjoying the view across the Vile.

Rhossili view from Glebe June

Another couple of days were spent at the office, this time our events portacabin getting the cleaning and sorting treatment, along with repairing and maintaining of equipment and machinery. On the way home I stopped off at Welshmoor for a short walk and to check the progress of the parrots feather on the pond. Thankfully not so much has grown back this year and there were quite a few dragonflies and damselflies making the most of the open water. Many orchids on site as well with the heath spotted giving a good show.

Heath Spotted Orchid Welshmoor 9 June

The last day of the month I went to Hillend to check on the area of Himalayan Balsam that we cleared the year before last. Again another success for the volunteers as I only found half a dozen tiny plants.

As lockdown is easing and the travel restriction lifted in Wales I hope we can all get out and about and safely enjoy whats around us. Its been lovely having Gower to ourselves but I guess its time we have to share a little bit more of this special place.

 

Posted by: Claire Hannington | June 6, 2020

May 2020

It’s been a weird month again without any volunteers, but I’ve been trying to keep things ticking along as best as I can undertaking essential tasks and practical work, along with our countryside manager (Alan) when I’ve needed an extra pair of hands. A few days have been spent at the office tidying up and giving it a good spring clean – I even tackled the dreaded stationery cupboard!

A couple of afternoons have been spent rounding up rogue sheep from fields where they shouldn’t have been in the Vile and from Cwm Ivy Marsh and Tor and I think we’ve nearly got it sorted. A ‘vollie collie’ would have been handy but we are definitely improving on our sheep herding skills.

Fridays have become our Rhossili Car Park days, although whilst we remain closed, the grass still grows. Spot some of the rogue sheep!

Sheep Rhossili car park 7 May

I’ve spent a bit of time on the Vile, strimming footpaths, clearing some old wire and montbretia from the track edge. Some of the posts on the cleft oak fence at Rhossili have come to the end of their life so I’ve been replacing them with the spares we had leftover. Hopefully it will last a while longer as I only have 3 replacement posts left.

Cleft oak fence Rhossili 20 May

Whilst spending a couple of days at Cwm Ivy it was great to see the abundance of wildlife around this year. I managed to photo a few including this cock chafer, common blue butterfly, cricket and adder.

Our wrens successfully fledged from under the landrover so we removed the nest to prevent any other birds taking advantage of the empty nest. Thankfully the landrover started and we were able to extricate it from the brambles that were beginning to engulf it. It was a really well made nest and looked very cosy and warm.

Wren nest 27 May

So as we come to the end of National Volunteer Week, minus our volunteers, we still wanted to thank them for all they do in their various roles across Gower. With a few of our pot growing lavender and a bit of computer work…..

thank you

Posted by: Claire Hannington | May 8, 2020

April 2020

It’s been a very different month with no volunteers and the majority of our staff furloughed. I find myself lucky to be able to continue in my role and enjoy the peacefulness of Gower, albeit in a different capacity undertaking checks on our properties and sites, and essential maintenance tasks.

The Saturday group this month should have been planting lavender in the Vile, having had the delivery of 500 plants just before lockdown. These are safely in their pots at our farm at SPG where we will water them over the summer and plant them out in the autumn.

I finished off some ongoing fencing at SPG  and moved and re-plumbed a water trough in preparation for the hay meadows we are going to be creating on the farm hopefully later on this year.

SPG fencing 20 April

Wildlife seems to be flourishing this year and with the unexpected lack of vehicle movement in our yard a pair of wrens have made themselves a home underneath our landrover. We will be making sure they are all fledged before we move the vehicle again.

SPG Landrover wren April c

I spent a day at Cwm Ivy where I had to put in a new field gate into the woods as the temporary repair I undertook a couple of months ago finally succumbed. Whilst there I took the opportunity to take a walk up onto Cwm Ivy Tor where the cowslips are giving an amazing display this year. I also heard my first cuckoo of the year.

Cwm Ivy cow slips view 22 April

On one of our daily property checks I found rather a lot of sheep wandering through our car park at Rhossili having broken out of the Warren. Some emergency fence repairs were undertaken and I managed to get the sheep back into where they should have been.

One of our local volunteers out on their daily exercise visited a site we have been working at over the last couple of years called the Conygaer adjacent to Cwm Ivy Tor. Although not National Trust land we have worked with NRW to clear scrub from the site for a specific species of flower – the burnt tip orchid. And our efforts have been rewarded with a couple of plants on the site that are now flowering.

Burnt tip orchid Conygaer 1 May

I know our volunteers are missing coming out with us, but I have been sending them weekly updates for them to get their Gower fix and to keep in contact with them.  They have also been in touch amongst themselves via email and there are lockdown tales of gardening and DIY along with many wildlife sightings in their gardens and on their daily walks that they have been sharing. It’s been lovely to keep in touch with them all and share our passion for nature and Gower. Hopefully soon we will be able to have them all back volunteering with us.

Happy VE day!

SPG orchard trees April c

 

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