Posted by: Claire Hannington | June 2, 2021

May 2021

We started May by completing the long stretch of fencing in Sandyland, one of this years sunflower fields in the Vile.

More time was spent at Cwm Ivy undertaking some fence and gate repairs including filling in under a gateway with stones and earth as the sheep had worn away the ground around it and were able to go under the gate.

We also put in some new fencing in Cwm Ivy Marsh itself to try and prevent the sheep walking in up the pill at low tide.

Whilst there I undertook a boundary survey of the entire marsh to make sure the rest of it was stock proof.

Whilst the rest of the team enjoyed some well earned leave I took the time to undertake some site visits.

Firstly to Bishopston Valley to look at an area where someone had camped last summer to see if they had left any mess. I have been meaning to do this for some time and was pleasantly surprised to find that they had taken everything away with them. Whilst there I enjoyed the delights of Bishopston Valley in the spring covered in wild garlic and also found this fungi.

On my way back I went to Notthill where I cleared a few bits of montbretia and enjoyed the carpet of bluebells across the site.

The following day I went to Llanrhidian Marsh and Welshmoor and cleaned and repaired the Omega signs and checked there was no himalayan balsam at a site I have been clearing the last two years. Pulling the plant out before it flowers seems to have done the trick as there was no presence of it. I will however keep checking this year to make sure it doesn’t return.

I was able to spend a couple of days with some colleagues in Pembrokeshire. Working just above Marloes I learnt how to build a hedgebank which we don’t have here on Gower. It was great to be able to learn a new skill whilst enjoying the delights of the Pembrokeshire coast line.

With restrictions beginning to ease we were able to welcome back our lavender volunteers. A local volunteer, John, has been busy mowing between the rows and has managed to rescue quite a few of the plants that were getting overgrown. Whilst not all have survived the winter the strongest variety Vera seems to be doing well so we will be concentrating our efforts on weeding around these.

As for our weekday volunteers we will be welcoming them back in a couple of weeks time so I’m busy planning the work and looking forward to seeing them all again after so long. The Saturday group will be starting back up in August and we have some employee volunteering groups lined up to help us too.

It feels like things are finally getting back to some kind of normality.

Corrinne has started this years surveys although everything seems to be about a month behind. Hopefully the drop of rain we’re having today and some warmer weather will encourage a bit more growth. The orchids in our orchard here at SPG are certainly making the most of it as is the yellow rattle which is just coming into flower.

Posted by: Claire Hannington | May 7, 2021

April 2021

The ground finally dried off enough in early April to allow me to mow the orchard here at South Pilton Green Farm. The trees are looking good covered in blossom, while our new woodland areas are a mass of cuckooflower between the green budding trees.

We spent a day at Cwm Ivy replacing another gate post further on down the track. Luckily this one wasn’t quite as tricky as the one last month. The ongoing work of cleaning and tidying our omega signs saw me taking a trip to Mewslade to repair one whose post had broken. Luckily there was room on the gate at the entrance to the valley for me to attach it to having given it a good clean. I also went to Port Eynon to clean the omega sign there.

Meg and I took a trip to Pwll Du to empty the litter crate. Whilst there we also cleaned the omega sign and brought the one at the entrance to Bishopston Valley back to the yard which I have subsequently renovated and put on a new post ready to go back in.

The rest of the month has seen us concentrating our efforts around Rhossili. Firstly we had to remove a bank between two fields in the Vile to allow the tractors with the ploughing and sowing machinery through. Normally they would have been able to come down the main track along the cliff but some new railings outside the hotel have made it too narrow so we had to provide an alternative access. Luckily it wasn’t too much work and will secure future access. Having done this the fields have all been ploughed and sown and the crops are just starting to poke their heads up.

With the post driver back in action on the tractor we headed to the second overflow car park field (Croft Neans) to fence along a section of hedge that had been laid a couple of years ago. Originally this field wasn’t going to be grazed so there was no need to protect the hedge but we subsequently had a local farmer to graze it with his grandsons new flock of sheep. Unfortunately the lambs were beginning to take a liking to the hedge (and our tools!) so we had to fence it off.

We then headed to Sandylands where are sunflowers are this year and made a start on a long stretch of fence that needed replacing in there.

Our month ended with us putting in a new bench on Rhossili Cliffs which replaced one that had fallen beyond repair.

Not a bad spot for a sit down and soaking up the view.

Posted by: Claire Hannington | April 6, 2021

March 2021

March started and ended with absolutely glorious weather with wildlife making the most of the warm conditions with this bee celebrating St David’s Day in style.

We started the month at Cwm Ivy where Corrinne and I cleared around the top gate and tidied up the piles of brash following our ash clearance work. The sheep that had been grazing on the tor, took a liking to the bark on the brash and had spread it around the site in the process. Unfortunately they hadn’t grazed as much of the Tor as we had hoped so on another day, armed with scythes and strimmers, we cleared some of the scrub from the front of the tor.

We undertook some more fencing and gate repairs in the Vile and on Glebe, finishing this short section by the track in Priests Hay.

We spent a day clearing the tree guards from our new woodland and hedgerows here at South Pilton Green Farm (SPG). The new trees have taken really well and with the warmer weather they could have got a bit too hot and prone to rotting so we have removed the guards to avoid this. It also looks far better in the field now without guards everywhere.

We spent a couple of days at Penmaen, blocking off the unofficial parking area at the western end of the loop road. The area had badly deteriorated over the winter so we have put stones in to stop people from using it as a car park. We hope the scrub and woodland will regenerate there over time.

Meg has spent a few days in the tractor topping the arable fields in the Vile in preparation for ploughing and getting this years crops in. We are delighted to be able to do them this year after not being able to last year. We also received the welcome news that we are still getting the Magnificent Meadows funding for our plans here at SPG where we will be putting in wildlife friendly arable crops and creating new hay meadows. We have officially named the fields we have here at the farm, using the original field names where possible, along with a couple we have made up, including two fields named in memory of our previous General Manager, Paul Boland, who passed away last year.

We spent a long day at Cwm Ivy replacing the gate post on the pedestrian gate accessing the woods at Cwm Ivy. It was one of those days where everything seemed to be against us – getting the old post out, the hole filling with water with Mark spending much time baling it out. We eventually got the new post in and the gate in working order.

Lat week I made the most of the good weather and spent the week dry stone walling at Rhossili. I enjoy the task and it was very satisfying to complete the section of wall by the end of the week.

Whilst there I also saw my first 2 house martins of this year along with many bees and butterflies enjoying the warmth of the sun. In true British style it snowed here this morning!

Posted by: Claire Hannington | March 5, 2021

February 2021

February seemed to fly by after the long January with the weather being varied throughout the month but we did get out and about to undertake lots of different tasks on our sites.

We started in Bishopston Valley and undertook the last of the ash dieback tree felling work. for this winter. We will reassess in June when we do our annual ash tree inspections but hopefully we won’t have to take much more out.

The ground finally dried out enough after a few days of good weather for us to get a new bench in the lavender field (Sheep in Park). The benches are extremely heavy, being made of oak, so being able to drive it to site was a blessing, seeing as we don’t have the volunteers to help us just yet.

I spent a couple of days with Ali cutting logs for the car park to mark out designated parking areas. Previously we used road pins and ropes but this didn’t look great and always required redoing most days. We hope the logs will be more robust.

We spent a few days fencing in the Vile, in Priest Hay and in Glebe. Slowly but surely we are carrying on with this work as and when we can. Fencing is a never ending task but its great to complete new sections bit by bit.

The whole team had a day out at Cwm Ivy where we did a spot of hedgelaying. The blackthorn and hawthorn hedge surrounding Burrows Cottage was getting really straggly so it was great to be able to lay it which will encourage new growth and thicken the hedge up. It was also great to be able to do something together as a team and we were pleased with the result.

We spent a couple of days at Notthill, putting in the repaired Omega sign and also clearing some scrub. We have now cut a wide swathe across the top of the whole area to encourage heathland regeneration and have a variety of scrub heights and habitats.

We also cleared some scrub in Bishopston Valley, along the footpath from Widegate, as with less use this year it was starting to encroach on the footpath. On the way back to the office I stopped off at Penmaen where I removed some Himalayan Honeysuckle that had cropped up along the edge of the loop road. Although very pretty it is seen as an invasive species so we need to keep it in check.

The sun came out at the end of the month and it got quite warm for a few days. Enough so that spring was definitely in the air with this honey bee making the most of the fine weather in our orchard here at SPG.

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!

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