Posted by: Claire Hannington | September 10, 2021

August 2021

I’ve just written the list of all the tasks undertaken in August and it’s amazing how much we achieved. Thanks to all our volunteers who helped us.

We spent a day fencing in Glebe replacing a section of fence between us and a neighbours field, adjacent to the pond. A day was spent in Mewslade Valley, clearing back the scrub along the bottom footpath, cutting it right back to allow access for the Coastguard along one of the few access points on that area of coast.

A group from HSBC joined us for a litterpick on Whiteford whilst our regular volunteers spent a day clearing the woodyard at Cwm Ivy, strimming along the edge of the track and filling the log stores ready for the winter.

We were finally able to welcome our monthly Saturday group volunteers back. They spent the day clearing bracken on Cwm Ivy Tor to complete that task for this year. It was lovely to see everyone who was able to make it.

Another group from HSBC joined us at Notthill where we again finished the bracken clearance for this year, with one final day of bracken clearance on the Warren at Rhossili and also at Penmaen Burrows.

I sent Meg out to look for any himalayan balsam we might have missed on Rhossili Down at Hillend. Unfortunately having not been able to do it last year and the vigorous growth of bracken this year it had been cunningly hiding before bursting into flower, so we went back with the Tuesday volunteers to spend a morning clearing it.

Hopefully we can get back on top of it next year by getting to it earlier but it is difficult to spot when not in flower in amongst the bracken.

We spent a day at Rhossili dismantling and repairing a small section of dry stone wall that had collapsed. We shall finish that off some time next month.

A day was spent fencing on the Warren at Rhossili and we also spent a couple of hours litterpicking Three Cliffs Bay and clearing montbretia from Cefn Bryn.

We spent a couple of days pulling ragwort on the Vile, especially in our hay meadows, so we were ready and waiting for the weather to hold for long enough for us to crack on with the hay making. Luckily the last week of the month brought the forecast and weather we had been hoping for. Between Meg, myself and the volunteers we got the fields cut, turned and baled.

Its a glorious day when the sun is shining and the baler is chugging away to itself doing what it does churning the bales out the back as it goes along.

It’s a bit damp here this morning so I’m making the most of it and catching up on office time before I’m off for the weekend.

Posted by: Claire Hannington | August 2, 2021

July 2021

We are certainly back into the swing of things here on Gower, making the most of the return of our practical weekday volunteers. We started the month on the Warren clearing the bracken using the good old fashioned method of scything. It’s amazing how much we can get cleared in a day and the volunteers are able to chat to each other as we work without the use of powered machines.

Whilst some of the volunteers were undertaking this, Meg took another group out to Worm’s Head to collect an abandoned tent and associated camping paraphernalia. It was quite a challenge to bring it all back over the causeway.

Many groups from HSBC have joined us this month with the first two undertaking litterpicks on Rhossili and Three Cliffs Bay. Meg also had a small group of students from Bishop Vaughan school whom she took litterpicking at the Llangennith end of Rhossili.

We’ve been back up onto Glebe to continue with the fencing and repairing sections of the wall between the fields and Rhossili Down. We were blessed with amazing views across Rhossili and the Vile.

I undertook a survey of all our sites that have some Japanese Knotweed on them and was pleasantly surprised there isn’t much for me to spray later on in the year.

We spent a day on Notthill, overlooking Three Cliffs Bay clearing bracken from the site. It was great to see some heather regeneration on the swathe we cut through the scrub in the winter.

We have also spent a couple of days at Penmaen Burrows clearing the bracken there from strips cut last winter and also those from a couple of years ago. We were eagerly helped by some volunteers from HSBC in what was one of the hottest days of the year. Fair play to them for sticking it out but the results are well worth seeing all the heather regeneration in the strips.

Two days have been spent on the Warren at Rhossili, fencing, to prevent the sheep from getting out onto the Down but also to stop them getting into a neighbours garden. A second group from HSBC came out to give us a hand and completed a whole section of fence as well as replacing some other broken intermediates.

Mark, Meg and I spent a morning strimming the footpaths in the Vile and also clearing around some gateways ready for when we will be cutting the hay, once we get the next prolonged spell of dry weather.

I ended the month in the rain in Pembrokeshire helping the Mathry team move some ponies from Brawdy to their next grazing site, adjacent to Cawdor Barracks.

Another busy month ahead planned. Lets hope the weather holds so we can get it all done.

Posted by: Claire Hannington | July 9, 2021

June 2021

We started the month clearing some litter from Rhossili Beach following the Whitsun bank holiday weekend. The locals have set up a series of litterpicks there over the summer so that will really help us keep the beach clean.

Meg and I went to Pwll Du to empty the litter bin and to put in an Omega sign at the entrance to Bishopston Valley which we had previously taken back to the office to repair. We also spent a couple of days in the Vile, putting in a new gate into Sound and repairing the adjoining fence along with putting in a new strainer in the corner of Yearland.

The middle of the month saw us welcome back our regular weekday volunteers. Instead of meeting us at our offices the volunteers are now all meeting us on site so it was great to be able to see them all in Rhossili Car Park raring to go.

To start them off gently (!) we spent the first week on Glebe fencing. The weather was really kind to us and we had a cracking first week with them completing a whole new section of fence.

Week two was spent on Cwm Ivy Tor clearing bracken from the seaward side.

Myself and one of the volunteers spotted this lovely Dark Green Fritillary butterfly which unusually stayed still enough for me to take a photo.

We also had our first employee volunteering group back out with us from HSBC who undertook a litterpick at Whiteford. Whilst there we took the opportunity to have a search for the bee orchid with Meg capturing this beautiful specimen.

Meg and I took a trip to Bishopston Valley to look for any Himalayan Balsam and unfortunately we did manage to find quite a lot, so Meg pencilled it in her diary to clear it with the volunteers the following week whilst I was on leave.

Between her and Mark they supervised the volunteers whilst I was away enjoying West Yorkshire’s hospitality, undertaking some sea buckthorn clearance at Whiteford and bracken clearance on the Warren.

I must remember to try and take some photos of the volunteers now they are back with us but I’ll leave you with this long-horned bee, of which we’ve had quite a few buzzing around our hay meadows on the Vile.

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.

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