Dune roaming on the glorious Gower Peninsula

 

A handful of regions in Britain pack such varied habitat into such a petite area that prioritising wildlife-watching locations can be challenging. The Gower Peninsula, Britain's first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is one. One way to enjoy the gamut of habitat is to allocate a half-day to each of three thrilling reserves.

Oxwich Bay is a neat introduction. East of the car park, the dune slack flora is stunning. Round-leaved wintergreen and dune gentian nestle among a horde of orchids, including thousands of common twayblade and pyramidal orchids, and scores of bee orchids. In scrubby areas bordering reedbeds, yellow flag irises entice the eye and Cetti's warbler heralds the ear.

Spend the afternoon west along the undercliffs between Port Eynon and Worm's Head, searching for limestone plants that occur at few other British sites. At the base of the cliffs, there is thrift, spring squill, sea stork's-bill, rock samphire and buckhorn plantain. The beach at Port Eynon holds sea stock. Among the birds, you will not fail to see raven, but keep an ear out for the cawing of a relative that has recently recolonised Gower: chough. Another returnee is the peregrine, seduced by seabird colonies at Worm's Head.

A single Gower day cannot suffice, so spend an additional morning at Whiteford Burrows. Flora is similar to Oxwich, but the dunes are larger, wilder and more bountiful. Your botanical targets are dune gentian, round-leaved wintergreen, variegated horsetail and the adder's-tongue fern. Gower butterflies include both the tiny and timid (small blue) and the big and bold (dark green fritillary).

A Gower dune speciality that you are unlikely to see is fen orchid, recorded from both Oxwich and Whiteford but probably now locally extinct. Fortunately, this enigmatic plant persists at Kenfig, just off Gower, so head there for the afternoon. The orchid's luminously pale green needles underpin a whirl of delicate white flowers.

Finish the weekend a short way back towards Swansea. Britain's largest arachnid (7cm from toe to toe), the fen raft spider, walks on water thanks to its hairy legs. Strikingly striped, this invertebrate frequents only three sites nationwide. Along the southern edge of Pant-y-Sais Fen, look for nursery webs in greater tussock sedge, between the towpath and the peaty Tennant Canal.

This is an edited extract from '52 Wildlife Weekends' by James Lowen, published by Bradt. IoS readers can buy a copy for just £7.79 (inc UK p&p) by visiting bradtguides.com and using the discount code 52WW. Offer valid until 31 Jan 2015

Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine