As the nation’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and not having the protection afforded by National Park status, I often marvel at the way in which Gower has survived. Until planning laws were tightened in the 1970s, the peninsula was open to many types of threats. It is still vulnerable to some extent, but as protecting the environment is gradually seen to be more important, it becomes safer. Over the years, Gower has escaped a multitude of enterprises, often supported by local planning authorities. Had it not been for the large landholdings of Gower Commoners, The National Trust, and The Wildlife Trust, it may have succumbed. The untiring efforts of The Gower Society to protect the AONB had a great impact, and were pivotal at times. Pioneering individuals such as Neville Douglas-Jones and Jo Hambury played a huge part in Gower’s early protection by forming the Glamorgan Naturalist’s Trust, now part of the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. Many other dedicated individuals have played their part. Images and profile are important, and Harold Grenfell has spent a lifetime photographing all aspects of the peninsula, whilst members of the Gower Ornithological Society have diligently recorded birds for more than half a century.
As in most parts of these islands, much biodiversity has been lost, and at the eleventh hour there seems to be an understanding of the value of our wildlife heritage. Superficially Gower’s landscape is little changed, but pesticides and modern farming practices have greatly depleted its wildlife.
Many threats remain, and the beauty of our scenery seems secure in the short term, but without a radical change in land usage, we may never again see the abundance of wildlife many of us remember just a generation ago. Designating Gower as a National Park could help secure a better future for this magical place.