The land beneath the eastern slopes of Rhosilli Down is one of Gower’s best-kept secrets; it echoes with history and is a place where time seems to stand still. Enchanting and bound up with derelict farms and old field-systems, it looks as though it’s been this way for decades, or even longer. There are three ruined farms beneath the down; Kingshall, Old Henllys and Newton Farm.
The land around Newton Farm is wild and desolate, and feels ancient. Divided now between nearby Margam and Great Pitton Farms, the bare fields are empty save for a few sheep and a couple of forlorn looking horses. The farm buildings are not easily accessible and the half-mile path from the main road is rutted with old frost-hardened cattle footprints and tractor ruts. I take extra care. I come here not only for solitude, but also for the wildlife. In summer the hedgerows are alive with windflowers, but out here in bleak midwinter everything is shut down.
Tree sparrows have never been common on Gower and just a few hang on, breeding in nest boxes amongst the hedgerow trees surrounding these desolate fields. Winter seed is put out in an attempt to improve their survival, but it’s not clear if it’s having any effect.
At the farm a keen wind rattles a loose corrugated iron roof on an old fallen down outhouse. The only other sound is the wind whistling through isolated trees, some growing from within the ruins of farm buildings. A flock of chaffinches feeds on the grain hanging from feeders and spread on the ground, but there’s no sign of the tree sparrows.