Saturday, 18 March 2017


There is little left of Bovehill Castle, just the remnants of the old 15th century walls of what is thought to be a fortified manor house standing high on a shelf above Landimore Marsh in north Gower. Mature sycamores grow from the ivy-clad limestone walls that still mark the boundary; there's a strong feeling of history here. The castle is marked on maps, but even so is difficult to find, and I guess most holidaymakers don’t give it a second thought. The walk through the farmyard and along a lane of stony banks covered with moss and golden lichen, passes hedgerows just beginning to show a hint of greening. The first female flowers of hazel squeeze from buds, and a few yellow forsythia flowers burst in the farmhouse garden. I come here not only for history, but also for the view, which is quite exceptional and it is shaped by the tide. High spring tides fill the estuary, and low water creates pools and meandering rivers, forming a mosaic of glinting light. There is a peace and isolation up here. The sound of ewes and lambs is broken by rooks from the wood to the west and a raven heading to its ancient nest site at North Hill Tor.

Sheep and ponies dot the green marsh far below. Remnants of the great winter flocks of ducks remain, but distance defeats my attempts at identification. Wader numbers too will soon be depleted, but oystercatchers still make music on the far shore and there is always the sound of redshanks. Shelducks, in pairs, are vivid against the wash of green, their nests in the adjacent woodland a mystery to most. The warm air brings out buzzards floating upwards in the thermals; there must be half a dozen territories left and right. Winter attracts big flocks of lapwings to the marsh, but only a few display below, and I wonder if any will stay to breed this year.

In the ivy-covered stonewalls of the remnant castle a wren is busy nest-building. Such activity. In rapid succession, long pieces of grass, many times the length of the little bird are taken in. It’s the male that builds the nest, and he will build more than one for her to choose from. He takes no notice at all of my presence, unlike a female blackbird, who cagily takes nesting material into the hedge. It really feels like spring is here.

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