Tucked away along an overgrown path in the Penrice Estate is a tiny remnant of a lost world. Hidden by trees on all sides, the Jack Pond is a secret, neglected place, and on this spring morning is silent. Out of sight in a sheltered corner of the marsh, little wind gets in. Everything is still save for a delicate chiffchaff fresh in from the south. Flitting quietly to and fro amongst fallen logs low over the water, he’s searching for emerging insects. It’s magic.
There’s real peace here; a forgotten place, known only to the few who know Oxwich Marsh well. On a low branch above the water, a cormorant rests drying its wings, but little else moves. There are otters in the marsh and this looks like the ideal place to get lucky. I’m reminded of a similar pond in Scotland last year, where I was shown beavers; the Jack Pond would seem to be the perfect spot for any reintroduction to Wales.
I ponder the name. Who or what was Jack? I’ve known this special place for decades, but have always forgotten to ask at the great house. Like the origins of so many local names, there’s always an answer.
It’s just a short walk around the back of the pond, and I emerge from the reeds in front of a proper lake. In an instant I loose the feeling of intimacy. The North Pond looks raw, uninviting, and manicured. A cool wind whips across the surface and I’m in a different world. Distant cars move along the road towards the beach at the far side of the lake, and I hear voices. Here are two worlds centuries apart, separated by just a few strides.