There are four short lanes leading down to the Marsh Road between Llanrhidian and Crofty, all are quiet and mostly used by locals. It’s a land of stunted trees and hedges, all shaped by winter gales. Old twisted oaks covered in moss give a feeling of remoteness. The land looks poor - making a living from farming here must be a struggle. Field boundaries are marked by untidy fences and neglected hedgerows, some growing from the remains of broken down stonewalls. Even though we’ve had no rain for days, it feels damp. There’s not much colour yet, but celandines border the paths, daisies bend towards the sun, and some blackthorn is in flower. In a few hedges, goat’s willow and gorse brighten up the nascent greens, and the rough, wet pastures hold ponies and a few sheep.
From the road beside the marsh I can see for miles over the estuary, and to the east, late snow hangs on the tops of the Brecon Beacons. It’s flat here and the landscape is mostly sky. A warming mid-afternoon sun creates a shimmering mirage on the far horizon. Distant poles, often used by ospreys on migration, seem to come and go in the haze. Left and right ‘wild’ Gower ponies loaf about, but there are no sheep on the great expanse of marsh. This is a place of cockles, and their presence is all around. Farm drives are covered with crushed shells, which also peek out from the roadside verges. I recall bent old ladies gathering cockles years ago with their pony and traps out on the sands, memories that are so much a part of the history of the estuary.
As if from nowhere, the sun glistens on a pastel-silver bird low over the marsh. A male hen harrier glides by close and passes quickly. Moments later a female; winter is still not quite over.