There are no slender spires pointing skywards from Gower churches, instead sturdy rectangular towers rise above the rooflines of our wonderful Norman churches. Most are hidden in the landscape, tucked away in secluded valleys.
Cheriton is no more than a handful of houses and its church, secreted away deep in the valley, is by far the biggest structure in the village. Unlike others on Gower, it has a central tower, adding to its charm. Beyond the small wrought iron gate, the churchyard is a place of utter peace - an old world, and I come here to find solitude and wildlife. There are no rare plants or animals, just common things. Most early spring flowers are over, but it’s that time of year when the whole countryside bursts with energy and promise. Each year May fills me with hope for the future, but I’m under no illusion of the threats that face the natural world.
Not much sun gets into this valley, but there’s enough for brimstone, green veined whites and orange tip butterflies to be on the wing. Most flowers in the churchyard are invaders from surrounding woodlands. By unkempt graves and rough footpaths, herb robert spreads at will, and under trees by the edge of the stream, there’s wood sorrel, bluebells and masses of emerging ferns. Ivy-leaved toadflax and ivy clings to the boundary wall, attracting a brief visit from a holly blue butterfly.
I hear the hubbub from the rookery at Frog Lane about half a mile away, and watch their comings and goings to the fields beyond the trees, probably looking for food for their nestlings. Robins and blackbirds sing, a blue tit disappears into a tiny hole in an old oak, and a buzzard soars into the clear blue sky. All seems well in nature, but I know it’s not.