A footpath from the main South Gower Road leads across a field into the back of Nicholaston Wood, and thence down to the vast dune system stretching the full length of Oxwich Bay. I emerge from the dappled light of the wood into brightness. After a fresh, dewy morning the sun is already high in the sky, quickly burning off the last droplets of water on the thick grass. In May the unfarmed parts of Gower burst with flowers, and the dune slacks around the bay are wonderful. I’m surrounded by the yellows of common rock rose, deep magenta of bloody cranesbill, purples of basil thyme, the exotic shapes and shades of early purple orchids, and much more.
Years ago in the deeper dune slacks, ringed plovers nested, but increased tourism finally drove them away. I look in hope, but know it’s in vain. A footpath forged by ponies, attracts a shining male green lizard basking in the increasing heat of the morning. Sluggish hairy dragonflies cling onto herb robert flowers growing in one of the wetter dunes lacks, their beautifully patterned wings glistening in the sunshine. Meadow brown and wall butterflies are already on the wing, and orange tips, plentiful this spring, drift across from the marsh. Small and green veined whites are quick and not easy to separate, but I’ll get more skilful as the summer advances.
It’s already 8 o’clock and I’ve seen nobody; the only sign of people are distant sounds of cars. I finally bump into a couple of keen botanists from London; they recognise many more plants than I’ll ever know, and wax lyrical about the marsh and its wildlife. I lived in London during my student days many years ago and still love it, but have known for decades that moving to Gower was the best thing I ever did.