Tuesday, 23 May 2017

What Have We Done to Our Wildlife

It’s mid-morning as I walk past the farm above Crawley Woods. Swallows have settled in, and there’s spring brightness everywhere. The hedgerows are alight with vibrant lime-green sycamore leaves, and there’s cow parsley and red campion showing in the verges.  Well-used steps form part of the steep, sandy path down to the wood.  A small stream runs alongside for a while, but like many on this side of Gower, soon vanishes underground, allowing the fluty songs of blackbirds and blackcaps to echo through the canopy of spring greens.  The woodland floor is a carpet of green, decorated with sapling sycamores and newly shooting ferns. Garlic and bluebells flowers are past their best flower, and here and there a few fading violets hang on. I have the wood to myself.

Where the wood meets Nicholaston Burrows, the view over Oxwich bay stops me in my tracks. A morning haze hangs over the pastel grey sea, but overhead the sky is a clear deep blue. The woodland changes to oak and ash, both not fully open yet after this late spring. The path between the woods and dunes is well used, but I’m the first here today.  The morning is warming; lizards scoot across the path, and an adder basks on an exposed grassy bank and doesn’t move as I pass. There are lords and ladies along the sides of the path, and high above on the limestone cliff a pair of kestrels see off a buzzard, when it gets too close.

It will be some time before the dunes flower properly, but after the long spell of cold weather, there are signs of spring at last. Hawkweeds, coltsfoot and dandelions give a splash of yellow, and in a sheltered dune slack, a group of early purple orchids are in flower.

At the bridge over Nicholaston Pill, I’m angered once again at the sight of the gabions that the Countryside Council of Wales build many years ago, which destroyed the beautiful oxbow, drained much of Oxwich Marsh, and helped reduce the biodiversity of what was one of the best wildlife sites in Wales.

I turn back realising there are no willow warblers, pipits or skylarks; unbelievable since it’s now May. Years ago, I came here to count the number of different kinds of butterflies. Nowadays I count the number of individuals. I find just a few orange tips and a small copper. What have we done to our wildlife?

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