I remember speaking to a Dutch tourist on the cliffs many years ago, who marvelled at how such a beautiful place could have survived so unspoiled so close to a large city. “This would never have happened in Holland,” he said. At the time, although I couldn’t disagree, I didn’t give his comment much thought. Over the years, I’ve often thought about his remark, and I suppose he would probably be even more impressed now. To the untrained eye, even though there are more tourists in the summer months, Gower has remained basically the same. The cliffs and beaches are still spectacular, and the hinterland remains a haven of peaceful green fields and commons. However this splendid idol is deceptive. In spite of the protection provided from its status as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the effects of farming practices, general consumption and carbon emissions in the wider world, have all taken their toll. On a landscape scale it’s still very beautiful here, and there have been no significant developments to spoil the magnificent views, but looking deeper reveals a different story. The biodiversity of both plants and animals is significantly reduced, and the overall biomass has declined. Birds and butterflies are probably the most obvious, with farmland birds the clearest example. This is a creeping universal problem, and easily hidden as each generation becomes unaware of the relative wildlife riches of its predecessor.
In spite of all this, I still pinch myself each time I stand on the cliffs, and find it difficult to believe that I’m lucky enough to live in such a wonderful place, which is aptly called ‘The Graveyard of Ambition’.