It’s only a modest ascent to get to the spine of Cefyn Bryn, and walking along the wide path requires even less effort. High cumulous clouds move slowly across the deep blue sky, and with the wind from the north, I can see for miles. Due west is the back of Rhosilli Down, north the wide expanse of the Loughour Estuary, and east the distant Black Mountains. Beyond Oxwich Bay, the Devon hills are sharp in crystal clear light. I feel I’ve climbed a mountain, but realise once more that Gower is a microcosm of so many habitats in such a compact space.
The bracken has turned to brown now, matching the old red sandstone ridge that runs through the centre of Gower. Gone are the carpets of flowering heather and gorse that covered large areas of the down a few weeks ago, and it’s starting to feel like winter already. A stonechat perched on top of a gorse bush watches me pass. These bold little birds, such a feature of Gower at any time of year, seem not to mind people.
Looking north, I watch two boys on mountain bikes haring up and down the slope below. Over the years, cyclists and motorbikes have created great ruts in the ground, and attempts to prevent it seem to have failed, and these scars are now a permanent feature on the north side of the bryn. Apart from walkers and the occasional cyclist, the main path on the ridge is used by pony-trekkers, ‘wild’ Gower ponies, sheep, and the few cattle that graze the whole year round. It’s only on the slopes that the trial bikes damage the ground and the landscape.