There are no raging rivers on Gower, just tiny brooks and gentle streams, whose waters eventually reach the open sea, or the Loughour estuary in the north. A few are dry in fine summers, but most have some water at all times of the year. The one I know best rises on Pengwern Common, passes through Ilston, and reaches the sea at Three Cliffs Bay, and even in mid-winter never runs deep.
The little ford above the village guards the entrance to the Wildlife Trust’s reserve at Ilston Quarry, and is too deep to cross at this time of year without wellington boots. For a full 20 minutes I sit in the car by the ford only forty feet away from a dipper, perched on the edge of the tiny waterfall downstream of the fast flowing water. In summer I come here to listen for their fluty song, which sounds almost tropical against the burbling of the stream. Moments like this, alone and so close to a dipper are rare. A pair of male mallards flies low above the glinting stream, causing the dipper to bob and change its position a little to reveal its white flashing eyelid. Opening the car door isn’t enough to end these precious minutes, and I need to walk closer before he finally moves a few yards downstream. There may be only two or three pairs of dippers on Gower, and until our rivers were cleansed there were probably none.