Gower AONB

Scenic Vista


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AONB stands for Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The primary purpose of the AONB designation is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the area, which includes protecting flora, fauna and geological as well as landscape features. The landscape has also been shaped by man, and it is paramount that archaeological, historic remains and architectural features are protected.
The designation also creates a responsibility to provide for a quiet enjoyment of the countryside and having regard for the interests of those who live and work there.

Each AONB relies on planning controls and practical countryside management to achieve these aims, along with the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, that introduced new powers to help protect these precious landscapes, and made it compulsory that every AONB should have its own unique management plan.
Natural Resources Wales has overall responsibility for AONBs in the national context but they are managed by Local Authorities with the support of Joint Advisory Committees (JAC), local communities and partnerships.
To date 5 AONBs have been designated in Wales - Llyn, the Gower, Anglesey, the Clwydian Range, and the Wye Valley.
Rich and diverse, Gower's scenery ranges from fragile dune and salt marsh in the north to the dramatic limestone cliffs along the south coast, intercut by sand beaches. Inland, the hills of Cefn Bryn and Rhossili Down dominate the landscape of traditional small fields, wooded valleys and open commons.

It is now part of a family of 46 AONBs and 13 National Parks in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Planning legislation gives Gower the same protection as a National Park.

Gower is the anglicised form of the Welsh word gwyr, meaning curved - the area had already been recognised as having significant natural importance even before it became an AONB in 1956. The National Trust first purchased land in Gower in 1933 and now actively manages a total of 2,226 hectares, including 42 kilometres of coastline - almost three quarters of Gower's coast.

In all, the region contains a staggering amount of protected land - 25 Sites of Special Scientific Interest, five Candidate Special Areas of Conservation, three National Nature Reserves, a Special Protection Area, a Ramsar site, three Local Nature Reserves, 23 Wildlife Trust Reserves, 67 Ancient Woodland sites, and one Coed Cadw Reserve.

Although it's only about 207 kilometres square, it has Britain's biggest calcareous dune system, it has one of the biggest freshwater marshes, one of the biggest areas of common land and contains the largest estuary that is wholly in Wales

Agriculture is still a vital part of the local economy. This ethos of traditional land management is echoed in the continued use of common land by the local community - a third of the designated AONB is still classed as heath or common land. Common rights are associated with landholdings. Depending how much land a farm owns, the tenant and the farmer combined, they will get so many stints on the common. Each stint gives the farmer the right to graze a certain number of livestock on the land, and the grazing process has become an integral part of the ecosystem. If common land isn't grazed, the area becomes covered with scrub, creating a monoculture that can have a negative impact upon the local wildlife.

But one of the main things that makes Gower unusual is its proximity to the city of Swansea. This closeness of city and country has both positive and negative impacts.

• Gower's rarest plant is the yellow whitlowgrass, an alpine plant that survived the last ice age and is now endemic to the peninsula
• The Gower moneyspider, discovered in Whitford Burrows in 1964, may not be unique to the region, but it is the only species to bear its name
• Archaeological sites of interest in the region include Iron Age hill forts, Bronze Age burial cairns, Palaeolithic caves and a medieval stripfield system called the Viel, one of only two surviving examples of its kind remaining in the UK
• The region supports a huge migratory and native population of birds. Naturalist Robert Howell once recorded 13,000 dunlin, a small coastal wader common in the region, in a single day

Formed on 23 December 1947, the Gower Society has become a vital part of the region's preservation. The brainchild of four locals, the society was formed to bring together "kindred spirits among the general public" with a passion for the region, their main aim being "to encourage research and appreciation of Gower". The idea quickly took off, and 125 people attended the first public meeting in January 1948. Later that year, the group's remit was altered to include protection of the peninsula, when permission was sought to build a holiday camp in Rhossili. The group swiftly set about mobilising support to stop the construction, which would have required a partial levelling of the Burrows, the UK's largest calcareous dune system. The campaign was successful and also succeeded in raising the society's public profile and swelling its membership. Today, with nearly 2,000 members, the society is one of Britain's most active amenity societies.





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