All nature reserves depend on the investment of time and money to manage them in the best way possible for wildlife, and each presents unique challenges when it comes to location, access and habitat requirements. In the last few months with support from the Welsh Government’s ERD fund, WTSWW has been able to address some of those challenges on the South Gower Coast.
WTSWW has managed Overton Mere, one of several nature reserves in our care on the South Gower Coast, for many years, with the first part purchased in 1963. The habitats are of European importance, and as such the reserve forms part of the Limestone Sea Cliffs of South West Wales Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
A very diverse site, Overton Mere includes gorse and thorn scrub on the plateau, heath and limestone grassland on the coastal slopes and open limestone scree. A plateau of grassland next to the sea and at the bottom of the coastal slope is more agriculturally improved, and species of interest include the rare Silky Wave Moth.
In order to maintain the open habitats such as the limestone grassland and heath, some control of the gorse and other scrub is necessary. This can be done in various ways- cutting, controlled burning, or grazing- or a combination. All are challenging on this difficult terrain, and the absence of water supplies and infrastructure made the introduction of conservation grazing a difficult prospect.
However this year, Senior Wildlife Trust Officer Paul Thornton and his team have been able to tackle some of these more intractable issues with financial assistance from the Welsh Government’s Ecosystem Resilience and Diversity (ERD) fund, and with support from CCW and the Wales Biodiversity Partnership.
Fences have been reinstated, gates installed, and a mobile water bowser purchased to solve the problem of water supply for grazing animals. A large area of gorse scrub was cut and the access track improved. The Gower volunteer team were also invaluable in delivering the project and the funding allowed the purchase of some new tools to support their efforts.
The reserve is well set now for the introduction of grazing for the first time in many years. This will help maintain the balance of habitats in a more sustainable way than manual or mechanical cutting of scrub, although that will continue to perform an important role in the reserve management as well.
Thank you to everyone who has helped to make this project a success, and of course to our funders.