Gower Commons Initiative

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History of the former Gower Commons Initiative

The Gower Commons Initiative was a hugely successful partnership project which was established to work with landowners, commoners and other groups to sustain the Gower Commons for grazing, nature conservation and access.

The Gower Commons Initiative was developed through the Gower Heathland Partnership, a diverse range of organisations with vested interests in the Gower Commons. The partnership was formed because these organisations had recognised that the quality of the landscape, wildlife and opportunities for recreation on Gower common land had been declining. There was a clear need to address this.

The Gower Commons Initiative funding

Funding was secured in 1998 from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Tomorrow’s Heathland Heritage programme to set up the Gower Commons Initiative and to begin work on 50km² of common land. The land stretched from Rhossili Down in the west to Fairwood Common in the east, covering much of the South Gower coastal cliffs.

The Gower Commons Initiative achievements

The underlying principle of the Gower Commons Initiative project was to engage with and facilitate much of the required restorative work through the Gower Commoners Association and volunteers. The achievements of the Gower Commons Initiative have left a substantial legacy to the area, and continue to benefit many groups.

Benefits of the Gower Commons Initiative

Benefits to commoners

  • More grazing continues to be available on the commons as the amount of bracken was reduced and edible grasses and other plants increased.
  • Machines bought by the project have stayed with the Gower Commons for use in the management of the commons
  • Cattle grids have been installed and are essential to keep livestock on the commons and off the roads, reducing the number of animals killed or seriously injured in traffic collisions.
  • A reduced speed limit was introduced on Fairwood Common, limiting speed to 40mph

Benefits to wildlife

  • Gower Commons support species and habitats of national and international importance.
  • Each year that the project ran, the Initiative undertook 1000 acres of bracken control, allowing less dominant native vegetation to become established.
  • Significant benefits to biodiversity continue to be recorded through projects such as habitat improvement and species specific works.

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Benefits to the Gower Heathland Partnership

The Gower Commons Initiative demonstrated that it is possible to bring together a unique and diverse range of organisations. Commoners’ groups by their nature are very independent in their thinking and actions, so partnership working was a significant challenge.

This partnership is perceived as having been extremely successful and the demonstration of this has been fundamental in the formation of the National Sheep Association’s Welsh Commons Forum.

We are looking forward to the possible formation of a new partnership project to continue the successful work of the Gower Commons Initiative.

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Benefits to communities and visitors

  • Access to the commons has been greatly improved through the management of bracken, gorse and scrub which had previously made some areas of common impenetrable.
  • More information is now available to help people appreciate and understand the landscape, wildlife and heritage of commons.
  • Opportunities for recreation have improved along with the habitat and species specific works.

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Wider benefits of the Gower Commons Initiative

The former Gower Commons Initiative was at the forefront of commons management in Wales. It played a role in advising on legislation, supporting the Foundation for Common Land and establishing the Gower Safety Partnership.

The Initiative pushed forward a range of schemes to raise awareness and secure grazing on the commons for the future.

The Initiative also trialled a number of innovative techniques which continue to be applied to control bracken on sites of nature conservation importance within the UK.