Threats to the Gower Commons

Japanese Knotweed

Invasive Japanese knotweed

Pressures on the Gower Commons

Nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts are drawn to the Gower Peninsula for its beautiful landscape and wildlife. Respectful and considerate engagement with the environment is valued and always encouraged. Most visitors will be aware of and follow the Commons Code.

However, there are many pressures placed upon common land from a diverse range of activities that cause problems to landowners and commoners. The biggest threat to the future of the Gower Commons is traffic collisions with commoners’ sheep, cattle and ponies.

Other threats include illegal grass fires and wildfire. Off road vehicles, fly-tipping, under management of the commons, illegal camping and stock worrying are also huge problems.

Useful Contacts

Report traffic accidents involving livestock to the Police on 999 or 101. It is illegal to not report a collision.

Fly-tipping can be reported to Swansea Council.

Traffic problems on Gower

Increase of traffic on Gower

Roads cross many of the commons of Gower. The roads passing through Fairwood Common, Pengwern Common and Cefn Bryn are some of the main access routes to the area and are therefore particularly busy. More and more collisions with livestock occur every year since the issue was first noted in the Gower Commoners Association minutes in 1985:

Mr Barrow reported that he had lost 22 lambs and 6 ewes. This is the first record of significant losses of livestock through impact with vehicles on Fairwood Common.

Whilst some animal deaths cannot be avoided, it is believed that many are caused by local people having become complacent about the animals on the commons. A high number of the accidents occur at speed during busy morning and evening commuting hours.

Of course, collisions at these times may also be because animals often sleep on or close to the roads at night. Heat radiates from the road surface that has warmed up during the day.

Financial burden of traffic collisions

Vehicles killed or seriously injured over 70 commoners’ animals on just one common in a three month period. Each animal that is killed is a financial loss to a commoner. The direct losses through death and injury are not the only financial burden. Farmers report an increased threat to the health of their other animals as they are moved to more secure sites.

If the cost of animal losses becomes too high a burden, commoners are forced to stop putting their animals on the commons.

Reduction in land being grazed

Grazing animals are crucial to the conservation of the commons’ heritage, landscape, access and wildlife interest. Reducing the numbers of stock grazing the commons is of considerable concern and could be environmentally disastrous for some areas of Gower common land.

Measures to reduce Gower traffic accidents

Several measures to reduce traffic accidents have been implemented on Gower Commons and more are being researched.

Cattle grids

Cattle grids have been installed on some commons by the former Gower Commons Initiative. The grids prevent animals from moving into narrow stretches of road between commons where they are vulnerable to fast moving traffic.

Luminous collars

Dark coloured cattle have been wearing luminous collars to make them more visible to motorists at night since a 2004 campaign by The Gower Society and the Gower Commons Initiative.

Mown strips of common

12 metre strips of common are mown either side of approximately 15 miles of Gower roads so that grazing animals are more visible to approaching motorists.

Speed restrictions

The former Gower Commons Initiative worked closely with the Police, Traffic and Accident investigators, commoners and the Highways Authority to collect data and campaign for a blanket 40mph speed limit on the Gower Peninsula. Surveys of local people revealed many were in favour of 40mph limits on the whole of Gower.

There is now a 40mph speed limit on Fairwood Common and motorists are advised to travel at no more than 40mph on other Gower Commons roads. This press report details the long-running speed reduction campaign.

Why can’t animals be fenced in?

Common land is a landscape that is historically open and protected by the CROW Act‘s open access land regulations. The openness of Gower Commons is beloved by visitors and a reason for its designation as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Fencing on commons requires permission from the National Assembly for Wales and that permission forms part of a lengthy legal process.

Reporting traffic collisions

Report traffic accidents involving livestock to the Police on 999 or 101. It is illegal to not report a collision.

Off road vehicles

The illegal use of off road vehicles is an increasing problem on the Gower Peninsula. There is no right to drive on any common and vehicles can be impounded by Police for repeat offences.

Under management

Careful management through a variety of measures is essential to conserve every element of the Gower Commons.

Some plants pose a threat to the grazing quality, wildlife, landscape and accessibility of the commons and need to be actively managed to limit their spread or remove them completely. Under management and lack of grazing allows scrub and woodland to develop if those invasive plants are allowed to dominate.

Under management of Gower Commons results from:

  • Lack of grazing, which could be due to a number of factors
  • Lack of control of invasive native species such as bracken, gorse and scrub
  • Lack of control of non-native invasive species such as rhodedendron, Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed

All the above, individually or in combination, would result in:

  • Deterioration of the open landscapes that characterise Gower and attract local people and visitors alike
  • Reduction in use of the commons for recreation as they become overgrown and inaccessible
  • Inaccessible historical features and landmarks obscured by vegetation
  • Loss of internationally rare and important wildlife habitats
  • Negative impact on the local economy through the loss of agriculture and tourism
  • Loss of cultural traditions which make Gower distinct

Fly-tipping

Litter and rubbish on Gower Commons is a threat to wildlife; decreases the visual beauty of the landscape; and is a hazard to people. Illegal dumping of garden waste and clippings on the commons can detrimentally affect their environment and introduce invasive species.

Unfortunately, fly-tipping has been an on-going problem since 1960, when it was first colourfully recorded in the Gower Commoners Association minutes:

Miss Williams reported having pulled out over 30 oil drums from the cattle stream, a tea chest full of turkey entrails, another full of bones and the whole swarming with rats. Mr Eaton reported having written to a man whose name he found among the rubbish that unless he removed same within three days he would prosecute… The rubbish was removed.

Whilst fly-tipping remains a problem on some commons, there has been a reduction on others where a concerted local effort has been made to clear bracken. This makes areas less secluded and therefore less attractive to fly-tippers. Existing rubbish has been cleared away so that further fly-tipping is not encouraged.

Please help us to protect our commons by taking rubbish home or to a recycling site. Fly-tipping can be reported to Swansea Council.

Cattle grids help keep animals from more dangerous areas of road

Cattle grids help keep animals from more dangerous areas of road