Bees, burrows and bloody crane’s-bill

An exciting new venture is well under way to help understand and protect the wonderful limestone grassland on Gower.

Volunteers carry out a survey at Cwm Ivy Tor in Gower ©National Trust/Corrine Manning

Volunteers carry out a survey at Cwm Ivy Tor in Gower
©National Trust/Corrine Manning

Cwm Ivy Tor is an impressive limestone outcrop, which looms out of the surrounding sand dunes of Whiteford Burrows. From late spring through to autumn, these rocky slopes are awash with an incredible array of colourful, nectar-rich flowering plants, many of which are specialist to limey soils. Species found here include bloody crane’s-bill, burnet saxifrage, quaking grass, greater knapweed, squinancywort and the delicately beautiful fairy flax. At least seventy-five species have been recorded on the western slope alone. These in turn support an enormous number of bees, butterflies and other invertebrate species.

On a world scale, such species-rich limestone grasslands are pretty rare. Monitoring of the Tor is vital if we are to assess the condition of the grassland to inform its management and ensure that a rich variety of plants continue to thrive on this beautiful site.

This summer saw the first trial of the new monitoring packs assembled by Nature Conservation Advisor Helen Buckingham and Gower & Ceredigion Manager Alan Kearsley-Evans for use by staff and volunteers. They were met with great enthusiasm on training sessions held in the summer, which means we have a small group of trained and keen volunteers who are ready to continue the monitoring next year. In the autumn they have also helped input and analyse the data, feeding back the results into the management plan for the tor.

Projects such as this are a really effective way of boosting confidence, increasing knowledge, skills and job prospects for our volunteers; a fair reward for the wonderful work they do.