Not only did October 1st herald the arrival of two of the hottest days of the year (28.3 Celsius if anyone’s counting!), it was also the first day of my parents brief stay with us here in South Wales. Normally they drag some horrible wet and grey weather over with them from the Midlands, so to be discussing sun cream and hats of the none woolly variety was something of a novelty. In the hope of avoiding the crowds I took them back to Landimore, scene of the American wader invasion a couple of weeks ago. Walking across the farmland to Weobley castle we were buzzed by what I presume are the resident pair of Buzzards, but it was the abundance of Butterflies and moths that really grabbed my attention. Red Admirals were on the wing and seemingly hunting in packs, whilst the brambles held a Silver Y and a couple of Comma’s. It was only after taking this picture that I realised the origin of the Comma name, so called because of the shape of the only white mark on its underwing.
With a retreating tide we walked out along the length of the causeway to the old watchtower, once again marvelling at the number of Wheatear’s still feeding across the marsh. I was pleased to see that my Dad with his superior photography equipment also had trouble with their flighty nature. The real highlight though was a pair of Whinchats associating with the regular Reed Buntings, a Gower first for me and a couple of cracking birds. They even managed to eclipse the four Green Sandpipers and the hundreds of Ringed Plover and Dunlin, not to mention the thousand strong flock of Starlings. The local ponies were also out in force, clearly enjoying the balmy weather.
Heading back inland and it wasn’t long before we were passing Samson’s Jack, a standing stone of Quartz conglomerate measuring some 3.2 meters in height. Although now mostly hidden behind a hedge it is clear that at one time this ancient marker would have been seen from a good distance in all directions. As far as I can tell the exact origins and purpose of the stone are unclear, but that it is prehistoric is almost certain.
A few feet away from Samson’s Jack was a perfect example of how crazy our weather has been lately. I had read on the BBC news website that the unexpected warm patch had caused a second outbreak of flowers on certain species, with Foxgloves being a particularly visible example. I had hoped to find this behaviour on our travels and was therefore particularly happy to find a Foxglove coming into bloom next to the hedgerow shown above. I imagine that it is looking a little worse for wear after the last few days of wind and rain.
Our return route took us along Burry Pill to Cheriton, a hidden valley containing more than a few secrets. I last passed this way back in 2009 and it was on that walk that I first stumbled across the old packhorse bridge that sits almost hidden from view. Looking almost organic, this grade two listed structure in unique in being the only three arched bridge on Gower.
I have a fascination with all things old, especially those which appear to have been abandoned and which others may often overlook. I can’t help thinking about the history that such places hold, the things they must have seen and the stories that they could tell. Burry Pill fits these sentiments perfectly as nestled in the undergrowth not far from the bridge is evidence that this tranquil valley was once much more industrious that it appears today. I spotted the remains of an old mill and its associated leat on our way past and a bit of internet research has revealed that this was just one of many. Excuse me while I plagiarise:
The use of the area for milling dates back to the medieval period, when
Stonemill, or ‘Stomille’ (24974, SS 457928), is recorded in the
Minister’s Accounts of 1300-1400, then tenanted by John Colyn. This
mill is well documented between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries
and appears to have ceased operation by the mid-19th century, in ruins
by 1879; surviving remains include the mill with millstone, weir and
leat. Cheriton Mill (SS 45129313), documented in 1598 as belonging to
Thomas Aubry, remained in use until the late 18th/ early 19th century,
the mill’s race depicted on the tithe of 1840, is named as old on the
1st edition of 1878. The area had two corn mills still in operation by
the survey of 1st edition OS map of 1878: Western Mill (02128w; 24977), a
17th century mill referred to in a lease dated 1669, naming Henrie Else
as tenant. Between 1719 and the nineteenth century Edward Clement and
his family held Western Mill jointly with Henllys Mill, further
upstream. During the nineteenth century George Thomas and the Jenkins
family occupied the mill until milling ceased at the end of the century.
Its substantial ruins remain. The mill at Stembridge (02123w; 24973),
probably seventeenth century in date, was mentioned in the Cheriton
Parish Terrier of 1720; though it ceased grinding corn around 1890,
Stembridge received a new lease of life until 1925, as a woollen mill
(40904), with the addition of a factory building in 1899 by Isaac Tanner
of Whitemoor Mill. An additional woollen factory, the Cheriton
Factory (40896), known to have been occupied by Thomas Tanner in 1844
(tithe) was run as a family cottage industry, his son, William continued
weaving here until his death in 1932 (Taylor 1991, 15-18). –link.
The vegetation is far too extensive at present for any meaningful exploration of what remains, so I plan to return later in the year to see just what evidence is visible of this part of Gower’s history. I have heard rumours of millstones and other goodies so I’m expecting good things.