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My Britain: Gower Peninsula

BY Alice Gawthrop

21st Feb 2023 My Britain

My Britain: Gower Peninsula

Wales' Gower Peninsula was the UK's first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and it's not hard to see why

Drive just half an hour away from the city of Swansea and you’ll find a slice of paradise: the Gower Peninsula.

Named the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1956, Gower is known for its jaw dropping coastline dotted with beaches, caves and bays. It’s also where the first human fossil in the world was found—the Red Lady of Paviland (although upon further investigation the remains were found to be male). 

"Just half an hour away from the city of Swansea you’ll find a slice of paradise: the Gower Peninsula"

Nowadays, Gower is perhaps better known for stunning coastal walks and thrilling surfing opportunities. Further inland you can also find serene forest trails and rolling green hills. Wildlife abounds on land, sea and sky, including grazing sheep, playful seals and impressive peregrine falcons. 

We spoke to some of the residents of Gower Peninsula to see what life is like on this beautiful peninsula. 

Jay Doyle

Jay Doyle, 51, is the founder of Earthy Rebels, a plant-based skincare and selfcare range (earthlyrebels.co.uk)

I was born in Three Crosses, a farming village at the north-east of the Peninsula. I spent my childhood there before moving away, returning to Swansea in my twenties. I now live near the Mumbles—the gateway to the Peninsula. I don’t intend to ever move away again!

I moved away from Gower as a child, after my parents separated. As soon as I became independent, I made my way back to Swansea, made new friends, discovered surfing, and spent all the time I could hanging out and camping at Llangennith beach. It was heaven. Llangennith remains my favourite place to this day.

Llangennith beach, Gower

Sand dunes at Llangennith beach, Gower

The Gower Peninsula is an incredible source of inspiration. My brand, Earthly Rebels, was inspired by the rugged coastline of Gower and its raw, natural energy. In fact, the tops of my handmade soaps are designed to reflect the undulating sand dunes at Llangennith, and I incorporate foraged ingredients such as seaweed and coastal gorse flowers into my lotions and potions.

At the risk of sounding a bit cheesy, the Gower Peninsula feels like being “home”. It just feels special, and I’m so lucky to live here. The Gower spirit is definitely something you feel; it’s a sense of community and connectedness between people. Lots of interesting, salt-of-the-earth kind of characters who naturally share a passion for Gower and its way of life, or else they wouldn’t be here.

"They say that Gower has the most dogs per head of population than any other place in the UK"

And dogs! So many dogs! They say that Gower has the most dogs per head of population than any other place in the UK. I’m not sure if that’s true, but I can believe it! I love it.

Earthly Rebels is a passion project with two core elements: natural products and nature-based experiences. I make a plant-based skincare and self-care range with a beachy vibe. I also run experiences such as maker workshops, where I teach people to make their own products with ingredients they can grow or forage. It’s about shifting the lens on skincare, how we can see it as not just product, but a process, and an exciting adventure with nature.

Earthly Rebels Room Myst

Earthly Rebels Room Myst

I get to spend my time in or by the sea as part of my working day. When I’m struggling creatively or feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all, I go to the beach, walk the dog, surf, forage for seaweed, or just sit on a rock and meditate! It’s the best tonic, and also a really useful way to process problems and try to find answers. 

My favourite spot is, literally, a precise spot. Its exact coordinates are in my logo. It’s a spot in the sand dunes at Llangennith. It’s my go-to place for breathing space and reflection. It’s the spot where the idea for Earthly Rebels came to me, while watching the surf. When I feel like Earthly Rebels (or life in general!) is going a bit off course, I go back to that spot, and it reminds me why I started out on this adventure. It’s kind of my North Star! 

Sarah Jones

Sarah Jones, 38, is the owner of Mucky Pup Photography, a pet photography business (muckypupphotography.co.uk)

I’m originally from Aberdare in the South Wales Valleys, but moved to Swansea for university 20 years ago. After a few years, I took the opportunity to rent a converted stable on North Gower. I’ve always preferred the peace and harmony of a more rural life, and that’s exactly what living on Gower gives. After six years of renting I put down permanent roots and bought a house in a village on the North Gower coast. While I’m not Gower born and bred, now that I’m here, I never want to leave!

Mucky Pup Photography

Mucky Pup Photography

Gower was the UK’s first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and as a photographer who showcases my subjects within the landscape, I couldn’t wish to live and work in a better place. From a photography point of view, Gower is an absolute dream—between the rugged coast line, the beautiful beaches, the pretty woodlands and the open commons, I’m really spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing where to take my dog models for their photoshoots.

"I love how steeped in history and myth Gower is"

I also love how steeped in history and myth Gower is. You don’t have to travel far to find a castle…or four! Parts of the wooden carcass of the shipwrecked Helvetia, which ran aground in 1887, are still visible on Rhossili beach (makes for an incredibly photogenic landmark). And going beck to pre-historic times, there’s the skeletal remains of the Red Lady of Paviland, and Arthur’s Stone, a neolithic burial tomb with a huge 25 ton capstone, standing proud on Cefn Bryn Common. 

Living on the peninsula, it’s hard not to have a strong connection with the sea, and I feel that the Gower spirit is intrinsically connected to the ever constant tide—resilience, hard work, dedication, creativity, endurance, always being there, and not forgetting the strong sense of community. To me, that is the Gower way.  

Playing on Llangennith Beach

Playing on Llangennith Beach, Mucky Pup Photography

If you’re privileged enough to share your heart and home with a hound, then you’ve experienced first hand the unique and pure joy of dog induced happiness. That’s why Mucky Pup Photography exists. I celebrate dogs through photography; whether that’s out on location, or in the studio. I firmly believe that our dogs’ quirks need to be celebrated, and there’s no better way to do that than by immortalising them in print. Getting to hang out with amazing dogs and their people is what makes my work extra special. You can’t have a bad day if you’re with a dog!

The one place that I always gravitate to when I need to blow away the cobwebs is Llanmadoc. Specifically down to Cwm Ivy, around the headland, past the lighthouse and back along Whitford Sands. It’s a great walk for Dexter (my border collie), with lots to sniff and explore, and it’s a beautiful walk for humans too. If we’re lucky we’ll sometimes cross paths with the marsh ponies—seeing the whole herd canter along the beach is pretty special. It’s a bit of a hard slog back up the hill to the car, but I’ll almost always reward myself with either a visit to Cwm Ivy Cafe for a tasty hot chocolate and cake, or if I’m extra hungry, a stop off at The Britannia Inn for food on the way home.

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