Chosen for its classic coastline and outstanding natural environment, Gower was the first AONB to be designated. Except for the small, urbanised eastern corner, the entire Gower peninsula is an AONB. Complex geology gives a wide variety of scenery in a relatively small area.
It ranges from the south coast’s superb carboniferous limestone scenery at Worms Head and Oxwich Bay to the salt-marshes and dune systems in the north. Inland, the most prominent features are the large areas of common, dominated by sandstone heath ridges including the soaring sweep of Cefn Bryn. Secluded valleys have rich deciduous woodland and the traditional agricultural landscape is a patchwork of fields characterised by walls, stone-faced banks and hedgerows.
Gower’s richly varied natural environment of heath, grassland, fresh and saltwater marsh, dunes and oak woodland, is internationally important. The AONB has five Special Areas of Conservation, three National Nature Reserves, two Local Nature Reserves and many Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Among the many fine natural habitats are the mud-flats and salt-marsh of the Burry Inlet (a Special Area of Conservation, Special Protection Area and Ramsar site) and the species-rich limestone grasslands of the south Gower coast. Gower has been settled since prehistoric times and has a high concentration of ancient sites. The western end of the Peninsula is listed in the Register of Landscapes of Outstanding Historic Interest in Wales for its Neolithic and Bronze Age features and its surviving medieval open field system. Almost all the coast is in the protective ownership of City and Council of Swansea, the National Trust, Natural Resources Wales or the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales.
Gower is still traditionally farmed with small, mixed arable and livestock enterprises, many exercising ancient commons grazing rights. Many of the 10,000 population of Gower that are of working age commute to Swansea, the second largest city in Wales. The AONB lies entirely within the Swansea local authority boundary and added to retirement and holiday homes, this dormitory element has considerably altered the area’s social balance.
Gower is a highly popular area for overnight and day visitors, with tourism being a mainstay of the local economy. The AONB is a major water sports and family holiday destination for urban South Wales and the AONB is within four hours travelling time of 18 million people. The public rights of way network is extensive covering 431 km (268 miles) and is heavily used by both visitors and local people as it offers a wide variety of experiences reflecting the diversity of the Peninsula.