Saltmarsh sheep at Whiteford

Saltmarsh Sheep at Whiteford (1) - Sheep on flooded ground at Landimore Marsh, Whiteford, Gower, South Wales.

Landimore Marsh, The Groose, and Cwm Ivy Marsh lie to the east of Whiteford National Nature Reserve in Gower, South Wales. If you are able to look down on this area from Llanmadoc Hill, you can see an amazing dendritic pattern of channels draining the land into Burry Pill, which in turn feeds in to the River Loughor and estuary.

When the tide is way out, spectacular vast expanses of sand and mud flat are exposed. The river narrows to such an extent in places that local fishermen are able to cross over the mud flats to and fro Llanrhidian.

When the tide comes in, the channels of the salt-marsh begin to flood. At very high tides, the channels overflow and the entire marsh is covered with sea water right up to the man-made causeway that separates The Groose from Cwm Ivy Marsh.

The saltmarshes are grazed by herds of wild Gower ponies and flocks of sheep. The sheep which feed here on the luxuriant and abundant herbiage are reknowned for the distinctive flavour of their meat. However, the incoming seawater can prove a problem for the flocks. While the ponies can simply keep moving ahead of the flowing tide if they wish, sheep are less certain of their response and tend to just stand still with the water running around them.

When I visited in late June on a warm misty morning, there had been one of these high tides. It was in the process of ebbing. Great flocks of sea birds, small clusters of ponies, and scattered groups and individual sheep were standing still on recently exposed hummocks of land or actually in the water. 

The top picture shows sheep on the flooded salt-marsh with their reflections in the calm glassy water. The picture below has three dry-footed sheep peering out from the flag leaves and meadowsweet flowers at the edge of the marsh while in the background the rest of the flock are scattered across wetter ground. And in the final picture below, four sheep definitely have got wet feet – it looks as though they have been patiently standing still as the tide flowed in and ebbed out around their legs.

Saltmarsh Sheep at Whiteford (2) - Sheep on the saltmarsh by Whiteford National Nature Reserve, Gower, South Wales, June 2009.

Saltmarsh Sheep at Whiteford (3) - Stranded saltmarsh sheep waiting for the tide to recede at Landimore Marsh to the east of Whiteford Burrows National Nature Reserve, Gower, South Wales, June 2009.

Saltmarsh Sheep at Whiteford (4) - Sheep resting safe and dry beneath pines of Bergins Island adjacent to Landimore Marsh and Whiteford Burrows, Gower, South Wales. June 2009.


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