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Crammed with dragonflies, species of flowering plants, reed warbler, oystercatchers and marsh tits, Oxwich is also graced by glow worms and bioluminescent sea creatures. When disturbed the tiny creatures give off light so on certain summer evenings those taking a swim or sweeping a hand through the bay waters can leave a fairy-like trail behind them.
Entered through the medieval portals of Penrice Castle high up above the bay itself, visitors travel down a twisting road past former quarrymen's cottages to a flat plain of salt and fresh-water marshes, lakes and swamps.
The strange collection of watercourses are all fringed by tall reeds and rushes giving a biblical feel to the ancient beauty spot. The bay, accessed through the marsh road, is the second largest on Gower Rhossili is the largest and is backed by an extensive dune system. Oxwich is an area of national importance for flora and fauna and was officially recognised as such in when the Nature Conservancy Council now the CCW - Countryside Council for Wales leased all acres from the Penrice Estate making it a National Nature Reserve.
One cottage in particular has gained fame for being the place the founder Methodist minister, John Wesley once stayed in He was so impressed with Oxwich that he returned again in later years and wrote of Gower in his journal, "Gower is a large tract of land, bounded by Brecknockshire on the north-east, the sea on the south-west, and rivers on the other side. It is, therefore, no wonder that they receive The Word with all readiness of mind. The freshwater marshes and lakes in the hinterland were artificial and date back to the s when Thomas Mansel Talbot, owner of the Penrice Estate, established a sea wall to the north of the sand dunes enclosing part of the bay and helping set up a "Serpentine" lake.
Eventually the plains behind Oxwich Bay became a mixture of grazing land, salt and freshwater marshes and lakes, all of which drain into Nicholaston Pill which feeds into the sea. Bindweed with its pink and blue trumpets, bullrushes and marsh reeds grew in profusion around the edges of the water. Vessels like the Catherine Jenkins the Duisberg and the Tridonia all came to grief off Oxwich. Many of the cockles which once lined the beach were also wiped out in World War 11 when a tanker serving British and American soldiers carrying out manoeuvres there leaked into the bay.
The area has a long history with caves such as Minchin Hole and Bacon Hole in Oxwich giving up treasures such as the skeleton of a cave bear and one of a soft-nosed rhinoceros. The name Oxwich itself is also a strong clue to the Viking presence in the area. The name is thought to derive from Scandinavian, the "Ox" referring to Axe and the "wich" meaning either salt, farm or creek.
Parts of Oxwich are also inhabited by badgers, mink, otters and stoats and the skies are often dotted with sparrowhawks, buzzards and woodpeckers. Another of the treasures of Oxwich is St Illtyd's church, almost hidden beneath trees and ferns on a pathway to the west of the beach. There has been a Christian church on the site since the sixth century but the present church dates back to the 13th century and it has a 14th century belltower.
Inside the church there are representations of a knight and his wife, thought to be the De La Meres who once owned Oxwich Castle and who drowned in the bay. However, historians looking at the knight's armour believe it might be a later character, Sir John Penres and his wife Margaret, who were landowners. It is an Elizabethan prodigy house dating back to the early part of the 16th century with building first by Sir Rice Mansel and then in the second half of the century by Sir Edward Mansell. The large top story windows were typical of Richmond Palace and Hampton Court.
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