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The Ward

Pennard is situated on the south coast of the Gower peninsular, which was designated the first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Great Britain in 1956.

 

Pennard is important for wildlife, and part of Pennard Cliffs and the Three Cliffs Valley are designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest. The rare species and habitats found here are recognised by this national designation for nature conservation.

 

Yellow whitlowgrass, (Draba aizoides) is an extremely rare flower found only in Britain on Gower on the limestone rocks of the south coast, and more unusually on the walls of Pennard Castle. It has been recorded on Gower since 1795, and is monitored by local naturalists and conservation bodies.

 

Another rare species is the Chough, a black crow with red bill and legs. They nest and breed on Gower in only two locations, Pennard Cliffs being one. They returned to the Peninsula after an absence of 100 years, to breed successfully in 1991. They have a distinctive ‘cheeow’ call, and nest on the rocky cliffs in holes, feeding on insects in dung and the short, grazed limestone grassland.

 

Pennard Cliffs and Burrows are also designated common land, which means that people called commoners have rights to graze animals on the land. It is a common sight to see the ponies, sheep and cattle wandering along the golf links and cliffs, and drinking from Pennard Pill in the valley. Stock grazing has an important benefit for wildlife, as the grass and scrub is maintained in a mosaic of habitats suitable for a wide range of species. Dung is an important food source for birds, such as the chough, and tall scrub is used by yellowhammers and whitethroats as singing posts.

 

The remnants of a 1st century roman hill fort at High Pennard is designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument, as is the remains of Pennard Castle overlooking the valley. The ruins of Pennard castle and the remains of the original church top Pennard burrows. The medieval village lies buried beneath the sand dunes, having been abandoned in the 16th century.

 

The area was mainly farming, fishing and quarrying. Not just stone for building and roads, but it was also burnt to be used on the fields. Many lime kilns are still in evidence along the roadsides. The shipping of limestone from Pwlldu to Devon left Pwlldu beach with its distinctive stony embankment. Pwlldu was also famous for its smuggling activities.

 

Pennard Church is open every day for you to drop in and enjoy the quiet and peace on your own. It doesn’t matter what your faith is, you are welcome.

 

The history of Pennard Church

The origin of Pennard Church is a mystery. And the heart of the mystery is that there are two Pennard churches: a ruined one on the golf course near the castle; and our much-loved St Mary’s a little over a mile away. Why are there two? How do they relate to each other? And how did one come to be a ruin? No one knows the answers to these questions. We believe that answers might have been in the records of All Souls College Oxford at one time but certain documents and deeds have disappeared and so the mystery is likely to stay unsolved.

 

What we know for sure is that the people of Pennard fell on hard times in the early sixteenth century. A number of letters concerning non-payment of taxes have survived from this period. It seems that drifts of sand covered fields and houses around the now-ruined church and impoverished the people. We also know that the present church building became the official parish church at about this time… in 1532.

 

For a long time it was assumed that the present church was built at that time… to replace the old one but a local historian, Luke Toft, has shown that there are problems with this theory. The main problem is that there are a lot of 13th century features in the current building… specifically: small lancet windows; “dog-tooth” decoration; and an ‘aumbry’ recess in the south wall of the chancel. So the present church is almost certainly a lot older than 16th Century.

 

It looks as though there were two church buildings in Pennard for hundreds of years.

 

The people of Pennard quite like the mysteries around their two churches. They make the parish more interesting and they certainly do not detract from the fact that Christians have been worshipping here for a very long time… certainly since 12th Century (when the Normans started keeping good records) and probably much longer… since the time of the Welsh Saints, in fact, 1,500 years ago.