Gower peninsula is Britain’s first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Its coastal scenery is of World renown, but, perhaps surprisingly, the landforms and seascape have not been well understood. This website highlights a fresh look at Gower, presented in a superbly printed and hard-bound, large-format book written and illustrated by geologist Professor Peter Kokelaar. Peter grew up on Gower and now explains the coastal landforms, glacier deposits, caves and cliffs in terms of new understandings of our dynamic Earth and long-term climate change.
Modern techniques of imaging and mapping of coastal Gower (e.g., high resolution LiDAR and sea-bed multi-beam sonar imagery) have allowed features to be seen that inevitably had escaped early pioneer geomorphologists. A new map of the Last Glacial Maximum extent of ice on Gower has been made, with many glacial features identified inland for the first time. The hydrogeology of Gower peninsula, set in the South Wales Coalfield, also is described for the first time, with explanations of the behaviour of the numerous springs and their relations to the extensive limestone cave systems. New light is shone on the impacts of storms, both onshore and offshore, and remarkable records of deep-time processes are read from cliffs and rock slides.
Peter’s home is on the outskirts of Penclawdd, a north Gower village originally renowned for its coal mines and its copper and bronze works, and now for its long history of harvesting cockles. Ironically, given their location and some Dutch heritage, his small family was initially unaware that kokkel is the Dutch word for cockle and that Kokelaar means ‘cockle picker’. Peter now regularly picks exceptionally fine cockles from the sands at Whiteford and Broughton, as well as mussels and razor clams from elsewhere on Gower.
After a career with considerable Boy’s Own Adventures fieldwork, especially on active volcanoes in Hawaii and the western USA, in Italy (Stromboli), in New Zealand, and in Iceland, Peter has been happy to range simply around Gower and Wales again. Until recently this was significantly enhanced by the companionship of ‘Charlie’, a Large Munsterlander (2007-2021).
Peter was surprised how little was known about the Gower landscape. Writing of the book ‘All Our Own Water‘ (published in October 2021) grew out of a natural desire to understand Gower’s original public supply of water, much of which flowed through caves he explored as a youth. Friendship and explorations with Peter Sambrook, a true Gower man, exceptional gardener and engineer at Wellhead water treatment station for some 34 years, motivated several studies to explain the springs and landscape of the peninsula we enjoy so much. Ian Murphy of Dŵr Cymru (Welsh Water) most generously provided access to the unique records of water supply via Wellhead that persisted from 1954 until 1994, while informal involvement of several colleagues from the British Geological Survey and academic staff at the University of Cambridge, University of Liverpool, University of Manchester and Prifysgol Abertawe (Swansea University) contributed immensely with advice and high quality analyses.
Andy and Antonia Freem, expert cavers and photographers, generously provided a large number of images as well as collecting some of the samples analysed. As friends our joint digging efforts to recover access into Llethrid Swallet cave were considerable, with the ultimate success coming just as ‘All Our Own Water’ went to press. Former Alpine and Gower climbing partner Geoff Williams, now a retired career hydrogeologist, guided explanations of the limestone (karst) hydrology. Bill Fitches, who taught Peter structural geology as an undergraduate student, meticulously reviewed and improved the book, while Sam (Andy) Heath compensated for Peter’s massive lack of computer know-how. Oh how we laughed!