Oxwich Bay is the second largest beach on Gower and has been described as the “the most beautiful beach in Britain”. But it wasn’t always so… During World War II the beach and its sand dunes were used as a training ground by the Royal Air Force and American troops practicing for the D-Day landings.
The military training took a heavy toll on the environment. Punishing practice routines, thousands of trampling army boots, explosions and vehicles all combined to destroy the vegetation that shielded the sand dunes from the wind. The dunes became extremely eroded and local villagers often had to dig their way through ‘sand drifts’, which regularly blocked the roads. A local botanist at the time described the northern part of the dunes as a “sandy waste, devoid of vegetation”.
It is also believed that the dunes were lit to simulate Pembrey Munition Works in an attempt to fool German pilots and so attracted some heavy bombing raids, which contributed further to their erosion.
The landscape of Oxwich has since recovered from its wartime destruction – proof of just how resilient nature can be! The area became a National Nature Reserve in 1963 and is now home to an abundance of wildlife.