Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Green Standards Report

Wildlife watchpoint at Lizard Point
I recently spent a lovely afternoon at the most southerly point, looking after the wildlife watchpoint and talking to visitors about the place, the seals or seabirds we were looking at and the work that the National Trust and other conservation partners in Linking the Lizard are doing to protect this special place and the wildlife that live here.  

As we leave a glorious summer and head towards another autumn and winter I wonder what the future holds for us? Last winter’s storms changed the shape of our coastline irreversibly, as cliffs slumped and beaches changed. A recent report by the National Trust has identified extreme weather as the dominant threat to the seabird populations that I had been admiring in the summer sunshine at Lizard Point.  Storm surges, and extreme winds combined with high tides has forced birds to change their patterns of behaviour and suffered as a result.

Mullion harbour in winter storms
The challenge for the future is how we make Britain greener and how as a nation we can influence others to reduce the impact of global warming and the extreme weather it will bring in the future and to protect nature and to reverse the decline in British wildlife. We know that the public’s love of nature is growing stronger with millions of members of conservation organisations, but our political leaders are hesitant in the wake of recession and the progress towards a greener Britain has been slow.

Conservation organisations from the environment sector have recently published the 5th Green Standards report which identifies the priorities and practical proposals to have a positive impact on the way we live. It challenges the political parties to strengthen their environmental elements in their manifestos for next year’s elections.

The report suggests that a greener Britain would support the natural word to recover, have stronger communities and a more resilient economy and stronger environmental benefits, as well as making Britain more influential internationally.


Saturday, 13 September 2014

Spectacular sightings as the scope of the Lizard Wildlife Watchpoint broadens

Sighted at Britain’s Most Southerly Point, against a stunning backdrop, the Lizard Wildlife Watchpoint is a fantastic place to get closer to nature and see wild Cornish choughs, thousands of passing seabirds, Atlantic grey seals and other marine species including porpoise, dolphins and basking sharks. As well as a wealth of marine life, the Southerly tip of Britain also boasts one of the National Trust’s wildlife-friendly farms.  Tregullas Farm, sensitively farmed by National Trust tenants Rona and Neville Amiss, supports an abundance of farmland birds, wildflowers and other wildlife. 

Lizard Wildlife Watchpoint - (National Trust)
This year the National Trust has been running the Lizard Wildlife Watchpoint at Lizard Point for the first time. The watchpoint was run in previous years by the RSPB to introduce people to the local choughs, as it is ideally located for great views of the birds coming and going from the nest site.

Adult male (right) and juvenile chough (left) - (Terry Thirlaway)
As would be expected, the choughs are still the highlight of the watchpoint in the early part of the season. However, as soon as the chough family are on the wing they spend most of the day out feeding in the Kynance area so are rarely seen at Lizard Point (except when they come back to roost), which is why the RSPB watchpoint used to close in mid June. For more information on choughs in Cornwall visit: 

The new National Trust watchpoint is open until mid September and the absence of the choughs has given other species a chance to shine. Lizard Point is a great place to see passing seabirds in their thousands. This year we’ve seen Manx, Balearic, Cory’s, great and sooty shearwaters, Arctic, great and pomarine skuas, Arctic, black, roseate, common and Sandwich terns so far and a number of petrels. We have also seen countless numbers of auks including puffins, little auks, guillemots and razorbills passing through on their spring and autumn migration, not to mention the passing gannets and plethora of gulls that we have, some of which have come from Spain believe it or not.

Kestrel - (Mark Hayhurst)
Another highlight is the resident kestrel who often gives amazing aerial displays at eye level before descending on its prey. Pipits, swallows, carrion crows, ravens, oystercatchers, turnstones and whimbrel are just some of the other visitors we have regularly.  The botany here is astonishing too, as is the geology and insect life. So far we’ve done air and land but what about the sea?

Common dolphins - (Terry Thirlaway)
This year we’ve seen hundreds of barrel jellyfish, the odd basking shark, sun fish and a few pods of dolphins (including Risso’s) passing through. There are also resident porpoise that can be seen feeding on the nearby reef every day, but the real stars of the show this summer have been the seals!

Lizard Point is an important haul out site for seals. Through daily observations we have recorded a maximum of 18 seals hauled out on the rocks at one time. Although seals can be seen throughout the day, sometimes quite close in, spring low tides are the best time to see seals hauled out together at Lizard Point, as their favourite rocks are exposed for longer.

Atlantic grey seals - (Terry Thirlaway)
A small group of local volunteers have been working closely with Cornwall Seal Group to collect information on the seals, through daily observations and photographs which are added into the Cornwall Seal Database. Individual seals can be identified through their unique fur patterns so every seal that is seen is logged in a special Lizard catalogue. Thanks to the invaluable efforts of Alec, Enid, Terry and Sue we are now getting an idea of which seals are regular visitors and which are just passing through. Seals identified around the watchpoint have also been seen as far east as Looe, west as the Scillies and around Skomer (Pembrokeshire) to the north. For more information on seals in Cornwall visit

Atlantic grey seal - (Terry Thirlaway)
So you see, as well as the charismatic choughs there is a wealth of other flora and fauna at Lizard Point which we have been endeavouring to share with the thousands of visitors at the watchpoint this year. But we couldn’t do all this alone. The wildlife watchpoint is run by a trusty band of more than twenty, enthusiastic and knowledgeable, local volunteers.

This year, we have also had the help of Mary, our fantastic new volunteer intern. With Mary’s help we’ve been able to develop a formal recording programme for all our wildlife sightings. Every day our sightings are logged and then submitted to the relevant record centre; our bird records are submitted to BirdTrack (British Trust for Ornithology recording scheme) and any other sightings go to Cornwall Wildlife Trust and ERCCIS. So far this year we have recorded over 100 different species and submitted over 2000 wildlife records from the watchpoint, not including our botanical records. Mary has also developed a fantastic new range of factsheets and posters for the watchpoint. Working alongside the BTO, RSPB, Cornwall Seal Group and Cornwall Wildlife Trust we have held several guided walks and training events to learn more about the wildlife seen from Lizard Point and how to identify and record it.

Lizard Wildlife Watchpoint - (National Trust)
We rely entirely on volunteer help to keep the watchpoint open from April until mid September so we are always looking for enthusiastic people to join the team. You don’t need to be an expert, you just need to have a desire to learn more about wildlife and a willingness to share your enthusiasm with visitors. If that sounds like you please get in touch:

The new watchpoint has been a huge success not only by inspiring over 10,000 visitors but also for developing an important new wildlife recording point in Cornwall. If you haven’t been to see us yet  make sure you pay us a visit before 4pm on Tuesday 16th September as this is the last day we’ll be open until next year. We are open from 10 am – 4pm daily, from April until mid September. 

To keep up with watchpoint news visit:

To learn more about wildlife on the Lizard visit:

- Cat

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Summer events at Penrose

As the summer holidays are coming to an end, I thought I would go through all the photos we’ve taken so far. We’ve run another successful programme of events this summer in partnership with Nauti but Ice at the stables cafĂ©. All our events have been focused on getting more children and families outdoors and enjoying Penrose.

Squashbox Theatre performed 3 shows and really drew in a crowd!
Mud pie making as part of our mini-beast adventure event
We also try and encourage children to get closer to nature through the events and the bat walk was a particularly good way to achieve this aim. With the help of Cornwall bat group, we took a stroll through the parkland at dusk and watched a roof full of Soprano Pipistrelles emerge from one of our holiday cottages. Each family was provided with a bat detector so they were able to interpret the bats’ echolocation as they swooshed overhead. Everyone who comes on these walks is amazed and excited to see the bats in action no matter what their age- we had tiny toddlers up to retired folk.

Our new info room at the stables
 It’s always a bit nerve racking before an event like this, as I wonder what we’ll do if we don’t see any bats! But Penrose provides such an incredible array of habitats and roosting places that we never fail to spot any. 
Den building- 50 Things number 4

Fine shooting in the parkland
 We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who’s supported our events and the cafe this year! As a charity all your donations help us to carry out vital conservation work and to maintain access on all the footpaths and bridleways you love using.

Archery was the last event of the season held today, but look out for our autumn and winter events here, on facebook and on the National Trust events website. 


City Teenagers meet the Cornish Coast

Using shave horses and draw knives to finish hand made mallets
 We were joined yesterday for a fun morning's bushcraft session at Poltesco by 16 16-19 year olds. The teenagers are all from Tower Hamlets in London, and know each other from college and their Youth Group.
We've had an ongoing connection with the Youth Group, thanks to links made by the Lizard Outreach Trust who have facilitated several City and Sea exchanges in the past. Mamun, now leader of the group, came on one of these visits some years ago, so he wanted to give teenagers, many of whom rarely leave the city, the same chance to visit the Lizard he had when younger.
Mallets were fashoned from single logs, using saws and axes
 The group stayed at our National Trust bunkhouse at Penrose, and as well as their session with us, they spent their time in Cornwall walking the coastpath, visiting the beach, canoeing and fishing.

Our session yesterday was timed brilliantly ahead of the rain! The group had a go at fashioning a mallet from a log, learning how to safely use a bow saw and carving axe. The final smoothing of the mallet handle was achieved using shave horses and draw knives.
Mastering the use of fire strikers to create a spark

After a quick break to visit the beach (and to take on the build the highest pebble/boulder tower challenge), we switched to fire lighting, using magnesium strikers to create a spark, which was caught in a piece of char cloth, or a vaseline covered cotton ball.  Once mastered, making fire with a traditional flint and steel was the next challenge. Not so easy, as although it's possible to get a spark, guessing where it will land is impossible!

The session rounded up with a cuppa brewed over the fire, and a few toasted marshmallows.

If you are linked to a group who might want to set up a similar session with us, please do get in touch.


Thanks to NT Volunteer Shannon O'Grady for the Photographs.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Penrose Access Project Completion

Over the past year, the team at Penrose have been working with walkers, cyclists, disability groups and horse riders to improve and upgrade the outdoor experience for visitors to Penrose. Projects have included opening a brand new bridleway from Porthleven, across the fields of Higher Penrose farm with stunning views of Mounts Bay; tarmacking the route from Helston to The Stables; and replacing the old boardwalk at the head of Carminowe Creek. The practical improvements on the footpaths and bridleways are now mostly complete thanks to local contractors and volunteers.

Now all the work is mostly finished, we’d like to hear your views on the trails at Penrose. There are three different questionnaires, depending on if you’re a horse rider, run a local business, or you’re a local resident. We’d really appreciate your feedback, so if you’d like to help us, please click on the relevant link below: 

Horse riders:

Local residents:

Local businesses:

If you don’t fit into any of these categories, but are a visitor to Penrose we are also carrying out user surveys, so if you pass us out and about waving a piece of paper at you, please stop and have a chat! You’ll notice us- we’re the ones dressed in bright red!

Thank you,
Mike, Laura and Greg
(Penrose Ranger Team)

With thanks to DEFRA and Natural England. This project is funded through the RDPE programme.

New Wetlands for Wildlife

The largest scrape being dug at Grochall nr Kynance
In common with many conservation organisations nationally, we’ve been doing our bit to try to reverse the long-term decline in the number of ponds in the wider countryside.

Thanks to funding through Higher Level Stewardship schemes and the Millennium Million Ponds Project administered by Pond Conservation (now renamed the Freshwater Habitats Trust), we’ve dug over 15 new ponds and scrapes on National Trust land on The Lizard in the last 4 years.

At Grochall, 10 new ponds were dug in 2011 in rush pastures close to the heathland of Lizard Downs, with the aim of giving a quiet refuge for wildlife. Some of the ponds hold water all year and have proven popular with dragonflies, and others are shallow seasonal scrapes, great for water beetles and other rapid colonisers.

new scrape on Predannack Airfield (photo JC)
Spurred on by the success of these first ponds, we went on in 2012 to undertake a more ambitious project on Predannack Airfield, the southern half of which is owned by the National Trust. The Airfield was built, as many were, as part of the WW2 war effort, and it remains a military airfield today, being a satellite site to RNAS Culdrose. With the MoD’s support, we were able to reinstate long lost scrapes and trackways shown on an 1880 map, but redundant and overgrown since the 1940s.

We’ve had some fantastic exciting news in recent weeks, with the discovery of two plants of conservation concern in the large new scrape on the airfield, on a June 2014 visit with our Cornwall Botanical Recorders. Pillwort is a rare and unusual grass like creeping fern that thrives in seasonal acid pools. It is named after its distinctive round sporocarps (reproductive bodies) found at the base of the fronds. Pillwort is a Biodiversity Action Plan Species, and is classed as near threatened nationally, so it was great to see it in abundance, forming light green mats in the shallows.

the rare grass like fern, pillwort (CWT)
It was also fantastic to find the delicate little flowers of yellow centaury on the newly scraped bare mud, a nationally scarce plant of the gentian family. Both pillwort and yellow centaury are esteemed members of the ‘puddle gang’. These are rare plants for which the Lizard is famous, growing in selected trackways and heathland scrapes which are seasonally damp.
Yellow centaury (CWT)

new pond in an arable field at Tregullas, Lizard village
Our 3 newest ponds were completed at Tregullas, The Lizard in October 2013, and unlike those at Grochall and Predannack which were on or near heathland, these ponds are very much about giving farmland wildlife a helping hand. The  ponds are in the corners of arable fields south of Lizard village, between the village and Bass Point, and should be deep enough to hold water year round, drought years excepted. So far so good! This area historically had several ponds associated with brick clay extraction, but all had been infilled by the 1970s. We therefore wanted to put wetlands back in the landscape, and give farmland wildlife a boost. Within a few weeks a snipe was spotted probing the edges of the ponds, and swallows swoop low over the surface as they take insects on the wing. And a handy bi-product of these new ponds has been a steady supply of lovely modelling clay for our kids events!

Looking to the future, we would love to be able to get in place some more detailed monitoring of our new wetlands (do shout if you are a dab hand with water beetles), and we have plans for further HLS funded scrapes to the north of Predannack Airfield, on farmland that was once heathland at Teneriffe.

Taken in the context of all the other great work done to reinstate ponds and trackways by our conservation partners locally, for example CWT/CBWPS at Windmill Farm, and NE/St Keverne Parish Council, then it feels that we really have taken great strides forward for wetland wildlife on the Lizard in the last few years, proving how a little water and mud here and there can add up to an awful lot of new and improved habitat! 


Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Having a wild time on the Lizard

Children climbing treeChildren and their families have had an exciting few months on the Lizard thanks to the Wild Lizard Project. And they're not the only ones, I'm Megan Adams and I was lucky enough to join the Linking the Lizard team in April as the first Wild Lizard Intern.

Working with Wild Lizard Ranger Claire Scott, I've been helping out with the 100s of children and young people the Wild Lizard Project gets outside to enjoy and learn more about the incredible surroundings we have on the Lizard. Since starting in April I've helped schools pitch camp and brave the wilds during bushcraft survival days and shared my ID skills as pupils submerged themselves in different habitats, searching rockpools and dragonfly ponds for the incredible life that lives there.

BushcraftSeveral schools have made the most of the projects' bushcraft expertise taking part in one-off days of Climate Change Survival. Grade Ruan and Manaccan Primary schools headed to Poltesco valley for shelter building from natural materials, baking bread over the fire and scaring off invaders with scary clay faces. While Landewednack School took an expedition to Tremayne Woods for two days of survival skills, including fire lighting, camouflage and team rescue games. Secondary school pupils from Mullion explored the science of using different plants for water, food, fire and signalling while on a day of nature exploration at Bochym.

Schools have also been taking the chance to get students outdoors to continue their learning, primary schools from Mullion and Cury have headed each week to Higher Bochym, part of the National Nature Reserve, to make the most of the yurt, ponds and meadow. Taking part in maths trails of quadrats and patterns, to seed planting and story telling and even a noisy day of making musical interments from bamboo!

With outings most weeks to beaches around the Lizard and Helford for rockpooling, students from Constantine, Mawnan, Landewednack and Mullion, as well as myself, have all been learning all about the amazing seashore diversity we have along our coast. Making the day memorable with sea creature based art and games, as well as the all important rummage in the rockpools.

Wild Lizard, rockpooling Wild Lizard, rockpooling

With summer holidays coming up Wild Lizard Project will be making sure that visitors and residents have the chance to get out and engage with their environment with activities planned throughout the holidays. Starting off with our first ever family Wild Camp, a two day camp out at Tremayne Woods with night walks, green woodworking and bat detecting, the camp was fully booked which we hope will set a precedent for years to come.

Following last years success Go Wild Bushcraft Club will be running again throughout August, with children attending each week, building their skills and confidence in bushcraft techniques. The National Nature Reserve at Kennack Sands will host free weekly rockpooling and beach craft activities of all ages, during Wild Wednesdays through out the holidays. Pop-up events will also be happening at local Teneriffe Campsite with natural crafts, chances to explore the area and plans to introduce evening wildlife activities.

Hope to see you there!

Wild Lizard, Kennack Sands, rockpooling Wild Lizard, Intern, bushcraft

- Megan

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