Monday, 16 March 2015

Coast festival 2015

You may have heard recently in the press that this year is a special year for our coast. We are celebrating 50 years of the Enterprise Neptune fundraising campaign, a campaign that has helped the National Trust to acquire and care for over 740 miles of coastline, enjoyed by millions each year. The funds raised through donations and legacies has helped us to acquire more land, to manage our existing sites sensitively and sustainably, improve access, and to work closely with the general public on coastal issues. It also helps us deal with the challenges increasingly affecting our coast such as the succession of storms in early 2014. 

Lizard Point panorama

On a more local level, the Trust owns and looks after over 300 miles of the South West Coast, a huge asset to be responsible for. We provide access to favorite beaches like Kynance, estuaries like the Helford, and expanses of seascapes, as well as sites of huge archaeological importance and of course the South West Coast Path, it's through projects funded by Enterprise Neptune that has made much of this possible.  Each year it costs us around £3,000 to look after a single mile of coast, in the south west that's a million pounds a year. To find out more about the campaign visit our website page here or have a look at this short video which explains much of what we do and, importantly, why we do it. 

As it's a year of celebration we'll be holding events through the rest of the year to celebrate everything that is great about our coastal properties, here on the Lizard we've got lots on offer, click on the tab "Events 2015" at the top to find out more. This week it's beach clean week and we've got two opportunities to get involved at Gunwalloe and at Poldhu on Friday 20th and Saturday 21st March. Come down for an hour or two and help us look after these special places.

To find out more about how we're celebrating the South West Coast, go to:  


Rare plant reintroduction at Penrose

The edges of Loe Pool used to be home to Strapwort (Corrigiola litoralis) a critically endangered plant now only found on the shores of Slapton Ley National Nature Reserve in Devon. Natural England’s Vascular Plants Taxon Group has identified the species as being at High Risk of becoming extinct by 2020. Unfortunately it became extinct at Loe Pool in the early 20th century, but this year we are working with the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT), a scientific and education charity based at Paignton Zoo, to bring this plant back to Loe Pool and Cornwall.
Strapwort (Corrigiola litoralis)
Regular records of Strapwort exist throughout the 1800s, however in 1915 a record states that it “was plentiful, now practically extinct.” This plant only grows on the edge of freshwater lakes where the water level decreases in summer, known as summer draw down, and increases over winter with higher rainfall. It also is not a very competitive little plant, needing practically bare earth to set seed and proliferate.

The chief reasons for extinction at Loe Pool are believed to be:
·         Lack of natural water level fluctuation (reduced summer draw down zone). This is due to limited percolation of water through Loe Bar due to accumulated mine sediments. An artificial adit was inserted through Loe Bar in the late 19th century to aid drainage and to reduce the flood risk to Helston. This resulted in pretty much constant water levels all year round.
·         Poor water quality with very high nutrient levels as a result of mining activities in the Cober catchment and agricultural run-off from fields surrounding the Loe.
·         Increased encroachment of competitive species (such as bramble, gorse, willow, blackthorn) along the shoreline due to a cessation in grazing by cattle and sheep.

The Conservation Volunteers clearing scrub from the reintroduction site
Conditions are now believed to be more accommodating to this little plant. The Loe Bar adit was updated and improved recently, and a new Water Level Management plan was agreed between the National Trust and the Environment Agency. Now the penstocks, which manage the height of the adit, are set at a level to improve the summer draw down and still help to alleviate flooding in winter. This is about a 1 metre fluctuation, which is sufficient for Strapwort in the summer.  Water quality has dramatically improved in the last decade. The Trust has been working with the Loe Pool Forum ( and tenant farmers to significantly decrease applications of chemicals and reduce soil erosion meaning nutrient levels, specifically phosphates, have decreased. Finally, although grazing will not be reintroduced to the edge of the Loe, we have embarked upon a programme of rotational scrub cutting to open up some areas (this will also benefits walkers as the view from the path will be better!).
The reintroduction site with view of Loe Bar

So, the reintroduction site is ready, the seeds have been sown in a greenhouse at Paignton Zoo and we’re waiting for the weather to warm up in May to plant the seedlings out. Once the plants are established we will manage the habitat and monitor their progress. We’ll keep you updated!
Byfield, A. (1992) The decline of Strapwort (Corrigiola litoralis) from Loe Pool, Cornwall with nature conservation recommendations. Plantlife, the Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London.

Coker, P.D. (1962) Corrigiola litoralis L. Biological Flora of the British Isles. Journal of Ecology, 50, 833-840.


Monday, 23 February 2015

Celebrating National Nest Box Week in style

The sunniest day of the half term the valley of Poltesco resounded with the noise of hammering and the occasional yelp! On Tuesday 17th February 15 families got involved with giving birds a helping hand at the National Trusts’ bird in a box event at Poltesco. The event, held annually offers children, young people and their families the chance to make their own bird boxes, get advice about how and where to put them up plus lots of other ways to help our dwindling garden bird population.
Families enjoying the early spring sunshine and activities at Poltesco

The event was offered through the Wild Lizard Partnership Project, a partnership project that involves several conservation organisations that work on the Lizard including National Trust, Helford VMCA, Natural England and the more recently Cornwall Wildlife Trust.  With over 50 people making 25 bird boxes it was certainly a busy day. Volunteers from the National Trust and the Cornwall Wildlife Trust all got involved with the families helping them make bird boxes, weaving willow bird feeders, getting messy making pine cone bird feeders pine cones and having a go at making their own nests, there was plenty to get involved with!

The decorating of the bird boxes was taken very seriously is that lardy pine cone time of year again
The making of the nests was very popular with the younger partcipants, especially when the chocolate egg bird paid a visit!

This popular annual event that takes place during National Bird Box week has grown from strength to strength. I was amazed when the morning session booked up so quickly we decided to put on another session in the afternoon, doubling the number of bird boxes and feeders made, giving our local birds a great start to the nesting season.

Katie, one of the National Trusts full time volunteers helps families

These events couldn't be run if it weren't for the great team of Wild Lizard volunteers who play such an important role in helping us provide positive experiences in the outdoors for local families and visitors. With events becoming more popular we are looking to extend our team of volunteers.

 If you have a love of the natural environment, would like to share your enthusiasm to inspire others and want to get involved with the project then please get in touch with me on 01326 291174 or 

When we have events like this everyone comes away feeling really excited that they have made a difference to help our wildlife even if it is one bird box or lardy pine cone feeder at a time! 

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Explore your wild side with Lizard National Trust

Volunteer & Visitors at the Wildlife Watchpoint (Photo: Shannon O'Grady)
After a hugely successful first year, the wildlife watchpoint at Lizard Point is back for 2015. We are looking for enthusiastic people, with a love of wildlife, to join the watchpoint team and help inspire visitors at Lizard Point with stories and sightings of choughs, grey seals, porpoise, dolphins, thousands of seabirds and much more.

‘We get tremendous satisfaction from sharing the wonders at Lizard Point with visitors from all over the world. I'm always amazed at how interested they are in all aspects of our wildlife.’ – John (Wildlife Watchpoint Volunteer)

Last year was one of the most enjoyable summers I have ever had and the Watchpoint really made it for me, I can't wait to get started again’ -Roger (Wildlife Watchpoint Volunteer)

See and learn lots of fascinating things at Britain’s most southerly point, while helping visitors get great views of wildlife through our binoculars and telescopes. You don’t need to be a wildlife expert; so long as you are friendly and enjoy talking to people, you can learn on the job. Shifts are typically 4 or 7 hours long, the watchpoint is open from 10-4pm every day from March until mid- Sept. For more info visit our wildlife watchpoint advert on the DO-IT website.

Cornish choughs - Lizard  pair (2014) (Photo: Terry Thirlaway)
We are also looking for volunteers to help us protect the local choughs. The nest protection programme at Lizard Point was formerly run by the RSPB, but with more nests springing up out west they are going to focus their attention over there while we help out by looking after the Lizard choughs. Join the nest protection team to help protect Cornish choughs by monitoring their nest site and kindly asking visitors to look out for them, without getting too close. Give visitors great views and inspire them with the story of the return of Cornwall's magical crow. Shifts are typically 4 hours long in all weather conditions. We protect the nest round the clock so there are day and night time shifts available, offering plenty of flexibility. For more info visit our nest protection advert on the DO-IT website.

Wild Lizard education volunteer (Photo: National Trust)
There are other ways you can volunteer with the National Trust on the Lizard, perhaps you’d like to help keep your favourite beach clean, check ponies on your favourite stretch of coast, or maybe you could volunteer at the Lizard Wireless Station as a museum guide, or with the Wild Lizard Education Ranger as an educational events volunteer, inspiring children with activities across the Peninsula.

To find out more about volunteering with National Trust on the Lizard please get in touch and we will be happy to answer any questions.

If you are interested in volunteering for the ‘watchpoint’ or ‘chough watch’ on the Lizard contact Catherine Lee on 01326 291174 or email

If you are interested in volunteering for ‘chough watch’ in West Penwith contact Nicola Shanks on 01736 360624 or email

- Cat (Wildlife Watchpoint Co-ordinator)

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Our battle with beach litter

Did you know?

That marine based litter has almost doubled in the last 15 years

Rubbish in the marine environment can have catastrophic effects on marine animals, many are found washed up dead on beaches having eaten plastic litter or other unnatural materials. Mermaids tears (tiny bits of plastic) are a common cause of death in fish and fishing tackle, also known as 'ghost nets' is also a cause of mortality in larger marine animals.


The rangers across the Lizard and Penrose property spend a considerable amount of their time each week collecting litter, however it is not as dull as it sounds, they sometimes come across some interesting and bizarre things.

An Old Fridge washed up at Church Cove - Gunwalloe

This very interesting deep ocean evacuated glass sphere was found by walkers at Gunwalloe fishing cove last month.

Trees, tyres and old fishing equipment are often found at the high water mark

Rubbish on the dunes - Church Cove - Gunwalloe


We endeavor to keep our beaches on the Lizard as clean as possible and have a number of volunteer groups that help us with the challenge. Young people from Helston completing their Duke of Edinburgh Award at Penrose over the last few months have done many beach cleans, the Friends of Poldhu group, help hugely by holding regular beach cleans and the trainee rangers from Poltesco, working for the National Trust, often collect rubbish while they are out and about.

National Trust Trainee Rangers at Kynance
If you would like to get more involved in beach cleaning we are holding two events in March to help celebrate the Coast 2015. Gunwalloe, Church Cove, on 20th March and Poldhu beach on 21st March, both will be between 10-12 pm and will end in a hot chocolate!
Beach litter - Lowland Point

You can find out more information about marine wildlife and the effects of beach litter through the Marine Conservation Society and the Cornwall Wildlife Trust at the following websites. 

Thank you to everyone around the coastline of the Lizard Peninsula if you have picked up any beach rubbish, it is much appreciated and all helps get the litter off our beaches and out of our oceans.


Monday, 2 February 2015

Funding for Coast Path Projects

The winter storms that battered the coast at the beginning of 2014 are still having an impact on the coastline at Penrose. We have just completed the two projects at Gunwalloe that make the South West Coast Path (SWCP) along here much safer and easier to use. The funding came from the Big Lottery Fund’s Coastal Communities Fund via the South West Coast Path Association. Our projects were two of 32 in Devon and Cornwall that aimed to repair, promote and improve the SWCP.
The cliff edge crumbling away
Old kissing gates diverting walkers onto the farm track
 The first project was located just above Dollar Cove at Gunwalloe where the cliff had crumbled away to leave the fence hanging in mid-air. This section of cliff is extremely soft and the top layer is mainly composed of windblown, compacted sand. The coast path here had been re-routed inland a few years ago and was diverted onto the farm track for a short distance. This project has allowed us to move the farm track further inland and separate the SWCP from the track, making it much more enjoyable for walkers.

New coast path on the right, new farm track on the left of the fence

The second project involved moving the SWCP inland at Baulk Head, near Gunwalloe Fishing Cove. The cliffs here are very high with steep vertical faces. A few deep cracks opened up last year and although the edge hasn’t crumbled away, the crevices are potentially very dangerous. After speaking with the NT farm tenant on the fields here, were lucky enough to be able to move the fence 15 meters further inland. This means the coast path will be safe for years to come and it also means that this section will revert from agricultural use to natural cliff-top grassland habitat. Hopefully it won’t be long before species like thrift and wild carrot start to spread.
Crevice in the centre of the the photo

Our safety signs you see at intervals along the coast remind walkers to stay well back from the cliff edge, which is good advice as the edge isn't always clearly defined and as you can see from this photo, cracks can be hidden by long grasses. It’s a great time of year to be out walking the coast path- quieter than the summer but the weather can be as good if you chose a sunny, calm day!

For more information on the South West Coast Path Association please visit:

Laura Bailey
Community Ranger, Penrose 

Monday, 26 January 2015

A little bit of Winter warmth

Before the mince pies were being nibbled and the Christmas parties got into their full swing, the Poltesco National Trust team headed out to the coastal cliffs of Predannack to help out  at the farm with a controlled fire, or swailing as it is also known.

 Believe us or not, the fires weren’t just our cheeky way to warm us up on a chilly winter’s day. Fires are an incredibly important process in many ecosystems, they occur naturally throughout habitats across the world and have a large number of ecological benefits such as enriching soil, clearing old dead matter, and controlling scrub encroachment. Habitat management was one of the key reasons for us to swail at this site. Rare plants that are found here were at risk of being encroached upon if the scrub had been left to its own devices. Practices such as grazing and cutting can also help with scrub encroachment but they aren’t always the most practical or feasible solution. It was not only the rare plants that benefited, other native plants can flourish when we prevent a site from being dominated by just a few species. This diversity of flora helps provide resources for a wealth of invertebrate life, which in turn supports those creatures higher up the food chain too!

Another huge benefit of the controlled fire is that it helps reduce the impact and likelihood of summer fires that can be set alight either purposefully or accidentally with devastating consequences. Out of control campfires, bbq’s or intentional arson attacks have been known and they put wildlife, people and habitats at serious risk! Even a controlled fire carries risk and is not something we take lightly but there are legal obligations, safety procedures and environmental guidelines that we ensure we abide by.

Dressed for the job in our bright orange jump suits we set to work nice and early, first of all safety checks got underway and then the team took to their posts. With the fire service notified, some of the team got the fires going whilst others kept watch. With fire beaters ready at hand our job was to patrol the fires and ensure it didn't make a break for freedom by jumping to neighboring areas of scrub. The fire was kept nicely under control with only the desired areas feeling the burn.  It was a real eye opener into the power of fires and was interesting to witness how some areas roared up in flames burning bright and fast whilst in other areas the fire just slowly crept through the undergrowth.

The flames created quite the scene over this stunning coastal backdrop but as light began to fade, so did the flames. In the hours of the late afternoon we ensured all the final fires had burnt out before packing up for the day. Once we were happy that all fires were out, the fire service was once again notified.  There is no denying that afterwards the sight of the scorched ground was dramatic and it was probably natural to think that it really didn't look very nice either. However, if you go down to those cliffs today then you are in for some miniature surprises. Yes, there’s still no denying that the burn sites aren't the most attractive but the wonderful thing is that when you look up close, they are full of signs of new life.  Nature is brilliant and resilient and these controlled fires can have incredible benefits for an ecosystem, benefits that will hopefully become clearer to see as the scars fade and the seasons progress.


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