Monday, 4 May 2015

New Horizons for the Wild Lizard Project

 This week saw new horizons for the Lizard peninsula as the first ever Lizard Horizons school discovery day took place with St. Martin in Meneage School at Windmill Farm nature reserve.
As the new Volunteer Education Ranger for the Wild Lizard Project I've helped develop and implement some of the activities that we undertook at the reserve. Although I have experience volunteering in forest schools, and have spent time exploring nature reserves during my Zoology degree, I'd never before been tasked with bringing the two together!

I've lived in Cornwall for a number of years, forever being fascinated exploring the ocean and the moors. However, I had yet to explore the Lizard, and when the post of full time education volunteer was advertised I jumped at it! Getting young people involved in nature seemed an obvious career choice as discovering nature was what I enjoyed most when I was young.
St Martin in Meneage School go rock pooling with the new Volunteer Education Ranger
Out at Windmill Farm Nature Reserve pond dipping as part of the Lizard Horizons Project in partnership with the Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Greater Diving Beetle discovery at Windmill Farm
One of the original scuba divers the Greater Diving Beetle 

St. Martin School started their discovery day through learning the long and varied history of Windmill Farm, from sheep rustling gangs in the 1820's to why it became an important Navy base in WWII. They went on to discover why some of the rare and unique plants such as Pygmy rush thrived on the reserve. This was followed by the main activity of the day; Pond-dipping! Where the school discovered the greater diving beetle, water scorpions and tadpoles galore!

Since joining the Wild Lizard Project just last month I've also helped out in other events including a family bushcraft day at St Anthony. Here children foraged for shoreline food, built a fire without matches and explored the unique shoreline at this Helford Voluntary Marine Conservation Area event.
St Keverne School learn the adaptations of a shore crab
A rather grumpy shore crab entertains the St Keverne School on their Seashore Safari
Other recent school visits under the Wild Lizard Project banner have included rock-pooling at Kennack sands, part of Natural England's NNR, with St Keverne School. We discovered how dog whelks are adapted to drilling holes into mussels so they can suck out their dinner, and how hermit crabs fight each other to win a new shell home!
Mullion School and their very own mermaid of Poldhu
Mullion School and their seaweed mermaid
At Poldhu, Mullion school learnt local legends of mermaids in their beachside story about the old man of Cury, and went on to build their very own mermaid after a scavenger hunt.
Happy faces with St. Martin in Meneage School after a long day of exploration
Wild at Windmill Farm, the project getting children outside the classroom and exploring their local natural environment
In my first few weeks volunteering I have been involved with National Trust, Natural England, Cornwall Wildlife Trust and HVMCA events and sites across the peninsula, demonstrating just how good a partnership the Wild Lizard Project is.

It's great seeing so many children enjoying being outdoors in such a variety of environments. Hopefully they will go on to expand their own horizons through their involvement with nature, just as I look forward to gaining in experience of outdoor education as my placement continues over the coming months. Greater  Diving Beetle anyone?

Author: Tom Bucher-Flynn

Friday, 17 April 2015

Spring spruce up round The Lizard

Digger in to repair the car park surface
The last few months have been a busy time for the practical team on The Lizard. After finishing off important winter habitat management work and all the vegetation 'cut backs' on the coast path in the New Year, the race was on to prepare for the busy summer season.

So what have we been up to?

'The Aerator'
The first job on the list was to repair the car parks and roads for what turned out to be a very busy Easter. 

The Kynance toll road sees lots of traffic each year which has a huge impact on the road, in terms of 'wear and tear'. This year the toll road needed a good few lorry loads of tar to repair pot holes and resurface the damaged sections.
Aerating the grassy sections of car park

The grass car park suffers a little from the high number of cars which compact the surface making it hard for the grass to grow. One of our contractors spent a day aerating and reseeding the grass sections of the car park, breathing a bit of life back into the surface and hopefully allow the grass a chance to develop stronger roots. 

Replacing the oak posts
Down at Lizard Point we’ve been busy working on the footpaths to improve access.

The oak safety fence that runs alongside the coast path at the Point was installed over 20 years ago and has lasted well, despite the amazing weather it must have experienced and the thousands of people that must have leant on it to admire the view. 

However, it was starting to show its age a little so over the past few weeks we have replaced the oldest section digging out 34 of the posts - It doesn’t sound like a big job but whoever had installed the fence originally had meant it to last, all the posts being set into very hard concrete. So for a few weeks Lizard Point rang with the sound of volunteers and staff breaking the concrete out by hand with bars and spades before installing the new oak posts and stainless steel wires. The new fence is now finished and looks great. 

New fence posts in place
Alongside this work, the paths to the Point have been widened in places before being swept of loose material and dusted with a fine surface coating making them easier to walk on.We've also been installing steps and improving drainage as well as simple jobs like cutting back brambles and vegetation to improve views which make such a difference.

Over the summer months we’ll be continuing to work hard maintaining and improving access to all across The Lizard, in the hope that more people can get out there and enjoy it! 

- Martin 

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Mum? Dad? How long does it take to get to a star?

if you reach up far enough you could hold one!
Have you ever slept under the stars? I mean actually under the stars with nothing between you and the heavens? My first time was as a young child. It was rather daunting at first; I thought I might have been eaten by the creatures of the night! So what my parents let me do was to sleep with my head outside the tent with the rest of my body inside under lots of blankets to keep warm. No sleeping bags in those days! Well we couldn’t afford them!

The memory lives with me to this day, staring up at the thousands of twinkling lights in a mass of darkness. I was enthralled by the beauty of such a spectacular sight. And as I lay there, I could hear the soothing sounds of the night: the gentle rustling of the trees, an owl hooting in the distance, cows in a nearby field and the rummaging in the hedge of what I thought may be a fox or a badger. And as I became a parent, my children too were able to enjoy this great outdoors experience, and although now older and not at home, continue to do so to this day.

You too can enjoy this experience in whatever type of accommodation you prefer to stay in; it does not necessarily have to be a tent. The campsite here at Teneriffe Farm can accommodate caravans, motorhomes, campervans, trailer tents as well as tents. Or for the most adventurous of you, why not just sleep outside in a bivvy bag? Now that really is fun! However, I would not recommend sleeping with your head out of a caravan doorway. You’re liable to get an awful crick in your neck! But you could sleep outside on the decking of your camping pod. Here on the Lizard can you stay in one of the most southerly camping pods of England. And on a clear night the views are truly breath-taking.

one of the National Trust's camping pods
The National Trust has a number of campsites throughout the country ranging from small tent pitch only sites provided by National Trust tenant farmers to larger sites managed by the National Trust themselves. They are of course all different with their own ‘character’ but they all have one thing in common: you’ll find them situated in truly stunning areas. These areas, whether coastal or in the countryside, are looked after by the National Trust for ever for everyone. You’ll find Teneriffe Farm Campsite only minutes from the South West Coast Path and surrounded by the Lizard National Nature Reserve and the North Predannack Downs Nature Reserve.  What’s more, you don’t have to be a National Trust member to stay on one of our campsites. Everyone is welcome! But you may wish to join us when you see that stunning stretch of coastline or area of beautiful countryside of which the management and care is the responsibility of the National Trust. And your money goes directly in helping us with our conservation work.

Like to know more, then click here! It will take you on a journey of discovery and wouldn’t it be great to see the stars from the great outdoors. And for stargazing facts, tips & ideas then a visit here will provide lots of inspiration.

plenty of space for playing at Teneriffe Farm Campsite

So why not give it a go and experience a traditional camping experience which will be truly memorable. You won’t regret it, and if you have children they’ll love you for it.

Wherever you choose to stay we hope to see you soon. The stars are waiting for you.

Happy camping!


Thursday, 2 April 2015

Life as a volunteer Ranger

New chainsaw skills in use
For the last eight months I've been one of the full time residential volunteers with the National Trust in Cornwall, based with the Rangers at Poltesco who take care of all the Trust land around the Lizard. Here’s just a little bit about my experience.

Although I’d volunteered previously with various conservation groups, a lot of this job required a whole new and unfamiliar set of skills. When I first started I couldn't have told you the difference between a hacksaw and a bow saw and it was news to me that there were so many different spades for different jobs. The team had the unenviable task of making a Ranger out of me!

Sign making in the workshop
Strimming a path, felling a tree, putting up a fence, repairing the coastal path and to be honest most of the jobs we did were all new to me. Straight away I joined the team on the day to day jobs and  some tasks were easier to get to grips with than others.  I’ll not lie, some tasks were frustrating! You get taught how to do something and it looks simple enough, but actually doing the job ended up being another matter entirely. Some days my head and my hands were clearly in disagreement! For the brilliant Rangers, for whom the idea of putting up a fence is probably as easy as changing a light bulb, I can only imagine how hard it was to watch me fumble over a simple job. But they didn't show it, I was encouraged to give things a go and that trial and error was no bad thing. Meanwhile the Rangers would have discretely managed to complete the whole of the rest of the job around me with effortless ease and they’d still be smiling and encouraging me with my task. Eventually it pays off and one morning you’re given a job where you find yourself gathering the right tools, equipment, and doing the job with less and less guidance. Don’t get me wrong, I know I've still plenty still to learn. The wonderful part of this job is that there is always going to be more to learn because working outdoors you've got all kinds of variables thrown into the mix.

In the last eight months I've gained practical skills from all sorts of experiences, including swailing (controlled burning of) heathland,  fixing fences and gates, herding cows, repairing the coastal path, making and repairing signs, relocating ponies, removing rubbish across the Lizard, painting landmarks, building bridges plus I've also qualified in use of brushcutters, strimmers, chainsaws, and received first aid training. Through the Lizard Rangers, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend a week volunteering on Lundy with the Landmark Trust, helping re-point the Church.

helping ring Shearwaters on Lundy
Back on the Lizard, the team also do some fantastic events with local schools, visiting groups from further afield, and community groups, and as a volunteer you join in with these activities. I didn't expect to find myself searching for giants and pixies around Poltesco, or making start and finish lines for a snail race, but these are some of my favourite memories. I think we can all agree that we live in times where so many of us are disengaged with the natural environment around us and sometimes I know I get a little bit depressed about the fate of nature, but when you see people of all ages out and about enjoying nature together you can’t help but be uplifted and it restores your faith that there is hope for the natural world.

I never had a day where I didn't want to go to work, there was always a laugh to be had, and every day was different. There is such variety in the role and I gained a whole new set of skills to take forward. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the wonderful staff and other volunteers I worked with at the Lizard and neighbouring Penrose National Trust. It is a beautiful place but it was the enthusiasm, kindness and knowledge of the staff that made my experience so awesome and a time that I will never forget.


Sunday, 29 March 2015

Have you visited Lizard Wireless Station?

Marconi's Lizard Wireless Station, above Housel Bay

If you walk the Lizard’s coastpath regularly, you’ll be familiar with the little black huts perched high on the cliffs above Housel Bay. These unassuming wooden buildings have an esteemed history, and can rightly claim their place in the story of modern communications.

It was here that young Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi proved beyond all doubt that wireless was going to work beyond the horizon, when in January 1901 he received a transmission from the Isle of Wight. Doubters thought radio waves would disappear off into space, but Marconi showed they infact followed the curvature of the Earth. He pushed the limits of this new technology rapidly, and only 11 months later he completed the first trans-Atlantic radio transmission from nearby Poldhu to Newfoundland, to great applaud.

Lizard Wireless Station moved from being an experimental station to a commercial operation, handling ship to shore messages, in direct competition for a while with the Lloyds Signal Station next door at Bass Point. This distinctive white castellated building communicated with ships via flags and had a telegraph cable on to Falmouth and beyond. History has shown which of radio and flags won out in the end!

After claiming its spot in communications history, Lizard Wireless Station faded into obscurity. It was bought as a dilapidated holiday home in the 1990s, and it is 15 years since the National Trust started to renovate and restore the station. It reopened as a little museum in time for the centenary of its January 1901 over the horizon transmission, and we haven’t looked back since!

Take a tour inside the station today with one of our guides

From the beginning of April until the end of October 2015 our opening will be Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays 12 noon – 3pm weather permitting. Come along to see just how the station would have looked in Marconi’s day, and hear some fascinating tales from our knowledgeable volunteer guides. Entry is free, but donations are welcome. There is no vehicular access to the station (but do call if you have mobility difficulties and we can make special arrangements) so the best way to arrive is on foot, via ½ mile of spectacular coastpath from Lizard Point, or from Lizard Village via Housel Bay lane.

Cwmbran Amateur Radio Society visit March 2015

If you live locally, have an interest in history, like chatting to people, and can spare as little as 3 hours a month, we would love to hear from you, as we are always on the look out for more folk to join our dedicated team of volunteer guides so we can expand our opening and welcome more visitors. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a radio expert! Please do get in touch on 01326 291174 if this interests you.

And if you have never visited Lizard Wireless Station? Easter is almost here, so do pop in and see us this season!


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.


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