A collaboration of coast and countryside organisations on The Lizard Peninsula

Diary of a Pony-patter

Exmoor herd grazing near Goonhilly DownsI was at a social gathering several years ago wherein I fell into conversation with a rather grand woman who enquired what I did for a living. When she learned that I was a nature reserve warden she wished to know more of what that exactly involved. I launched into a lengthy talk about the principles of conservation and habitat management, together with a potted history of the Lizard National Nature Reserve. Discovering that she owned a horse, I elaborated on our need to graze the reserve and the vital role played by our own herds of Exmoor and Shetland ponies in achieving this and the importance of putting in the time to ensure that the animal’s welfare was maintained. She considered all this for a few seconds and then remarked “So, you’re basically paid to pat ponies then”, before wandering off to find someone better paid to talk to instead. This illustrated to me that however interesting you may find your job, the finer details may well sail over the heads of most people. Unlikely though it is that the grand lady in question follows ‘Linking the Lizard’, this article will hopefully illustrate that there is more to the management of ponies than a programme of regular patting.

Digging beneath the surface – the importance of Soils

Picture the stark landscapes synonymous with Cornwall; such as the purple heathers that contrast with the blue of the ocean below. I’ve included a beautiful reminder. This landscape is not only maintained by ungulate grazing, but is built upon the soil that not only holds so much life, but is vital to its continuation.

Lizard Landscape

The Lizard, Cornwall we all know and love. The soils here are situated on Serpentine rock, which is completely unique to The Lizard. They produce calcium and magnesium rich soils whose alkalinity enables rare plant species to grow such as Cornish heath.

It is hard to imagine that 1 gram of soil can contain 1 billion bacteria. These bacteria and all life within what is often called ‘dirt’ and taken to be an inanimate object makes up to 25% of Earth’s biodiversity.
One measurement of soil’s fertility is through the life contained within it. Digging into soil and seeing earthworms is evidence of a nutrient rich, thriving and importantly a living environment. A healthy soil supports all flora and consequently fauna that reside on this earth. So definitely something we should be conserving! 


 

Soil sample
Nematodes, Mycorrhiza (fungi), bacteria, Earthworms are a few of the organisms within healthy soil.


NFU recognises that farmers value this resource to enable continuation of providing us with nutritious foods. But I believe it is important it doesn’t become necessary to rely solely on fertilisers to replace the lost nutrients when crops are harvested, as not only does this mean soil cannot provide life within itself, but it is less capable of producing food. Furthermore, the chemicals can have negative impacts on water quality through leaching of the phosphates and nitrates vital for plant growth. Another issue is uncovered soil after crops are harvested is susceptible to erosion and 1cm of soil can take 500 years to produce but can be blown away a lot quicker. 


Environmental Stewardship on The Lizard

Environmental Stewardship is a scheme run by Natural England that helps to promote the maintenance and restoration of the countryside's wildlife and historic interest. Farmers and other landowners who are eligible can enter into either a five year agreement under the Entry Level options (ELS) or ten years for the Higher Level options (HLS). The latter options are targeted towards the most highly valued elements of the landscape, such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Scheduled Monuments, as well as the management of soils, hedges and woodlands to help protect the wider landscape and watercourses.

 

Expanding NNR Video

The video highlights some of the species that will benefit from additional protection, hear what members of the public value about this significant development, and meet one of the farmers who grazes the cliffs and coastal fields for wildlife.

Expanding the Lizard NNR Video(s)

See some of the species that will benefit from additional protection, hear what members of the public value about this significant development, and meet one of the farmers who grazes the cliffs and coastal fields for wildlife.

Farmers for the Future

It's not often that farms change hands but on the Lizard this year we've handed the keys to the farm gate over to two new farmers who are set to farm for the future on National Trust farms on the lizard.

Tregullas - mainland Britain's most southerly farm

At Tregullas, which falls between the Lizard village and the coast, the Amiss family (Nevil, Rona and their five children) arrived at the farmhouse in September having moved from a Council farm in Devon.

Farming for Wildlife

William Watson, farmer at Teneriffe and Predannack FarmsAs tenants of the National Trust owned Predannack and Teneriffe Farms, we are now heading into our second spring, having taken on the tenancy in 2013.
This first year has been somewhat of a blur, during which I've certainly learnt a lot about myself and the farm. Although I grew up on a farm, my father died when I was relatively young and I was too daft to listen and soak up some of his intricate farming knowledge. He came from generations of farmers, all passing their skills on to their sons. Over the years, I learned my farming lessons the hard way and often slumped devastated for days over my mistakes.

Find us on Facebook

The Lizard Countryside Partnership now has a facebook page to keep abreast of happenings.

This website has been up and running for 6 months now.Cross leaved heath We are pleased with the way it is being used to make information about the natural environment on The Lizard more easily available. But we think there is scope to more easily share information, pictures and knowledge. And we think the way to do that may be by having a Facebook page - search under Linking the Lizard Countryside Partnership and you will find us.

Anyone can post on the page. So it would be great if people would like to share their passion for what is out and about on The Lizard, show off their dazzling photos, share news of upcoming events or report on a great one we missed.