Kennack sands in winterThe many thousands of locals and visitors alike which stream onto Kennack Sands during the Spring and Summer months may well be unaware that a National Nature Reserve backs onto the beaches where they will be spending time picnicking and body-boarding. With the exception of the occasional Outreach or educational activity the NNR team generally has a fairly low profile during these months of the year. However, as the days of autumn shorten and grow cooler, the annual management regime for the dune system swings into life. A regular visitor to Kennack would soon be aware of the construction of an elaborate temporary fenced enclosure, followed very quickly afterwards by the arrival of a number of Shetland ponies. In the months that follow there will be several days of noisy activity as scrub is cleared and burnt. After a while both the ponies and the fencing disappear and quiet descends once more until the return of warmer days and beach-goers.

In 2009, a project to help local people get involved in the management and care of archaeological sites on the Lizard was established by Historic Environment, Cornwall Council, in partnership with Natural England, English Heritage, the National Trust, the Meneage Archaeology Group (MAG) and CASPN: the Cornwall Ancient Sites Protection Network. Site monitoring and monthly scrub clearance sessions were initiated, with the latter proving particularly popular. The group, known as the Lizard Ancient Sites Protection Network or LAN achieved dramatic improvements to the condition and presentation of many sites and is now self-sustaining.

Earlier today I attended an enthralling lecture on the impacts of land sharing and land sparing by Professor Andrew Balmford, from the University of Cambridge. Land sharing and land sparing are probably the two most discussed proposals for balancing biodiversity conservation and food security moving in to the future.

Land sparing
Land sharing is based on the idea that integrating farming with wild habitats will allow plants and animals to continue to survive in an area while still producing food yield. Land sparing focuses on maximising food yield, but from a more constrained area. As I have mentioned in previous posts, farming is a key industry on the Lizard peninsula and so which method is found to be most effective could have major impacts on livelihoods in the area.

Reed-bunting-Jamie Macarthur

September is when hedges can legally be trimmed, but even so it’s really important to avoid the urge or habit to cut back and tidy too much –both in the wider countryside and in our gardens. It’s more beneficial for nature to leave some decaying plants intact, as they create a layer (often above soggy ground) for small mammals and insects to use in bad weather or as habitat for part of a creature’s lifecycle. Hollowed stems and seed heads provide cover from rain and frosts, tussocks of grass provide homes for spiders and mice. Piles of dead wood and heaps of leaves gathered into a pile in a corner will benefit insects and small mammals, including our struggling hedgehogs.
Hedgerows and banks are now studded with hawthorn berries, sloes, blackberries and other fruit – or are they? The sheer beauty of a Cornish hedgebank bursting with berries at this time of year is surely enough reason to keep the flail in the shed. Given trees like hawthorn fruit on past season’s growth, annual hedge trimming, as is increasingly the norm, takes away the possibility of the trees fruiting at all and providing sustenance to both our resident birds and all those winter thrushes that flock to Cornwall each autumn and winter. Cutting hedges and banks on a three or four year rotation and not all in the same year means there will always be fruit and cover – and beauty.

In the first few months of 2014, we have been busy clearing the hut circle settlement of Polcoverack [SW774 188] for the first time. We have now uncovered several hut circles that have not been visible for many years, and will continue to keep monitoring this interesting site.

If you would like to visit the site and see what we have been up to, take the St.Keverne road to St.Keverne Beacon (Dollys Corner) and then turn south on to the Penhallick road. After a few hundred metres you will see on your left a track that runs down towards Polcoverack Farm. Walk down this track and you will see a large cleared area on your left, and the hut circles are easily visible there. For further information about this site please contact Bart O'Farrell at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or give him a ring at 01326-281139.

Rona and Nevil AmissOne of our local farming families were awarded one of the food and farming industry’s highest honours, a National Trust Fine Farm Produce Award at BBC Countryfile Live earlier this summer, with the Lizard’s Tregullas Farm, the most southerly farm on mainland Britain, winning the National Trust’s first-ever ‘Farming with Nature’ award.

The Cornwall Wildlife Trust in Partnership with the MOD, Natural England and The National Trust are in the process of installing a number of pipe dams on Windmill Farm Nature Reserve and the neighbouring Predannack Airfield.

 Leaky dam taking shape

Leaky dam taking shape

A project to help restore wildlife habitats and access on the Penrose Estate near Helston that began last year has now been completed thanks to the help of local volunteers and working groups.

A partnership of conservation groups came together with the aim of improving the willow carr alongside the River Cober. The work, which was coordinated by the National Trust, included coppicing and felling small trees and building leaky dams comprised of carefully-stacked logs and brash. Sections of path were also raised and re-surfaced to improve access for walkers.