A collaboration of coast and countryside organisations on The Lizard Peninsula

Is our climate changing?

What do your favourite places tell you about how the climate is changing?

The Lizard from PredannackWe all have our favourite places and they are as important to us as any of the things we treasure in our lives. I love the Lizard for its remarkable landscape, amazing geology and lovely beaches, but the coastpath from Lizard to Church Cove at Gunwalloe has particular significance. It is a route that I have walked many times and last summer I ran it as part of a team of four completing the Classic Quarter – a 44 run from Lizard to Land's End. Predannack coastlineThe nine mile stretch of coast path from the Most Southerly Point to Church Cove has some significant ascents and descents but, early on a lovely June morning, I was filled with the kind of quiet delight that only the view of the cliffs and the sea can bring and I wasn't thinking too much about the hills. Familiar with the terrain, I was confident as I ascended the cliff that I would come out at Predannack and enjoy an easy mile or so along the flat top along the edge of the airfield.

Little did I realise that the weeks of rain that would eventually define the weather of summer 2012 had already saturated the ground. As my leg sunk knee deep in a boggy puddle and my trainer started to be sucked free of my foot, I knew that I wouldn't be enjoying any easy miles on this nine mile leg. And it also got me to thinking about how the places with which we are familiar can tell us a lot about how our climate is changing.

It was a dark and stormy winter.....

...but despite that, essential conservation work continued through rain and wind and mud on the coastal slopes of Trevalsoe near to Lowland Point, Coverack. The land is under an Environmental Stewardship agreement between Natural England and Louis and Alan Pengilly of Trebarveth Farm who manage the whole stretch of their coast in a traditional way with cattle and controlled winter burning to keep the heathland habitats in good condition.

Join the ReFILL Revolution!

Bottle mountain on beach

Bottle mountain on Cornish beach with ReFILL Cornwall team behind, photo by Symages

Adults in Cornwall will use an estimated 64 million single use plastic water bottles this year, a shocking figure! With low local recycling rates in our county, and a growing demand from industry to make bottles out of single use plastic, the scale of plastic entering our waste streams is rapidly increasing and too much of this waste is littering our oceans and land. Plastic is not biodegrable, it will remain in the environment potentially forever. US scientists recently estimated that 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been made with 70% of this total production now in our waste streams. And as we all know, escaped plastic harms wildlife through entrapment and once ingested it finds it ways into our food chain.

Seal pup amid plastic, photo by Sue SayerSeal pup amid plastic, photo by Sue Sayer

ReFILL Cornwall aims to reduce our plastic pollution and litter levels by calling on people to make just one simple change – to choose tap water instead of buying plastic bottled water both at home and out and about. It is an original concept created by BeachCare (Keep Britain Tidy) and launched with Bude resident, Deb Rosser, in 2014 with support from South West Water. The aim was to encourage people to buy a ReFILL flask and ReFILL it with tap water at various locations in Bude. It has been a success, reducing plastic usage and raising thousands of pounds from the sale of ReFILL flasks for the ‘Friends of Bude Sea Pool’.


Kennack Towans: restoration of a dune

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.

LAN concentrates on fewer sites for clear-ups

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.

Land sharing versus land sparing farming on the Lizard.

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.

Leave the tools in the shed this autumn….

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.

Lizard Ancient Sites Network

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.