If you are lucky enough find yourself on the road that leads to Roskilly's, for lunch or a delicious ice cream, you will probably be driving through an area of "wild land" known as Main Dale, this is part of the Lizard National Nature Reserve managed by Natural England.

You will see the land is strewn with Gabro boulders known locally as crusairs, how these boulders got here is a matter of great debate and geologists argue amongst themselves that they are either the result of soil erosion around the boulders or they slid here during the last ice age.

As well as the many shipwrecks found under the waves around the treacherous set of rocks off The Lizard Peninsula called The Manacles, there lies a huge variety of rich rocky reef communities, bright pink maerl beds and other sedimentary habitats. All of these support a diverse marine fauna including spiny lobsters, sea fan anemones, tiny stalked jellyfish and slow growing pink sea fans.

Jewel anemones on The Manacles-Angie Gall   Pink sea fan and bloody Henry starfish on The Manacles-Angie Gall

People who are lucky enough to have dived in and around The Manacles will appreciate why its high quality reefs were one of the reasons why this site was recommended as a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) last year. Intertidal habitats, including its rocky shore communities, were also proposed for protection in this site.
The Manacles reef-Rob Seebold Natural England

Military land rovers as habitat creaters - Nick MarriottThe Cornwall Wildlife Trust manages over 100 hectares of heathland on the MOD's Predannack Airfield, near Lizard Village. This spring RNAS Culdrose's driver training officer asked if he would be allowed to train Royal Marines in off road driving on the heathland under our management.

Seed Bank t-shirt design

Next year we are going to embark on an exciting project working with The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership to collect plant samples and eventually seed from some 50 + species of plants growing on the Lizard, and we will need some help with this important work.

 

 

Surveying

It's been a super busy period for us chough people. A handful of UK breeding birds of conservation concern is regularly monitored by SCARRABBS (Statutory Conservation Agencies/RSPB Rare Breeding Birds Survey) and Red-billed chough is one such species.

SCARRABBS surveys are undertaken at regular intervals (every 10 or 12 years) and concentrate on those species that are not adequately monitored through other more general surveys such as the BTO Breeding Bird Survey (BBS). The survey methodology is more tailored to the specific bird in question and collects more detail to establish its breeding status. Surveys like this that are repeated over decades give invaluable information on population change and range. The last UK wide SCARRABBS chough survey was in 2002, which was when there was only one pair of breeding choughs in Cornwall, their next nearest neighbours were in south Wales.

Scything
National Trust Rangers on the Lizard are turning back the clocks, by putting their faith in the humble scythe.  These simple tools, which were the only way to gather in the harvest of hay and corn just a few generations ago, are making a come back for tasks such as cutting footpaths.

Martin McDowall Ranger for the National Trust explains “We care for over 10 miles of paths on the Lizard, which require anything up to 3 cuts per year. I’m a convert when it comes to scythes.  Modern ones are light and can be adjusted in a myriad of ways, so they can be set up for comfort. It’s so nice not to have the weight of a strimmer to carry around, nor the fuel, and it’s much more pleasant to be able to work without the noise and fumes of a petrol engine, even if it is a little slower. It’s less intrusive for the public too, and doesn’t scare wildlife.”

biffa pond excavator and dumperIn common with many conservation organisations nationally, we've been doing our bit to try to reverse the long-term decline in the number of ponds in the wider countryside.

Thanks to funding through Higher Level Stewardship schemes and the Millennium Million Ponds Project administered by Pond Conservation (now the Freshwater Habitats Trust), we've dug over 15 new ponds and scrapes on National Trust land on The Lizard in the last 4 years.

The past winter, as everyone has experienced, has been the wettest and windiest that anyone working on the land locally can remember. The very high rainfall and weeks of gale force winds have taken their toll, with land slips on some of our coastal reserves, chunks of the WWII anti-tank wall at Kennack snapped off like twigs on a branch and huge chunks of the wall moved 20 feet or more down the eastern beach. We have been unable to use our tractors and flails on several sites for fear of damaging the ground we would have been driving over.