Natural England has recently published a new profile for the Lizard. The Lizard National Character Area profile is one of 159 documents that Natural England are producing which provide evidence based descriptions of the character of the English landscape. The documents build on the work of previous profiles and form part of the governments commitment to delivering the Natural Environment White Paper, Biodiversity 2020 (replacement for Biodiversity Action Plans) and European Landscape Convention.

..... a dynamic ever changing habitat, shaped by wind and tide.
Aerial view of the Helford River

The wild weather we are having now has prompted me to write something about the dynamic nature of an estuary and the effect of the wind. Estuaries can vary widely in character depending upon their aspect and exposure to prevailing winds. The Helford Stretches from East to West, it’s wide open mouth leads out onto Falmouth Bay, exposed to winds from the East and to a lesser extent the West.  ‘When the wind is in the east, 'tis neither good for man nor beast’ is a well-known country saying and certainly no one would want to be out on the Helford when a good Easterly is blowing!

Thirty years ago when the Helford River was designated as a Voluntary Marine Conservation Area a survey was established to provide baseline information and ongoing monitoring of the intertidal in this area. It was designed to be a simple, inexpensive and therefore easily repeatable, a non-destructive baseline monitoring system to be carried out at regular intervals to try to detect any changes in the flora and fauna.

Rocky Shore at Prisk North Helford

Transects were laid out with grid references, compass bearings and features all taken down to make sure there is no doubt from year to year about where they lie.

KayakingAs we move into July the summer season is well and truly upon us, and it is a time of year which is vital for Cornwall's economy. Cornwall is one of the poorest regions in the UK and it heavily relies on tourism to keep businesses open and thriving. An influential draw for visitors to Cornwall is its long and varied coastline which is explored by some of the braver among us through activities such as coasteering, kayaking and climbing. The popularity of these adventure sports, especially in recent years, has led to a large increase in the number of companies providing opportunities for people to travel the coastline in new and exciting ways. This increase has been seen particularly on the Lizard, an area which traditionally provides a tranquil alternative to more populous areas such as Newquay or Bude, and as such could be considered out of place here.


Shetland ponies grazing at Beagles Cliff ©National TrustNNR Lizard Leaflet (2.8 mb)  

The Lizard Peninsula is one of the best places in the country for wildlife, with a wealth of rare plants, invertebrates and habitats that make visiting the area a must for nature lovers.

National Nature Reserves give recognition to the UK’s very best sites for wildlife, and The Lizard NNR, first declared in the 1970s, and managed by Natural England, covers nearly 2400ha of spectacular heath and coastline.  The NNR will shortly be extended by 470ha to include additional wildlife rich areas, in the care of The National Trust and Cornwall Wildlife Trust. The enlarged reserve will stretch from Mullion Cove in the west, across Goonhilly Downs in the centre of the peninsula, to Lowland Point, near Coverack in the east.

Botanists old and newer needed for The Lizard Vegetation Survey

TLizard Florahis June Natural England will be embarking on a week of intensive vegetation monitoring on the Lizard National Nature Reserve. The survey project is part of a nationwide Long Term Monitoring Network which aims to understand the key influences and indicators of long term biodiversity change from the impacts of air pollution, climate change and land management.

The programme is also seeking to consolidate and enhance surveying skills in staff, volunteers and partner organisations. So this June we are seeking 30-40 botanists of mixed abilities (it is probably not the best starting place for absolute beginners) to survey the 50 2m square quadrats around the reserve. The quadrats are ranged across the five internationally important habitats: maritime grassland, maritime heath, short heath, tall heath and mixed heath. Some quadrats are known botanical hotspots and some are random – we hope to capture more trends this way. You can find out more about the LTMN here;

Controlling the UAVIf you have read any of my previous articles you may have noticed a trend toward looking at research done on plants. Unfortunately (or not, if you are a keen botanist) this article is no different. However, do not despair, as it also includes some pretty exciting vehicles and little mention of the flora.

Wild flower meadowIs there anything that is essentially more summertime than lying in a ripe flower-rich meadow? The grassheads have turned golden and hang heavy with seed that wafts in the gently cooling breeze. The air is alive with the thrumming and buzzing of foraging and pollinating insects that flit amongst the kaleidoscope of blooming flowers. Fortunately it is still possible to seek out this experience on The Lizard –but not as readily as you would have been able to in recent history.

Farming has changed beyond all recognition in recent years. The Second World War provided the impetus to take as much land as possible into cultivation, to feed a population cut off from traditional supply routes. 5 spot burnetSix million acres were ploughed to grow cereals, and this started a process, which would see the area of lowland meadows decline by 97% in the following 40 years. Such has been the continuing pressure that even those areas unsuitable for agriculture without a great deal of remedial work have been altered and pressed into service to feed the burgeoning population. In the 1930's Britain's farmers produced enough to feed 16 million people and today enough to feed about 40 million (still only enough to feed 60% of the population). As a result many habitats that were once common have dwindled into sad remnants of their former glory.