The Lizard, seen from above.
If 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.
The Magnificence of Meadows
Is 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. Six 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.
The rocky shores of Kennack Sands
A recent search for a suitable site to go rockpooling on The Lizard peninsula led two Natural England marine staff to Kennack Sands on a sunny blustery day in mid April. One of the first things we noticed was the expanse of exposed clay on the beach, following the offshore movement of much of the sand from the beach during the winter storms; an unusual sight indeed.
Photo: Clay at Kennack Sands
Trelill Holy Well
A team of experts with a variety of expertise largely disconnected from the restoration of holy wells and mostly, though not exclusively, members of the Meneage Archaeological Group (MAG) assembled on occasions during the last three years in a boggy corner of a field at Trelill Farm. It seems an odd place to house a spring, welling up less than five yards from a flowing stream which suggests the building was an emphasis added to an established tradition of reverence for that spot.
Up and away at Downas valley
On more than one occasion it has been asked whether the collaborative spirit of the 'Linking the Lizard' website ever extends from the digital world into the real world beyond. On the whole, whilst items of kit may be borrowed and joint meetings attended, when it comes down to the day to day practicalities of land management the answer has to be – not often. All the various bodies involved in the partnership have a variety of differing objectives, priorities and available resources, as well as many thousands of hectares of land to manage, and to be honest the chains will only stretch so far. However, one successful innovation that has developed over the past three years has seen staff and volunteers from The Lizard NNR, the National Trust, Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Plantlife come together with private land owners to turn the tide in favour of some of the Lizard's rarest plant species.
Wildlife friendly farming makes a buzz at Tregullas Farm
Colourful mustard and phacelia within the wild bird seed mix plot
If you've taken a walk around Lizard Point recently, you may have spied a blaze of blue and yellow adorning one of the arable fields near Housel Bay. This is a one hectare plot of wild bird seed mix, which has been planted as part of a Higher Level Stewardship Scheme covering Tregullas, a National Trust farm. The plot is designed to be a living bird table, growing a mix of plants with small seeds that farmland birds love to eat. The plot will be in place for two years, before being sown again somewhere else on the farm, thereby keeping a constant supply of seed available to wild birds.
Windmill Farm National Nature Reserve
Windmill Farm National Nature Reserve is a 200 acre site that is jointly owned by Cornwall Wildlife Trust (CWT) and Cornwall Birdwatching and Preservation Society (CBWPS). The reserve is of interest to naturalists but also has a rich archaeological heritage ranging from Bronze Age Remains, Mediaeval field boundaries, 18th Century tenements and crofts, WW2 pillboxes and the famous Lizard landmark - the Windmill itself. The reserve is managed and run by the CWT, CBWPS and a small group of local volunteers.
The Windmill circa 1938
Sadly, a few years ago, one of the Farm's most enthusiastic and supportive contributors passed away. He loved Windmill Farm. In his memory his wife, Cait, mounted a campaign to restore the Windmill in memory of her beloved husband. Years of fund raising followed and Cait's dream came true this summer. The Windmill was officially opened on the 29th September 2015. The Windmill now has an elevated roof, sympathetic to the original, and an internal spiral staircase leading to a viewing platform. The view from the Windmill is absolutely awesome! Well done Cait and all that supported her.
Windmill Farm Report Spring and Early Summer
Spring arrivals and passage, of Warblers, was good in April with decent numbers of Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler arriving to breed on the Farm. Grasshopper Warbler numbers appear down; I have only heard reeling in 3 locations this year - the farm normally holds at least 6 pairs. A notable omission this year is Lesser Whitethroat - there has been at least one on the reserve every year for the last 5. It is also good to see Stonechat breeding on the reserve - first fledglings reported on 22 May.