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 2000ha 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;

http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/research/register/ltmn.aspx

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.

Kennack sands exposed clay - Charlotte MarshallA 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

Sunlight Penetrating the Interior of Trelill Holy Well April 2013A 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.


View of Downas valley showing work areaOn 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.