A collaboration of coast and countryside organisations on The Lizard Peninsula

My name is Hannah Gibbons and I work on the Colour in the Margins project as the Farmland Monitoring and Advisory Officer for Devon & Cornwall.

Corn-marigold-Glebionis-segetum-15-c-Cath-ShellswellCorn marigold (Glebionis segetum 15) c CathShellswell

Colour in the Margins is an ambitious new Back from the Brink project. Led by Plantlife in partnership with the RSPB, it will work to secure the future of some of our rarest arable species. The project will target the conservation of 13 key species: ten plants and three ground beetles that rely on the farmed environment. By working to secure the long term future of these species we will create thriving arable habitat for many other species, from farmland birds, mammals and mosses to a host of other plants and insects.


Small flowered catchfly (Silene gallica 13) c Cath Shellswell

Arable plants are the fastest declining suite of plants in the UK.

Many species that were once widespread across the UK’s arable farmland are now restricted to localised patches. With the intensification of farming practices, changes in agricultural land use to more pastoral farming systems and development pressure around urban areas, we have lost important arable habitat and seen the decline of many species which depend on it.

There are several arable plant hotspots within England and Cornwall is one of them. The sandy soils around the coast of the county are often found to support diverse arable plant communities, these are now an uncommon sight nationally and in Europe.

Out of the ten arable plant species that we will be focusing our work upon two have been recorded recently in Cornwall, namely small-flowered catchfly and broad-fruited cornsalad. The Lizard supports several populations of small-flowered catchfly, yet there are no recent records of broad-fruited cornsalad.


Broad fruited cornsalad (Valerianella rimosa 16) c Cath Shellswell

During the next three years we hope to carryout survey work to establish up-to-date knowledge on the distribution of our ten primary species and also to gather information about their requirements, such as soil nutrient levels. We will be working with farmers to see if we can encourage slight tweaks to current management in an attempt to increase the abundance and distribution of these rare arable plants and to encourage the development of more species-rich arable communities. We will also be working with local communities such as school, providing volunteer survey training opportunities and organising species reintroductions. 

I hope to survey as many sites in Cornwall and Devon as I can during the next three summers but there are too many for me alone to visit. As such we are hoping to recruit a team of volunteers to help gather vital information on our key species which will help us focus our advisory efforts. No previous botanical survey experience is necessary as we will be providing all of the information required to carry out a survey, however experienced botanists are most definitely welcome too! We will provide all of the paperwork required and access permission.


Small flowered catchfly (Silene gallica 8) c Cath Shellswell

Our Cornwall volunteer survey training day will be held on Sunday 1st July 2018 at 10am at Cubert Village Hall, near Newquay. We will spend the morning going through the survey methodologies and plant identification tips and then head to West Pentire in the afternoon to practice the skills learned in the morning and get to see some lovely, species-rich arable fields!

For more information on Colour in the Margins see: https://naturebftb.co.uk/the-projects/colour-in-the-margins/ or contact me on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Published: June 2018
Author: Hannah Gibbons