Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Tom's round up on being a Wildlife Ranger on the Lizard

Just another day in the office
Originally coming from the Black Country, being based on the Cornish coastline is a little bit different from what I’m used to. I’d been volunteering for a while back home to try and get a career in conservation but was struggling to find a full time position due to lack of experience. Luckily I came across the opportunity to be a residential volunteer on the Lizard to finally put my skills to the test and get some practice in the field. Of course I wasn’t until after I applied that I released just how far away the Lizard actually is, but getting to work at such an awesome and otherworldly location has been one well worth the 'butt-numbing' car journey.



Sunrise at Housel Bay during a dawn watch
As a wildlife ranger I’ve got to spend half my time monitoring 'George' and 'Nora', the local pair of

Two of this year’s chicks getting their coloured rings so they can be tracked in the future
Cornish Choughs. At first I was a bit sceptical about how I would find nest watching duty, surely it must get a bit boring after a while? But one of the brilliant things about the choughs is their unpredictability. They’d have a habit of flying out from one direction, only to sneakily return when you weren’t looking from the other side. Then at other times you have them fly so close overhead you could almost touch them as they soared past with a “cheeaow!” It was a bit challenging at first to try and keep up with them and tell them apart from their
Jackdaw and Crow neighbours, but after a while I was soon picking out their calls and getting used to their favourite spots. It was great sharing their antics with the other nest watch volunteers and visitors. There's other great stuff to watch too, I’ll never forget seeing my very first basking shark. It was a dawn watch when I saw these two fins get closer and closer until finally I could see its massive silhouette under the water’s surface. Naturally some shifts weren’t quite as glorious as this and instead I’d have to battle a fierce easterly winds and monsoon-like rain. But getting to tag along with the BTO bird ringer and see this year’s brood of five chicks (Yoko, Willow, Whoopi, Yeats, and Bill) made it completely worthwhile!



Through the scope at the watchpoint – you could have picked a bigger rock mate!
I’ve spent the other half of my time down at the wildlife watchpoint at Lizard Point. 'The Point' always
seems to attract something different whether it’s a grey seal trying to haul out on a rock that its way too big for, having gannets dive just metres away for fish, or dolphins leaping across the horizon; you’re constantly seeing something new.  I was pretty daunted by the challenge of ID-ing all the marine species and seabirds I’d never seen before in the Midlands (do Herring Gulls count?). But after a few shifts with the other volunteers I was soon learning how to spot the regular species and where to look for them. With the help of the Cornwall Seal Group I‘m now able to recognise some of the seals by their fur patterns. It’s really rewarding getting to put your skills into practice and help visitors spot species they haven’t seen before, as well as trading tips and anecdotes of the wildlife around the Lizard. 



Lankidden Cove is well worth the scramble down
Working on the Lizard has been a truly unforgettable experience that’s given me so many new skills for the future. It's been privilege to work alongside such a friendly and dedicated team of rangers and volunteers who soon made the Lizard feel like home. Though I'm gutted the season is drawing to an end, I’m psyched to see what the future will bring and I know I’ll be back to visit in no time! 
A garden visitor to the volunteer house at Poltesco


To learn more about what's it like being a Volunteer Wildlife Ranger  on the Lizard,watch this video:




Friday, 21 August 2015

Community Volunteering Ranger - What exactly do you do?!

Since I moved from the admin support role to the new role of Community and Volunteering Ranger lots of people have asked the same question ‘What exactly do you do?' Like any National Trust job it’s probably easier to talk about what you don’t do rather what you do do, because there is so much variety in our jobs, which is what makes it so fun. To give you an idea of what I do do, here is a snapshot from my first 6 months.

Wildlife Watchpoint
I started in March when we were busy making preparations for the new wildlife watchpoint. The old serpentine store at the Point became available and we decided to renovate it and open it as a wildlife information centre to support the outdoor watchpoint at Lizard Point. The watchpoint is run entirely by volunteers, with a little help from me, and is open daily from April to mid September. So far this year the team has talked to well over 12,000 visitors about seals, choughs and other local wildlife. Here’s a before and after shot:


Pics 1&2 - Wildlife Watchpoint - before and after renovations              Pic 3 - Crowd seal watching at the outdoor watchpoint

Chough Nest Watch
March came with a very unexpected surprise that broke the ‘chough rulebook’*. The new Lizard pair who nested for the first time at Lizard Point in 2014, decided to move round the corner, whether the view was better or the neighbours friendlier who knows, but we had to think quickly to get our nest watch plans in place for a new site. The new nest was no longer visible from the watchpoint which meant we were going to need twice as many volunteers to cover the round the clock nest watch from March until June. Despite the initial difficulties for us, the choughs had a bumper brood with 5 healthy chicks fledging in early June. Thanks to sightings sent into the RSPB (cornishchoughs@rspb.org.uk) we know, and are delighted to report, that all 5 chicks are all still alive.  

(* Normally choughs are faithful to their nest site for life).  Here’s a video of the chicks on their first flights:




Local poop poster

Friends of Poldhu
I also work with the Friends of Poldhu who carry out regular beach cleans at Poldhu and Church Cove. Some of the Friends are about to embark on a mission to reduce the amount of dog waste left along the coastpath in the area. Watch this space for the new friendly Dog Rangers! If you are interested in getting involved please get in touch: catherine.lee@nationaltrust.org.uk





Mullion Harbour Day 2015 - for more pics click here
Mullion Harbour Day

Rosie, from the visitor services team, and I organised Mullion Harbour Day this year, It was the first time we’d ever done but with help from the Ranger Team we had great day and a very successful event. Already we are looking forward to next year.




Elle (Countryfile), Joe and Wireless Station volunteer John Davies 
Lizard Wireless Station

As well as coordinating all the volunteers for nest watch and the watchpoint, part of my new job is to work with the volunteers at Lizard Wireless Station. This fascinating museum celebrates Marconi’s ground breaking experiments in radio. It is here that he proved that wireless technology could be used to communicate over the horizon, he also went on to prove it could be used to communicate with the Americas from his station at Poldhu. Marconi has shaped communication as we know it today and a visit to the Lizard Wireless Station will send you back in time and give you a real sense of The Lizard’s history. The building is over 110 years old and is set up with replica equipment so that it looks just as it would have in Marconi’s day. Volunteers host museum tours for visitors from 12-3pm (on Tuesdays, Wednesday, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays) from March until October. 


Sound of our Shores
Elle from Countryfile talking to Joe at Kynance - photo Steve Haywood
If you regularly read our blog or social media pages (facebook and twitter) then you will already have heard about the ‘Sounds of our Shores’ Project. It’s a partnership project between National Trust, British Sounds Library and National Trust for Scotland. Their aim is to encourage people from around the UK to go out and record coastal sounds and upload them to the first ever coastal  sound map this summer. You can read more about it here.

Because of the obvious links with sound, Marconi’s Lizard Wireless Station (LWS) has been in the limelight regularly this summer, so far we’ve had Countryfile and Radio 3 come for a visit to talk about Marconi and the ‘Sounds of our Shores’ Project.  This coming week we have a Sound Artist and Musician called Joe Acheson (from the Hidden Orchestra) coming to LWS. Joe will be staying with us for a few days recording various coastal sounds as well as sounds from the museum in preparation for creating a piece of music to celebrate Marconi’s work on the Lizard. You can find out more about Joe’s other work here.

Petroc Trelawny (BBC Radio 3) visiting Lizard Wireless Station


Unfortunately the Lizard episode of Countryfile  is no longer available on iPlayer, but you can listen to the BBC Radio 3 broadcast herefeaturing the Lizard Wireless station, sounds of our shores and the Cadgwith singers.



And the rest...
So those are the exciting bits that everyone wants to hear about, but to keep things running smoothly in the background I’m in the office most days. If I’m not doing emails then I’m often in meetings to discuss events and opportunities on the Lizard. One of the things that has taken up quite a large chunk of time this year is the launch of our new online volunteering system, which I must say is brilliant, it means a lot less paperwork for me and makes all of our processes much quicker. It has taken time and a touch of effort for the staff and volunteers to get used to the new system, but overall we’ve had a hugely positive response. I can certainly say that it makes keeping in touch with and looking after our 90 plus volunteers, here on the Lizard, a lot easier. It also gives our volunteers more flexibility in booking shifts, claiming expenses as well as easier access to information. WIN WIN WIN!

If you are interested in volunteering with us, please do get in touch: catherine.lee@nationaltrust.org.uk

- Cat

Friday, 14 August 2015

25 Year of Environmental Education at Poltesco

Poltesco:  25 years of environmental education with the National Trust.


A couple of weeks ago I had a chance encounter with a young lady who enthusiastically reminded me of the ‘Wild Wednesday’ workshops she attended as a young girl at Poltesco almost 15 years ago.  These children’s workshops, started in 2001 during the summer holidays, were a means of engaging children in nature and art around the Poltesco valley.  Today she works at St Michaels Mount undertaking similar work, engaging with young people through story-telling and events.  Perhaps her attendance at the Wild Wednesdays sparked a future interest and career in environmental education?


Wild Wednesday: 2006?
Wild Wednesday 2003

Christmas Workshop 2006
This chance meeting got me thinking about the variety of children's activities delivered at Poltesco over the years for generations of young people.....











In 1992 the National Trust hosted the first Earth Walk Festival at Poltesco.  This legendary event involved more than 100 children learning everything from circus skills, drumming and wood carving. The primal and hypnotic drumming of ‘Thelemic Pulse’ resounding up the valley remains etched into the memories of those lucky to have attended whilst a more physical reminder of this seminal event is the small wooden totem pole in the picnic area. This was created, with the help of local wood carver Peter Boex, by the children of the Earth walk

1992 Earth Walk Festival; anyone you recognise?

For a number of years, the Trust hosted the annual ‘Poltesco Memories’ visits.  For a whole week, we hosted each primary school on the Lizard, over 300 children each week, to learn about the local history of milling, serpentine working, fishing and farming in the valley through role play, story-telling and dressing up. 
Over the years, pretty much every Lizard child has had the opportunity to visit Poltesco on numerous school visits, Christmas and Halloween workshops, bushcraft clubs, forest schools, camping trips and of course the truly magical Grade Ruan School plays.

Grade Ruan School Play 2010?


The tradition continues today.  Claire Scott, the Wild Lizard Education Ranger, is employed through the Linking the Lizard Partnership to deliver education and events, not just at Poltesco, but across the whole Lizard including Kennack Sands, Windmill Farm, Bochym, Predannack and the Helford River.
If anyone has any photos or memories from these past events, please share them with us.  It would be great to hear from you.




Justin

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Discovering the past at Gunwalloe

The excavation taking place behind Dollar cove
This week an excavation organised by the National Trust and funded by the Trust’s 2015 Coastal Festival is enabling archaeologists to dig deeper into Gunwalloe’s fascinating history. The site has captured the imagination of local residents and archaeologists for over 60 years as features have eroded out of the cliff face and dropped to the beach below. Over a week long dig, excavations will be carried out by local volunteers under the direction of Dr Imogen Wood. Gunwalloe is an important site as is holds a fascinating mix of history in a relatively small area; From the Bronze Age and Iron Age remains of a Promontory Fort, to the 6th century establishment of a Christian hermitage and a powerful Dark Age Settlement and Royal Manor, followed by the creation of St Winwalloe’s Church in the 14th Century. Due to the fast rate of erosion the artefacts and the stories they tell us are at risk of being lost to the sea forever.

We are currently on day 5 of the dig and so far the remains of a potential medieval house have been uncovered. We have also found a huge midden- a medieval rubbish heap- containing pieces of animal bones, fragments of clay pot and lots of shells such as limpets. This gives an insight into the diet of the people at this time.
Probable wall of a medieval house

Sifting soil for artefacts
If you’d like to found out more you can visit Gunwalloe and watch as the excavation happens this week. This Saturday the 8th of August we are holding an open day where you can talk to experts, see the artefacts from previous excavations, make a clay pot and discover prehistoric cooking. Just drop in between 11am and 5pm. 

Thanks to everyone involved in enabling this project to rake place; local volunteers, the Cornwall Archaeological Society and Meneage Archaeological Group, Imogen Wood, John and Jenny Curtis of Winnianton Farm and National Trust members whose support has financed this project. 
Local volunteers having a break from working on the dig

Friday, 10 July 2015

Pirates and seashore treasures: a Wild Lizard Project week of work experience

I’m Elsa Amiss, I live in the Lizard and I have just finished my first year in 6th form at Helston College. This week I have been experiencing life as a Wild Lizard Education Ranger with Claire Scott.  Amazing things happen at Poltesco and around the Lizard, with innovative and exciting outdoor learning days for local schools. This week, classes from Mullion Primary School came out to Poltesco as part of their seashore treasure and pirate project. I helped to prepare and deliver activities that included collecting natural treasures, making and floating paper boats and creating monstrous sea creatures all in the fantastic setting of Carleon Cove. The weather was perfect and the children delightful especially as most seemed to be convinced I have magic ice powers, the film Frozen has a lot to answer for!

Launching pirate ships down the river, the mud didn't quite make it over my wellies!
Claire Scott the Wild Lizard Ranger weaving a tale of plundering pirates and deep sea monsters.
 Thursday must have been the best view for anyone on work experience as I spent the day at the National Trust's Lizard Watch Point spotting seals and chatting about the area to visitors. The seals are lovely to observe and having the watch point there means that visitors can ask questions to find out more about the fascinating wildlife in our area.
Having an insight to the day to day running of the Wild Lizard Project has been a fantastic opportunity with plenty of entertaining moments, knee deep in mud launching ships, building a sea grotto and creating sea monsters. I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of the Wild Lizard Project and playing a role in growing children’s confidence with being outdoors and discovering just how amazing the Lizard is.
Children from Mullion Primary School taking the paper pirate boat challenge

There are lots of opportunities over summer to join in with the project and with brilliant from woodland craft days and seashore safaris throughout August there is lots going on. Check out the Facebook page for the lastest information about events: www.facebook.com/LizardNT.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Playing Our Part – the Lizard & Penrose’s place in the Trust’s strategy to 2025

Lizard Coastline
Earlier this year, the National Trust launched an ambitious plan to nurse the natural environment back to health and reverse the alarming decline in wildlife – warning that time was running out to save the countryside from further harm.

Climate change now poses the single biggest threat to the places the Trust looks after, bringing new, damaging threats to a natural environment already under-pressure decades of unsustainable land management, which has undermined the long-term health of the land.

The Trust said it would challenge itself to develop new, innovative ways of managing land on a large scale, which were good for farmers, good for the economy and good for the environment. It also pledged to work with partners to help look after some of the country’s most important landscapes, reconnecting habitats and bringing back their natural beauty.

This is a really exciting time to work for the Trust and having worked here for over 20 years, with the strength of the conservation charity really behind what we want to do for the land, for wildlife and for people. This is a long term strategy with four key areas in which we want to work:


Looking after our places
Mullion Harbour Day

  • It’s really important we look after what we already own to the best of our abilities. We want to make sure that all our land and buildings are in the best possible condition and that the type of farming or land use that is taking place on it is the most appropriate kind. 
  • We need to play our part in mitigating climate change and cutting our energy usage is really important but we’ll also look to increase the amount of energy we generate through renewable sources, such as solar panels on the roofs of modern farm buildings or wood fuel systems to heat houses


Loe Pool
Healthy, beautiful natural environment
  • Our tenant farmers are critical to delivering our conservation objectives and through them we want to improve all our land to a good condition and allow people to enjoy and experience the nature and beauty that their work creates. 
  • We will continue to work with other organisations, such as Natural England and the Wildlife Trust to make our places and the habitats that they form, part of something that is bigger, better and more joined up. We’ve started on this already in our partnership working with Linking the Lizard www.the-lizard.org and the Loe Pool forum www.loepool.org and this will grow in the coming years.

Experiences of our places that move, teach and inspire people


Mullion Harbour Da
  • We've vibrant communities in Helston, Porthleven and on the Lizard and many visitors who love coming to Cornwall on holiday and by offering everyone a great experience wherever they go, from Penrose’s walled garden to the Wildlife Watchpoint at the Lizard, or simply by providing great access to amazing places we can help them really connect with nature and beauty and inspire them to support our cause.

Helping to look after the places people live


Local Foraging Walk
For many of our communities the cliffs, beaches and Coast Path is their local green space and the place they visit to relax and unwind, or take exercise. Penrose offers this in abundance for the people of Porthleven and Helston with many miles of new footpaths and improved routes.

The strategy calls on the National Trust to respond to the threats posed by climate change and unsustainable land management and play its part in new ways: achieving a step change in how we look after our own countryside, and reaching out to partners and communities beyond our boundaries to meet the challenges we face at this moment in our history.
Here at the Lizard and Penrose we have a strong base to build on, a knowledgeable and committed team who have been working in partnership with others for many years, a growing body of volunteers who support us in what we do, tenant farmers who understand soils, water and wildlife and some of the most beautiful and nature rich places in the country which can’t help but inspire people!

- Al Cameron (General Manager)


Monday, 22 June 2015

Help record the 'Sounds of our Shores' this summer





I’m really very excited about the new 'Sounds of our Shores' project that launches today. Find out what we are up to and how you can get involved by clicking on this audio clip or by reading the blog below:



Children recording coastal sounds at Birling Gap, East Sussex
As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations for the Neptune Coastline Campaign National Trust are working with National Trust for Scotland and the British Sound Library to create the first ever coastal sound map; an archive of new and old coastal sounds from across the UK. We can’t do this alone, we need your help. 


Over the next three months we are asking you go out to your local coast or a new stretch of coast and to discover and record the sounds that you hear there. You can then upload them to the 'Sounds of our Shores' audio boom channel.

You don’t need any fancy equipment to do this, by all means if you have sound recording equipment do use it, but equally if you've got a smart phone or a camera that records video and sound you can use those too. There are some great tips on our website on how to get the best out of your recordings and on how to upload them to the sound map via the 
 'Sounds of our Shores' audio boom channel.


We want to know what sounds are important to you and why they are so special.

You might not consider some of your everyday sounds to be special, but in 10 or 20 years some of those sounds may change or disappear. Let me give you an example: When I first visited the Lizard, over 10 years ago, the foghorn was a fantastic deep low rumbling sound, a sound that you could feel through the base of your feet and it travelled right up through your body. (Old Foghorn recorded by Edwin Carter): 



Today the frequency of the foghorn is almost twice as high, apparently the higher pitch travels better and further making it easier for passing ships to hear it.

listen to ‘Current Lizard Lighthouse foghorn’ on audioBoom. The new fog horn certainly goes through you, but it's not the same as the old foghorn. Had the old foghorn not been recorded that sound would have been lost and I would miss it. Wouldn’t you?


Not only is the ‘Sounds of our Shores’ a chance to make a collection of important sounds, it is an opportunity to recognise and appreciate what sounds are important to us and why they are so special. 


Listening back will make you smile
Similar to a memorable song, sound has a wonderful way of bringing us back to a moment in time, a place or emotional space. Sound touches us in a way that we can’t feel unless we really listen. Sound is so important in our lives, yet we take little time to appreciate it, which is I’m so excited about this project: not only do I get a chance to share the sounds that I hear and think are special but I also get to hear what sounds you hear, and what sounds you think are special.


Sometimes it's difficult to listen, quite often when I first sit down I’m confronted with all the thoughts of what I've got to do tomorrow or the next day. Once these thoughts drift away, suddenly I start to hear things I couldn't hear before. I notice the bird singing in the background and the man walking along the beach with his dog. I become more aware of what is going on around me and I feel better connected to the place I’m sitting in.

Using a smart phone to record at Wembury, Devon.

As well as contributing to a significant sound mapping project and sound archive, the‘Sounds of our Shores’ is also a perfect way of getting out and about to new places along the coast or exploring your local patch in a new way. There’s fun for all the family with this project, everyone can do it, so go on get out there, I want to hear what you hear!





What could you record

We are asking for sounds to be recorded along the UK coast, this can include waves crashing or rippling, footsteps in the sand, people laughing and playing on the beach, seagulls, choughs and other coastal birds, shanty singers, boat engines, winches, surfers, the sound of a busy café absolutely anything that you can hear on the coast. Here are a few of my favourite coastal sounds:


Choughs - no longer a common sound in Cornwall, but making a come back - the sound of a chough never fails to impress.



Ravens - I love the vocal sounds that adult ravens make they range of sounds they make are some of my true favourites. The sound of young ravens is not at all pleasant in terms of tone, but emotionally I absolutely love the sound. It reminds me of summer and of success as these new birds meet the world on the wing for the first time.




Warblers - coming to us from Africa in the spring the male sedge warbler sings his heart day and night until he finds a mate. Another favourite Lizard sound for me.



Fishing boat engine - on a calm sea at dawn I can't think of any better sound than the sound of a fishing boat engine chugging away. No doubt commercial fishing is a very tough job, but it paints a very romantic scene from the shore.



- Cat

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