Friday, 20 November 2015

Delving into the past at Porkellis

Over the past two years I’ve been working on an archaeological project on Tyack’s engine house at Porkellis Moor, which is part of the historic Penrose Estate in the old mining village of Porkellis. We were aiming to understand more about the mining archaeology in the area and to preserve some of the historic features, which are part of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site. The site consists of the engine house, which is a scheduled monument, the shaft, a smithy, a magazine, a flat rod trench and a balance bob pit.

Clearing the flat rod trench
The first phase of the project was to conduct a survey and produce a report on the archaeological and built heritage at Tyack’s engine house, detailing the historic development and the site’s present day context. Once this was complete, the second phase of the project was to carry out repair works identified by the report.
The smithy before...
...and after ivy removal and re-pointing 
The report uncovered some interesting findings. Tyack’s engine house dates to 1859 and is a rare surviving example in the Wendron Mining District. It was constructed to facilitate the deep shaft mining of the Tymorgie Lodes and represents an important phase in the development of mining and extraction techniques in the area. Not only was it a vital building for the industry in the 19th century, but it now acts as a symbol of this once dominant local industry and testifies to Porkellis’s role at the heart of the tin industry.  

Engine house before...
...and after ivy removal
Building work began on site at the end of the summer. The ivy was cleared off the engine house and the out buildings were repointed with lime mortar. One of the biggest jobs was to cover the shaft with a metal grid, so that it was safe enough to remove the old barbed wire fence.

Now the work is complete we are aiming to keep the buildings free from ivy and to keep the vegetation under control so that these beautiful, historic buildings can be seen.

Porkellis History: The previous owners of Penrose, the Rogers family, bought part of Porkellis Moor in the 1930s in order to close down the mines to stop pollution flowing into the River Cober and eventually into Loe Pool further downstream. The National Trust inherited this along with Penrose when the Rogers kindly donated the estate in 1974.

View of Tyack's engine house from the road approaching from the north
With thanks to Natural England for part funding this project through a Higher Level Stewardship agreement, MRDA Architects and MC Quick building contractors.

Laura, Penrose Ranger.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Making the most of Autumn

Once the expectations of summer have passed, this year we were treated to a few weeks of rare still, warm autumn days...fantastic weather to make the most of getting outdoors and harvesting natures bounty. The Keskowithyans Schools Partnership have been looking at food one of my favourite things with almost all of the schools coming to Poltesco for Forage and Feast Days. I have never seen so many nettles and sea beet willingly consumed in the stews prepared by the children!
Cooking seaweed flavored bread over the fire!

Discovering safe foraging and that green things don't taste so bad after all
Crushing scrumped apples to go into the apple press was a favorite activity
Another school taking advantage of the weather was Constantine Primary School who had a fantastic rockpool on Passage Beach and among other things discovered an eggcase complete with a live and moving small spotted cat shark inside!


Half term and we had our last event for the Windmill Farm Nature Reserve Project. Over thirty people turned up for a pond dip in the the pristine dragonfly ponds on the reserve discovering lots of beasties and some lovely large dragonfly nymphs ready to come out of the pond next year. Also on at Half Term was 'Scream its Halloween!' at Poltesco where families got the chance to make their own spell, have a go at the bat on a zip wire activity, bob wormy apples and toast an eye ball over the fire, there were lots of scary things going on!

Who would have thought wormy apples could taste so good!

Creating potions in bottles using goblin eye juice, death seeds and witches fingers...the consequences of these spells are yet to be seen on the Lizard!
Brave enough to put you hand in the feely boxes? 
Our last event of the year should be a cracker! Cricky its Christmas on the 5th December 1pm - 4pm will get you into the Christmas spirit were we use the natural environment as inspiration to make our Christmas decorations including weaving your own giant bauble! Activities for all ages. Give me a shout at Poltesco (01326) 291174 or email for more details
Hopefully see you there.....

Friday, 30 October 2015

Deep Clean for Carleon and Kynance Coves

The Marine Conservation Society’s (MCS) “Great British Beach Clean” is an annual litter pick across Britain that’s been happening for over 20years. This year, from 18th to 21st September, people from across the country came out to clean their local beaches; but this beach clean is not just about picking litter up, every single item of litter has to be painstakingly recorded!

It really helps give us a picture of how much litter and what kind of litter is getting into the sea. In The MCS’s own words:  “We can talk to water companies when we see lots of Sewage Related Debris being recorded. We can prove to decision makers and leaders that our seas are in trouble by showing them over 20 years of litter data. We can talk to companies whose logos keep showing up on beach litter and we can work with manufacturers to find solutions. But we can't do any of this if we don't have the data to back it up.”

Our haul from Kynance. Time for a quick photo then on to the next beach! (Photo: Michael Hirst)
What we did
Litter pick at Carleon Cove (Photo: Michael Hirst)
Tasked with cleaning up and recording what we could find on Carleon and Kynance Cove, myself and fellow volunteer Michael armed ourselves with gloves, black bags, handy hoops, litter pickers and clip boards, before heading off to each beach at low tide.  

What we found
It’s amazing what you can find on just a short section of beach. At Kynance cove we found several beach towels and bits of clothing, as well as shoes, rubber balls, large pieces of scrap metal, cigarette lighters, bottle tops, bits of plastic and lots of netting. 

To our surprise it took the same amount of time to clean Carleon as it did to do Kynance, even though Carleon is much smaller! Carleon took us a bit longer because we found a lot of tiny pieces of plastic, all of which had to be categorised and recorded. There was also a lot of seaweed on the beach which also meant we had to spend time sifting through it for hidden items. 

This fish hook could have easily been swallowed by a 
sea bird or picked up by a child (Photo: Michael Hirst)
Ghost Gear
Speaking of hidden items - I found a vicious looking fishing hook in a nest of seaweed. Instantly I felt I had made a difference; getting rid of it has saved someone or something from getting hurt. Lots of research is now being done on ghost fishing gear, to learn more or find out how to report 'ghost gear' visit the Ghost Gear Initiative's website

Get Involved
The 2015 “Great British Beach Clean” results are still being counted, but as of 13th October, 1500 bags of rubbish had been collected across 244 beaches and all the data entered online. This invaluable information gives the MCS a better idea of where to focus their campaigns.

Happy Cleaning!

- Katie

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

My year with the Lizard Ranger Team

Self Portrait
I have been volunteering with the National Trust for the past year. I first applied for the role after finishing my degree in Wildlife Photography, as being hugely passionate about nature and conservation, the National Trust seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Brush cutter on the coastpath
Photo Michael Hirst
I have been volunteering with the practical ranger team who care for the Trust’s land on the Lizard. When I first started I had very limited experience and knowledge about conservation work so there was a steep learning curve. I have slowly gained more and more confidence and competence and I have since gained a qualification in use and maintenance of a Brush cutter.

Mullion Harbour last winter
Photo Michael Hirst

During the Monday morning meetings and yearly ranger conferences I get the opportunity to hear about the range of projects that the whole team are involved with. There has been a large scale project to restore the harbour wall at Mullion Cove after the winter storms of 2014 and the BBC came down to film the 'Sounds of our Shore' project.

Chough defending the nest
Photo Michael Hirst
One of the projects I really enjoyed was helping to monitor and protect the rare schedule 1 Choughs. Cornwall is a stronghold for the Chough in the UK and they feature on the county’s coat of arms. From the natural return of just 3 birds to Cornwall over 10 years ago, a small population has grown. My job was to watch and protect a single nest on the Lizard. As I noted down the activities of the two parents I noticed repeated behaviours as they would feed their young. My time with the Choughs came to an end  when the 5 chicks were rung (identification rings placed on their legs) in the nest shortly before they fledged. The Chough doesn't migrate so when I am out walking year round I often see the Choughs flying overhead, which is always a welcome sight.

Tiger Moth at Poltesco
Photo Michael Hirst
Bunny at Lizard Point
Photo Michael Hirst

With the National Trust I have learnt more about the natural world through first hand experience working within the woodland at Tremayne Quay and swailing (controlled burning) the cliffs at Predannack. I have also participated in surveys to monitor the moths in our garden, the crustaceans in our rock pools and the litter on our beaches. Whilst working at the watch point at Lizard Point I have had some of the most rewarding wildlife encounters including seeing two Bottlenose Dolphins, a Barrel Jellyfish and watching a kit first emerge out of a Rabbit warren.

I hope you enjoy seeing these photos, captured in my year with the Trust on the Lizard.


Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Nationally important bat roost discovered at Penrose

The Greater Horseshoe bat has established a nursery roost in a disused barn at Penrose this summer. This endangered bat only numbers approximately 5000 individuals in the UK and is restricted to the mild climates of south west England and south Wales. This new site is only the 5th and most southerly recorded nursery roost for this species in Cornwall and is of national conservation importance.
Greater Horseshoe ©National Trust Images/Bat Conservation Trust/Hugh Clark
The discovery was made by Cornwall Environmental Consultants (CEC) Ltd, the trading arm of Cornwall Wildlife Trust. CEC were asked by us to survey the bat populations in buildings around the Stables at Penrose. The buildings have been monitored for Lesser Horseshoe bats for many years, but we needed to gain a full picture of how bats were actually using the buildings. The outcome of these surveys would then determine how to renovate the buildings.

CEC’s Senior Bat Ecologist, Steve Marshall, found at least 6 species of bats present and more Lesser Horseshoe bats using more buildings across Penrose Estate than had previously been counted, but the most momentous find is the new Greater Horseshoe nursery roost, an unexpected but exciting result of the survey.

“Penrose is a very exciting find. It is fantastic to see such a significant bat species thriving and that the National Trust takes their responsibility to protect them so sincerely….I think they were just as thrilled as I was when we discovered them!” (Steve Marshall CEC)

We are already putting measures in place to safeguard the roost from disturbance and working with CEC to see how it can be improved for the future. We knew that Greater Horseshoes were using our buildings and old mine workings for hibernation in the winter, but it’s great to know they’re choosing Penrose to raise their young. We think the bats were attracted to roost here due to the complex of unused old buildings and the variety of mature woodland, open parkland and Loe Pool; all of which provide a source of insects which the bats feast upon. The Trust manages the land around Loe Pool to try and maximise the wildlife benefit. The building they have been found in will undergo improvements for bats during the winter to encourage them back next summer.

The parkland immediately adjacent to the newly discovered bat roost is managed through a Higher Level Stewardship scheme by the Trust’s tenant farmer, the Wallis family. Natural England administer the scheme, which encourages farmers and land owners to manage land in a more environmentally sensitive way.
Jeremy Clitherow, Lead Adviser for Natural England in Cornwall, said: ‘We are very pleased to have an Environmental Stewardship agreement with the Wallis family that aims to help them manage Penrose Farm for its very important wildlife and historic features. This includes a plan to restore the landscape of the ancient Penrose parkland. On top of that Martin Wallis provides a valuable facility for visiting school children by showing them around the farm and educating them about how he balances food production with managing a high quality environment.’
The Parkland

Bat fact-file:
·         Of the 18 species of bat found in the UK, 10 can be found at Penrose.
·         Greater Horseshoes are the UK’s largest bat, around the size of a small pear.
·         Bats are an important part of our environment and sign of a healthy and biodiverse landscape.
·         In the 20th century UK bat populations have declined by an estimated 70% and Greater Horseshoes have declined by 90%.

·         They are under threat from unsympathetic building developments, loss of habitat and changing farming practices

Laura, Area Ranger Penrose

Friday, 11 September 2015

Ponds, pirates and pooters: the past few months with the Wild Lizard Project

The past six months has seen pirates, elves and giant sea monsters at Poltesco with Mullion School, a small army of school children all investigating the amazing ponds at Windmill Farm and more seashore shenanigans that you can shake a piece of seaweed at!

Gathering seaweed on a blustery Poldhu beach to create a mermaid 
The Wild Lizard Project is now in its third year and is a joint funded project hosted by the National Trust in partnership with Natural England, the Helford Voluntary Marine Conservation Area Group and Cornwall Wildlife Trust. The project’s aim is to provide opportunities for children and their families to become more involved in their natural environment.
 From January until July this year the project has hosted over 1028 school children’s visits, worked with twelve schools from on the Lizard and beyond and has delivered and supported the delivery of 50 school visits in seven months ...phew! 

Pre-summer we had also run eight public events engaging with 84 children and 66 adults both locals and visitors, took part in three larger joint events with the tenants at Tregullas farm for Open Farm Sunday, Helford VMCA Cruise and Penrose Team for the Big Beach Picnic. We also had the opportunity to run the Forest Schools Association South West bi-annual meeting at Tremayne Woods.

At Open Farm Sunday at Tregullas Farm
The Forest School Gathering saw Forest School leaders from all over the South West for a weekend meeting and skills share at Tremayne Quay 

This year has seen the involvement of the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, where the project organised and ran a series of events, talks, scrub bashes and study days as part of their Lizard Horizons - The Landewednack Windmill Conservation and Environmental Education Project.
Six classes came out to investigate the pristine ponds at Windmill Farm as part of the Cornwall Wildlife Trusts project
A series of study days was also organised at Windmill Farm run by local ecology experts
Tom in action at Windmill Farm!

We have been busy which is fantastic as it shows the project is very much valued locally by schools and their families as a provider of exciting experiences in the outdoors. None of which could be done without our amazing volunteers! As well as having Tom, our full time Volunteer Education Ranger on board we have had two work experience students and lots of time given by the National Trust volunteers. Over the past seven months (Jan-July) the project has received 878 volunteer hours and still counting!

Looking forward to the coming months, lots of schools are booking in making the most of the autumn weather and we have our October half term events. If you would like more information about the project or the visits and events we offer please go to the Linking the Lizard website ( or drop me a line

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

In search of The Lizard's lost shipwrecked souls

Pistil Cove, where the shipwreck victims possibly washed ashore. Photo M Hirst
 Recent survey work has brought archaeologists closer to solving a 300 year old shipwreck mystery at Lizard Point.

In November 1721, 207 unfortunate sailors lost their lives in a ferocious storm when their military transport galley the Royal Anne hit rocks and sank off Lizard Point. Just three people survived that fateful night by clinging to wreckage. Among the dead was Lord Belhaven the newly appointed Governor of Barbados, who was leaving Britain’s shores to take up the posting in mysterious circumstances after the untimely death of his wife.

The Charles, a similar galley to the Royal Anne
The Royal Anne was designed by the Marquis of Carmarthen, and had been launched in 1709 as a small and speedy warship, designed to be equally at home under oar and sail so as not to be outmanoeuvred by pirates.  She had fulfilled a variety of military postings, including protecting Russian trade off Norway, combating the Rovers of Sallee, notorious Moroccan based pirates, and she was sent to cruise Scottish waters during the Jacobite rebellion.

The wreck of the Royal Anne was found close inshore near Lizard Point by divers in the 1970s, who first located two guns, but the wreck’s identity was only clinched in the 1990s by the discovery of some silver cutlery with the Belhaven family crest. The wreck site was protected in 1993 although the savage rocks and huge Atlantic swells mean that only a scatter of objects survive. Other finds have included coins, watch parts, copper bowls and cannon shot.

It is believed that the dead in 1721 were buried, as was customary at the time, in un-consecrated ground.  The peaceful valley at Pistil just west of Lizard Point and 500m from the wreck site, has always been linked with this dreadful event, being one of the few places where the shore can be accessed.

The view seaward to Pistil Cove. Photo M Hirst
Local lore has it that the Lizard folk who went to bury the bodies could not complete this mammoth grizzly task within the day, but that when they returned next dawn, a pack of dogs had got their first and were tucking into a gruesome breakfast! Even to this day it is said that dogs cower when passing through the meadow, perhaps in shame at the actions of their ancestors. The story of Pistil Meadow fired the imaginations of later generations, with the likes of Daphne du Maurier and Wilkie Collins taking an interest in the tale.
Archaeologists at work

Eager to investigate the truth behind these tales, the National Trust has teamed up with archaeologists from Bournemouth University, Maritime Archaeological Sea Trust (MAST) and The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Maritime Archaeology Society (CISMAS) to survey Pistil meadow.

Recent geophys surveys using electromagnetic techniques, ground penetrating radar and earth resistivity have located a number of anomalies that could indicate mass graves. However, these do not seem to tally with writings in the 1850s that stated low irregular mounds chequered the surface of the field. The National Trust is working with MAST and Bournemouth University to explore the options for further stages of investigation.

Jim Parry National Trust archaeologist said ‘Research so far has revealed a fascinating story about the Royal Anne and her crew, but it would be fantastic to be able to finally answer the question as to where her shipwreck victims were laid to rest - if Pistil is indeed the spot. It is an extremely rare occurrence to find such a site.’

The Trust is working in partnership on plans for a limited excavation Summer 2016, and the information gleaned will help inform management of the site, and may allow it to be afforded legal protection as a grave in future.

Join National Trust Archaeologist Jim Parry and other experts for a guided walk to Pistil for more on the fascinating history of the Royal Anne on Saturday September 12th. Meet 11am at National Trust Lizard carpark (opposite Lighthouse entrance). £2.50 per person, plus additional parking charges for non-members. Dogs on leads welcome. Booking not necessary.  Please call 01326 291174 for further information.


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