Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Farmers for the Future

It’s not often that farms change hands but on the Lizard this year we've handed the keys to the farm gate over to two new farmers who are set to farm for the future on National Trust farms on the Lizard.

Tregullas - mainland Britain’s most southerly farm

At Tregullas, which falls between the Lizard village and the coast, the Amiss family (Nevil, Rona and their five children) arrived at the farmhouse in September having moved from a Council farm in Devon.

When the farm became available again, the Trust met with the local community and over the period of a year, asked them what they wanted to see happen to the land on their doorstep. A number of things came back; that wildlife, views and access were important; that people wanted to be able to buy local food and that a working farm was what was needed for the village. We really feel that Nevil and Rona have all the things needed to make the wishes of the community become a reality.
The Amiss family and sheep
They've come to Tregullas with sheep, Gloucester cattle, goats, ducks and chickens and a lot of good ideas. Already the farm feels more alive than it has over the last two years whilst we have been searching for a new tenant with ducks paddling out into the fields, goats and sheep bleating and cattle grazing the cliffs and fields around the lighthouse, making things right for the rare plants and chough that depend on these habitats.

In addition they've set up a crowdfunding appeal to raise money to kick start a vegetable growing business at Tregullas and need your support. Visit http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/tregullas-farm to get involved - they are 80% of the way to succeeding as we write this article…..

Predannack and Teneriffe farms – farming for wildlife

On the west coast of the Lizard the Trust’s land is really important for wildlife, from the rocky outcrops supporting the Lizard’s rarest plants, to the heathlands of Predannack airfield and the maritime grasslands and cliffs of the coast.

The Trust has been managing this land for wildlife for the past 30 years but a lot of that has been done through short term agreements with neighbouring farms or by using our own animals. It wasn't until we were able to take on additional land at Teneriffe farm that we could make a viable business with adequate buildings to support a farmer and his family to manage this land for wildlife in the future.

Will Watson
We’re pleased to have given this tenancy to Will Watson, a local farmer who has been looking after some of ours and Natural England’s land in recent years and whose herd of North Devon and Dexter cattle are hardy and sure-footed grazers who will cope well with the weather and the terrain on the wild west coast.

Will and his partner, Nicola, have a real passion for the landscape and the wildlife of this area and this came across strongly in their application to us. They will be moving into the farmhouse later in 2014. As they settle into their business they will sell their excellent beef through the National Trust campsite at Teneriffe as well as to the local community.


Wednesday, 18 December 2013

DIY Christmas at Penrose

Local people from in and around Helston came to the Stables on Sunday to make wreaths and willow stars and other Christmas decorations.
All the greenery was from Penrose, found in various places around Loe Pool, thanks to the Duke of Edinburgh group for cutting it for us!
The cafe was also open too serving Christmas cake and The National Trust also provided mince pies and mulled apple juice, so there was a lovely Christmassy atmosphere.
This is an annual event for all ages and really is good fun so look out on the blog listings for the same thing in 2014! MERRY CHRISTMAS! Rosie

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Caring for the coast path

Lizard Head in the Spring

The south west coast path traverses 600 miles of the UK’s finest scenery. Walk the whole distance from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset and, with all those ups and downs, you will climb the equivalent of 4 times the height of Everest! Over half of the coast path is in the care of the National Trust, so naturally it features strongly in our work in the SW.

 Here on the Lizard the National Trust cares for more than 10 miles of this well-loved trail. Work can be divided into routine maintenance, such as strimming and keeping drains flowing, and larger improvement projects. In the summer months just keeping on top of the strimming is a never ending task, tackled by staff, our regular volunteers, and contractors called in as reinforcements. More sheltered sections of the path require up to 3 cuts per year. 


renovating a footbridge at Black Head
New boardwalk and stepping stones at Chynalls Cliff

In recent times we have benefited hugely from two big investments in the path. Thanks to a very generous single donor, we have been able to employ an Access Ranger for most of the last 18 months, and this role will continue into 2014. Working together with our volunteers, the Access Ranger has allowed us to take huge strides forward in bringing structures such as steps, bridges and stiles up to a consistent standard.

Running in tandem with our Access Ranger’s work, has been a series of larger scale projects undertaken by contractors.  Many of these improvements have involved mini-diggers and other machinery, to bring about long-term solutions to sections that have been a recurring headache. Hopefully the days of repeatedly infilling gulleys on the steep hill above Poltesco are behind us, now that new larger cross drains have been installed, made of local serpentine stone. 8 different footpath projects have been completed by contractors on NT land on The Lizard in the last year, investing over £15000 in the coast path.

contractors re-profiling a stream crossing to reduce flood risk

Tasks have included rebuilding collapsed revetments, widening narrow and awkward sections of path, and making drainage fit to cope with heavier rainstorms. The majority of this funding has come from the Rural Development Programme for England, and the South West Coast Path Association, and we acknowledge their help in pushing forward these welcome improvements.

There’s never been a better time to get out and explore our coast on foot!


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Polpeor Update

10 tier scaffolding!
Cliff stabilisation work is progressing well at The Most Southerly Point, with the contractors on track to complete by Christmas. As you can see it has involved a mammoth scaffolding project, to provide the workforce with a safe means of accessing the cliff face. The scaffolding company exhausted their reserves on this huge job, and had to go shopping in order to get enough poles, planks and clamps to finish the structure!

Next stage, which started today, is drilling 24 2 metre deep holes into the cliff face, in order to insert pins and peg down stabilising mesh. This is done with an industrial scale drill run off compressed air, with water to flush out the debris. Machinery the workforce is very familiar with, as they all started their working lives deep underground as Cornish miners.

drilling 2m holes for stabilising pins
Drilling should largely be complete this week, with rolling out the mesh being the next step.  Early indications from the engineer are that the line of granites at the top will need to be pulled back from their present position by 1-2m to provide a safe margin to the new cliff edge. We believe this won't dramatically impact on access for vehicles or pedestrians to the Point itself, and once the soil has been returned and the grass recovered, the place will feel much as it did before the slip.
We'll keep you posted with the latest updates.


Friday, 1 November 2013

Work gets underway on the Paths for Communities Project at Penrose

 The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) have started the first section of work under the P4C project at Penrose today. The volunteers were knee deep in mud at Carminowe Creek pulling out the old boardwalk which was badly damanged during the flooding last winter. They managed to get it all out today so next week work will start on installing a brand new one.

As the path is closed whilst the work is going on, there is a diversion in place across the wet meadow behind the creek. It is very wet and muddy all round Carminowe Creek at the moment so make sure you wear your wellies!

The National Trust is currently working on the Paths for Communities project across Penrose to improve access opportunities and enjoyment for everyone.  The P4C Project is funded by Natural England and was created to enhance the public rights of way network and to deliver benefits to rural areas.  Work began in October and will be complete by March 2014. With thanks to DEFRA and Natural England. This project is funded through the RDPE programme.


Lanterns galore at Poltesco

Poltesco played host to lanterns galore on Tuesday, as families from near and far joined us for a well attended make it yourself craft workshop.

More than 25 lanterns were constructed during the afternoon, with folk of all ages making their own masterpiece to take home.

The first step is to fashion a withy frame, and to keep it local we used willows cut from our own hedges. Then several layers of extra strong tissue paper soaked in dilute PVA glue are added to cover the frames, before a final layer of decoration adds the finishing touches. Lots of people went for a halloween theme, with ghosts and pumpkins out in force, whist others made polka dot or patchwork lampshades, which can be used 'for real' if  safely secured over electric lightbulb fittings.

We were so well attended that we ran an extra later session, but we still couldn't cater for everyone interested in joining us unfortunately.

Keep checking this blog and our website for details of our other upcoming fun family events.


Monday, 21 October 2013

Work starts on reopening beach access at Lizard Point

the cliff fall of November 2012
Work has begun at Polpeor, right down on Lizard Point, to clear a sizeable landslip and make the cliff above safe. The cliff fall happened last November, one of many that occurred over the winter, as saturated ground gave way after weeks of rain. The cliff fall at Polpeor has proven to be the most problematic, meaning we have had to shut access to the beach for the public on safety grounds, and the debris has caused an inconvenience to the fishermen who usually store their boats below by the old lifeboat station. Now that the busiest part of the visitor season is behind us, and we are armed with the necessary engineers reports and tender documents, work has begun to find a long-term solution.
scaling back the upper face to enable netting and pinning

The contractors, a specialist mining and tunnelling company with lots of experience of this kind of cliff stabilisation work, have already cleared the debris, which has amounted to over 50 tonnes of material. Some of which has already found a new use as aggregate for a footpath repair job underway at Cadgwith, in a nifty bit of recycling!
The team have now moved on to scooping out any remaining loose material at the top of the cliff, ahead of scaffolding arriving later this week. The cliff will be pinned and netted, which all being well will give us the engineers go-ahead to re-open the beach access below. The barrier will be reinstated at the top.  Please note that parking on the Point will be restricted whilst this work is underway, so please bear with us as this project is completed. Everything should be back to normal by the end of the year, which will be a great relief to all concerned! For further information call the Rangers at Poltesco on 01326 291174


Monday, 7 October 2013

Poltesco Mill under wraps

Anyone visiting Poltesco over the next month or so will be greeted by the unusual sight of the Mill carefully wrapped up in a protective tent of tarps and scaffolding.  This impressive temporary structure is to provide protection from the elements as necessary building work is undertaken to remedy a leaky roof.

An icy January scene from 2010
The mill's slate roof is being completely stripped and relaid and timbers repaired where rotten. Traditional techniques and materials are being used, and the temporary roof will be helpful in controlling the drying of the lime mortar, which is key to the process.

This, the upper mill, is the only survivor of at least 4 mills that have existed in the valley over the centuries. The earliest reference to  'The mill of Poltuske’ was in a document dated 1396 so mills and Poltesco go back a very long way! The other mills, such as the lower mill behind the education barn, are now no more than ruined walls and depressions where there were once wheel pits.

The mill c1870
The surviving mill has the honour of being the Most Southerly Mill on the British mainland, and still contains many of its original cogs, millstones and tools, as well as timbers from wrecked ships, which were used in its construction. It once served the farmers of Ruan parish, and the miller would have lived with his family next door, keeping pigs and running a small holding to supplement his income. Until 1828 tenants of the manor were obliged to use their landlord's mill, and help maintain its leats and workings.

I'm sure all the millers and farmers who have known the mill over the centuries would be satisfied to know it is still there and cared for, and getting a new roof!


Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Give us a wave

Tools at the ready at Poldhu
If you've been down to Poldhu cove recently you will hardly have been able to miss the new wave sculpture there to greet you as you reach the top of the boardwalk. Poldhu is overrun with various colourful signs from the council and RNLI beach safety to the café and surf school and amidst all this it had become lost that this well loved beach itself its owned and looked after by the National Trust. So we wanted to create something that would welcome you, through the signage mayhem, onto this special beach.
Lifting the timbers into place

Although some might consider it rather large, the wooden wave sculpture fits its purpose beautifully. We wanted something that was natural and in keeping with its surrounding but at the same time making a subtle yet clear welcome. 
Setting the timbers in place

The ‘Wooden Wave’ was designed by Barefoot’s Jon Taylor and carved by local craftsman Virgil Cain. It is made out of reclaimed timbers from the fire of Falmouth Docks, provided by Holifield farm. The gnarled timbers themselves, with rusted bolts still visible to tell their story, are a striking sight sunk upright into the top of the dunes. A wave silhouette is carved across four of the five timbers with a circular window through its centre, framing the sea behind it. The contrast of the polished, carved wood with the untouched rough exterior, changes from a deep red through to silvery grey in different weather. 

Volunteers helped secure the timbers in the sand
The sculpture was part funded by the South West Coast Path Association and installed by local contractors William Watson and Peter Kemp. We will be improving the signage around Poldhu next year by working together with those involved to de-clutter the entrances and provide better information. We would love to hear any feedback you may have about the new installation or anything else regarding Poldhu cove. 


Monday, 2 September 2013

Heroes of Handplane - competition postponed. 

Due to unforeseen circumstances and the unexpected lack of swell that is forecast for Saturday we are going to postpone the Heroes of Handplane event until the Spring. We hope this hasn't caused any disappointment or inconvenience. Look out for updates in the new year. 


Harbour Day - less than 2 weeks to go!!

This year’s Mullion Harbour Day, to be held on Sat 14th September, is set to be even better than last year!!

Alongside all the usual fun and games at this year’s Harbour Day, the National Trust and Lizard Adventure are organising a whole range of water based, fun races for visitors to take part in. To start off the day there will be a kayak race to Mullion island and back, Lizard Adventure will be providing kayaks for the race at £2 a go. The ever popular raft race across the harbour is back again and will be held at 1pm, so get your friends and family together and start collecting buoyant objects and a theme for your raft entry (extra points can be gained for using recycled materials) four people are allowed per raft and there will be an entry fee of £10. This will be followed by a new race, back by popular request – a swim across the harbour, open to all ages and abilities. The longest jump from the harbour wall competition commences at 3:30pm, a favourite pastime of harbour locals and a great way to cool off on a sunny day. The Grand National Trust Seahorse Steeplechase is back again and will see the jockeys ride their hobby horses (made from recycled body boards) down the slipway and over a few fences before swimming their horses across the harbour and back again. A sweepstake will allow onlookers to back their favoured sea horse. And of course Harbour Day would no the complete without the greasy pole challenge. Great entertainment for spectators and the highlight of the day for many brave locals. Lizard Adventure will also be offering free kayak tasters in the harbour during the afternoon for those who have always wanted to give it a go but never had the opportunity.

The RNLI lifeboat Rose will kindly be making a guest appearance during the afternoon with an impressive display not to be missed. The RNLI charity stall will also be present alongside a whole range of local craft stalls, traditional harbour games, face painting and free activities for those who don’t fancy getting wet. There will be a licensed bar and BBQ available throughout the day serving local ales and burgers from the National Trust Dexter herd who do an excellent job of grazing the surrounding cliffs for wildlife.

Mullion Harbour Day promises to be an enjoyable day out for everyone. Race entries will be taken on the day from 11am so pack your towel and come and join in the fun. Any proceeds from the day will go towards the ongoing maintenance and repairs of the harbour which has suffered significant storm damage in recent years.

For more information call Elle Parsons on 01326 291174 or email Elle.Parsons@nationaltrust.org.uk

Friday, 16 August 2013

11 Things to do before you go back to school...

With the summer holidays in full swing, Penrose is becoming a hub of activity. The Stables Café, open every day now, is providing visitors with welcome refreshment and the events are pulling in the crowds. Last week Squshbox theatre performed Skillywidden, a tale of Cornish Piskies and fairies, which delighted all ages in the audience. Don’t miss the next one on August 27th! 

This week Claire from Plantlife came along with an awesome array of fun activities to help everyone uncover the secret life of plants. The nature trail, which wound its way through the walled garden, included having a go at pollinating flowers with a cotton bud to understand the vital job insects do. 

We’ve also been getting creative with willow withies! Lucy from Nauti but Ice and friends delivered a brilliant workshop where we made an array of insects from butterflies to lady birds and even a fairy house. Once the basic sculpture of the insects were made we then covered them in brightly coloured tissue paper and they are now decorating our plant pots! 

Archery has proved just as popular as in medieval times and we even had to add another session to meet demand. We enjoy thinking of new ideas for events and different ways to get you outdoors but let us know if you've got any ideas for events you'd like to see at Penrose.

The ranger team at Penrose would like to say a huge thanks to everyone who’s supported our events and The Stables Café so far! As a charity all your donations and support help us to carry out vital conservation work and to maintain access on all the footpaths and cycle routes you love using. Keep checking our events listings to see what else is coming up.

And if you're wondering about the title of this post... there are 11 events listed on our summer holiday leaflet and we're over half way through already! 

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Summertime and the livin' is wild!

The Wild Lizard Project has been in full flow this summer, with over 50 people attending the first Beachcraft session and Rockpool last Wednesday and the same this Wednesday it has been a busy couple of weeks. Taking place on the Lizard National Nature Reserve and managed by Natural England Kennack Sands it is a very popular beach with locals and visitors alike. We were treated to a couple of basking sharks just offshore, a spider crab, pipe fish and with one little girl having the dubious luck of catching a weaver fish they were still brilliant sessions! Having never met a weaver in person before I watched as it tried frantically to bury itself into the bottom of the bucket and bristled its notorious spines. A rather underwhelming grey speckled fish it is easy to see how it blends in with its environment and catches people unawares. The mini-raft building proved popular especially with fathers who became quite competitive with the designs and dam building of the stream, leaving the children to undertake the launching of the rafts.

Join in with more Beachcraft adventures next Wednesday meeting on the beach at 12pm for the rockpool exploration and crafts.
Rockpoolers with their wild and wonderful discoveries
Jessica, Aoife, Isaac and Noah with Jenny one of the Wild Lizard
volunteers learing how to make Neptunes Eyes

The all new very popular Bushcraft Club has also been running every Tuesday, with new exciting activities led by Sarah Henn as part of her Forest School Leader training. With real adventures taking place each day and new bushcraft skills introduced each week it is easy to see why they are fully booked. This week we went up the side of the Poltesco Valley discovering new places to build dens. The children loved exploring an area where no-one has been for years, carving out their own paths through the brambles, they remained completed unfazed by spiky plants and nettles, building their own camps in the undergrowth. Many of the children have booked in for all four sessions and are learning new exciting skills each week. This has proved a very popular venture and we certainly could have filled the places twice over which proves there really is an interest in learning more about our amazing natural environment.


Now it is just up to me to think up more wild and wonderful adventures to have!


Monday, 5 August 2013

Seeing the wood for the trees

The banks of the Helford river are a haven for local wildlife from estuarine birds to rare woodland flora. This tranquil part of the Lizard peninsula offers wildlife lovers and water users alike the chance to explore and discover peaceful creeks and wooded valleys undisturbed by the bustling tourist season which is now upon us. It was here that Daphne Du Maurier composed her famous novel Frenchman’s Creek and more recently Kylie Minogue filmed her music video for Flower. Aside from its fame, the Helford area is steeped in history and home to many pockets of ancient woodland. These remaining areas of ancient woodland are bursting with biodiversity and support some of the countries rarest species such as the greater horseshoe bat which has declined by 99% over the past centuary.

Part of my role as a Ranger here on the Lizard is to look after these important woodlands to ensure they remain in a favourable condition for the wildlife that lives there. Perhaps one of the largest areas is Tremayne woods, which many of you who have spent any length of time here will be familiar with. Tremayne was originally part of the Trelowarren estate and is a linear woodland following the creek down to a Victorian stone built Quay. Initially built to receive Queen Victoria, who never came because it was raining, the Quay is now a popular picnicking and wild camping spot amongst locals and visitors to the area. We are appealing for help to undertake some urgent restoration work to Tremayne Quay, please see below.


Inevitably part of the life cycle of woodlands means that every year trees come down, either due to natural causes or felled as they are no longer structurally safe. This then creates glades where woodland flora and butterflies flourish and eventually new trees establish. Much of the timber that comes down is inaccessible and so is left to decay naturally creating a perfect habitat for insects and fungi.

However Tremayne, with a track running through, lends itself well to extracting some of this timber. The extracted timber is then used on the Lizard for bench tops, posts and bridges etc, with a next to nothing carbon footprint. All the timber is native hardwood and therefore has a long life span without the need to treat with chemicals or preservatives. This method is sustainable and has a very low environmental impact. Last week we spent a day with a local mobile sawmill and produced dozens of square posts and planks out of a fallen oak tree which are to be seasoned and then used across the Lizard. You can’t get more local than that, and there is a great feeling of satisfaction to see this from tree to product in a small scale, sustainable way.


Wednesday, 31 July 2013

The heat of the moment

Paul from West Cornwall installing a new cross drain at Ogo dour.

The Lizard team have been very busy on the ground over the last month. Its been great working in the sunshine. Much of it has been spend cutting vegetation in one way or another and its been a real challenge to keep on top of our strimming duties but we are finally catching up. I don’t have any photos of that but you can imagine what it looks like, 2 people strimming, 2 people raking (if we are lucky enough to have that luxury), lots of horse flies and a very tidy looking coast path at the end. 

The repaired and repainted sign going in at Tremayne.
Grahame our new seasonal footpath cutting employee has been strimming hard to keep up with the demand and often alone, his work has been essential. We decided that once a week we would have a charitable Grahame day where the rest of the team would work with him as he appreciates the company. I don’t blame him!

Paul and Angus installing a chestnut pailing fence into some feisty bedrock.

 In between the strimming, the volunteer team and I have been undertaking many small and interesting projects and tasks. We have replaced many of our omega signs, as the posts rot out and the paint strips off, its good to keep things looking smart and giving good indication of our ownership boundaries along the coast path.
We have been carrying out a lot of access related work and are continually replacing stiles, gates and putting in new drainage in place ready for the rain, its got to come soon right? We have had far too good a summer for it to be true. 

Carl Installing a stile on our new walk around Teneriffe Farm.
We have had a few trees down around the Helford area so we have been working on keeping the paths clear and logging up the timber for winter. Also up at Penarvon, an old barn which is found to be housing bats is slowly collapsing, an alternative roost site has been constructed nearby whilst the collapsing barn is being left and fenced off to fall apart slowly over time with no interference. 

So remember this is just the tip of the Lizard iceberg and we are doing so much work to keep things functioning, looking good and of course safe! (Safety being first though not third). Its been alot of fun and I have been looking at many exciting new projects that the volunteer team and I are soon to be taking on! Until next time :)...

The finished fence around the old barn.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Wildlife friendly farming makes a buzz at Tregullas

Colourful mustard and phacelia within the wild bird seed mix plot
If you've taken a walk around Lizard 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 Farm. The area is designed to be a living bird table, growing a mix of plants with seeds that farmland birds love to eat.  The plot will be in place for two years, before being resown, somewhere else on the farm, thereby keeping a constant supply of seed available to wild birds.

buckwheat growing at Tregullas
Being the first year of our new HLS scheme, and our first experience of wild bird seed plots, we didn't know quite what to expect.  As you can see the results have been extremely colourful!  The mix includes millet, canary seed, buckwheat and sunflower. However, it is the yellow flowered mustard and purple flowered phacelia that seem to have really gone for it! Phacelia is a relative of borage, and it is a great source of nectar for insects, which then become food for birds. Even seed eating birds like cirl buntings feed their chicks insects, to give them a protein rich start in life, so more insects buzzing about are good for wildlife all round.We look forward to seeing what birds make use of this area over winter. Reed buntings would be nice, but they would be trumped by much rarer cirl or corn buntings! Both have been sighted at Tregullas in winter before, so here's hoping!

reed buntings regularly over winter at Tregullas

The HLS scheme includes lots of other measures to give wildlife a boost, including a 1/2ha fallow cultivated plot. This year this area, which is ploughed but then left unsown, is near Old Lizard Head. Although not as showy as the bird seed plot, it's a welcome space for nature with fat hen, fumitory, scarlet pimpernel and speedwells taking the leading weed roles!

Weasel's-snout within a barley field
Nearby in a corner of a barley field, a rarer arable weed is having a good year too. Weasel's-snout, or lesser snapdragon is red listed as a vulnerable species, because it has declined so much nationally, so it was great to see 20 or more plants in full flower, just where I had seen it 3 years ago - even if I did accidentally crouch in an ants nest when taking this photo!

Many thanks to local farmer Richard Dark who has done a fine job of getting the new HLS off to a great start this season, and we look forward to welcoming our new long-term tenants, Rona and Nevil Amiss and family to Tregullas in September, and an exciting future for the farm. 


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