Friday, 12 June 2009

Wildlife success story on The Lizard

I suppose that when 'The National Trust' is mentioned first thoughts for many will be of grand country houses in their ownership. Not surprising really given that these properties are the most obvious interface between the Trust and the public. Now I am as interested in the built environment as anyone but they are also a very major landholder in England and Wales and their decisions can have a profound effect on what happens to nature in this larger estate.

The National Trust have developed a huge expertise in nature conservation: one aspect of this is their small biosurvey team which looks at the natural history of the sites owned by the Trust. They have visited over 1000 so far. Going back 30 years they recorded what they found at Lower Predannack Farm, a 70 hectare holding on the west side of the Lizard peninsula in Cornwall. Back then the results were very poor but careful management on this tenanted farm including grazing of the cliff tops has led to radical improvements to the wildlife regime. I believe that clauses favouring wildlife tend to get written into the tenancy agreements for the Trust's holdings these days and there is no doubt that the NT has developed huge expertise in this area. The Lizard is well known for certain rare clovers, as well as many other special plants, and it seems that controlled grazing, a frequently used technique of the Trust, has delivered spectacular results at this site.

I'm writing about this now as the most recent survey by the biosurvey team has just been published. Interestingly, and I suspect no coincidence, is the fact that this Sunday's 'Countryfile' programme majors on the Lizard area. Apart from its fascinating geology and wildlife I find that there is something 'other world' about it, something I've noticed before about peninsulas and one of the reasons I love them so much. Another aspect of peninsulas to be enjoyed is the obvious fact that they are on the road to nowhere else and thus are spared the heavier traffic you find elsewhere. Slightly different with the Lizard as you will find the hordes descending to visit the southernmost this and the southernmost that but you can quickly get away from the tourists if you so desire.

One further thought - although the National Trust have been very successful in using the likes of moorland ponies and Dexter cattle to get a good grazing regime (it has helped with the short turf that the recently returned to Cornwall choughs for example particularly like) but other places such as our high moors are getting less grazing. So ramblers for example are finding places like Dartmoor increasingly affected by scrub which also has the effect of hiding more of the archaeological treasures to be found on the uplands. Worryingly more farmers seem to be getting out of livestock and, in just a few years, I can envisage quite a different landscape as a result of changes in farming priorities.

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