Surveying wildlife on the Lizard Peninsula

Man surveying the flora of Hambledon Hill

Since 1979 we have conducted biological surveys with a small team of plant and animal ecologists. They give us a vital record of the wildlife on our land.

Wildlife bibles

The reports are also used to help guide property management, with emphasis placed on what we should be doing to maintain and enhance the wildlife living on our land. Through the continued dedication of our staff, we've restored and protected vital habitats for a diverse range of wildlife across the UK.

Over 90 per cent of our land has been surveyed, with many properties having received more than one. The reports that are produced as a result have been described as ‘wildlife bibles’, and they give details of species, wildlife communities and habitats. They also look at the significance of these features combined.

Our first land survey

Predannack Farm on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall was one of the first properties ever surveyed, back in June 1979. It has also received two subsequent surveys revealing positive change in nature conservation on the site.

The property supports farmland and coastal cliff communities and lies in an area that is a known home of rare plants, including unusual clovers.

The 1979 survey was key. Its influence placed restrictions on the use of fertilisers near rocky outcrops in which these rare plants grew. This was the first time a Trust farm tenancy agreement had incorporated nature conservation clauses, although this practice is now in wide use.

Wild species growth

Since the first survey, the fields at Predannack Farm have changed dramatically. They were once arable and grass fields, which weren't useful wildlife habitats. They are now developing maritime and neutral grasslands, protecting the rocky outcrops and benefiting wildlife.

For example, one of the fields that used to be arable now supports herb-rich areas with abundant flowering, which attract many nectar- and pollen-collecting insects. Importantly all the rocky outcrops are now in unfertilised, extensively grazed fields.

The latest survey, which was carried out in 2009, confirmed the continued survival of rare plants, and also revealed the importance of the inland outcrops to scarce invertebrates.

Bringing in the cattle

The condition of the cliff land has also changed and grazing ceased here in the 1960s. As a result, rare plants were lost and weedy agricultural grass up to 1m tall spread over the cliffs. This is a problem that was highlighted in the first 1979 survey.

The cliffs were fenced and bullocks were 'driven out' onto them in 1983. The grassland recovered and changed into a maritime grassland.

A 2000 Biological Survey then identified the outstanding importance of the cliffs and outcrops for invertebrates, as well as the much better known rare plants. Constant vigilance is needed to get just the right grazing for these very fragile and vulnerable sites.

Through the dedication and enthusiasm of our property staff, the grazing has been fine-tuned to maintain the important mosaic of maritime grassland. This land is home to herbs and flowers, patchy scrub and bare ground that is vital to many different species, including some that are scarce or threatened.

'New' outcrops have also been discovered which were previously under scrub, and the 2009 survey revealed that rare insects which are confined to the Cornish coast had colonised them.

Seal of approval

The Cornish chough, which is member of the crow family, arrived at the property in 2001, after an absence of over 30 years. It now feeds over the Predannack cliffs, a sign of approval for the open condition of the vegetation.