Most of the National Trust land in West Cornwall is managed by tenant farmers. In a picturesque spot in Zennor, Foage Farm is managed by long term tenant Colin Nankervis. Colin has been the tenant farmer here for nearly thirty years, and his knowledge and passion for conservation shine through to all that meet him.
Using traditional farming methods, Colin keeps Galloway cattle, with seven in one herd and fifteen in another. Galloway are a great breed for the conservation of pastures due to their unselective grazing habits, and his cattle are there solely to maintain the rich and wild landscape. He calls it ‘hoof and tooth management’ because the cattle trample their way through the scrub and then eat it. Once they have eaten right down to the bare grass, the cattle are moved on so that they don’t eat anything low in nutrients. Due to this practice, they don’t need to be fed any supplements and in this way the nature of the site is kept in balance.
The cattle come off the land just before Valentine’s Day, ready for Colin’s impressive spring flower show. Here he displays bluebells, wood anemones, milkwort, tormentil and wood sage.
Some of the land that was previously used to cut hay has now been reclaimed. These fields now have three types of widespread heather emerging. Heather moorland provides a patchwork of different types of habitats for wildlife as well as acting as a natural reservoir, so it is very important for the countryside.
Colin says, ‘I love checking the gate posts to see what animals have been through there’, and due to his careful conservation many types of wildlife are thriving at the farm. Most commonly golden plovers, short eared owls, cuckoos, bull finches and skylarks can be seen flying around.
Colin’s hard work at Foage Farm is a great example of the work we are doing to restore a healthy, beautiful, natural environment. His daughter Becky is now learning everything she can from Colin and hoping to continue his successful conservation work in the future.