Hands up who wants a breath of fresh air: Volunteering on the Lizard

Voluteers working with the Lizard team to fix a fence on the coast

‘If you want something doing, ask a busy person.’ So the perceived wisdom goes, and there’s not a day goes by that our team on the Lizard doesn’t need something doing.

Clearing a coast path, bringing a museum to life, chopping down a tree, watching over a Cornish chough nest, building a gate, driving a tractor, recording seal data, cleaning a beach – the list is as mind-blowing as the views.    

With 1000 hectares of beaches, cliffs, heath and wooded valleys to look after, the team at Britain’s most southerly point appreciate the truth in the maxim. There aren’t many among this 100 strong army of unpaid workers that aren’t also deployed elsewhere.

" I knew I didn’t want to be twiddling my thumbs when I retired and I love nature and the outdoors"
- Peter Greenslade

Take Peter Greenslade for example. As landlord of Lizard village’s Top House Inn for 35 years, he found the time between pulling pints and being the first port of call whenever the RNLI lifeboat needed launching to also sit watch over the first returning Cornish choughs’ nest.

“I’m not a birder but I was so pleased our national bird of Cornwall had come back, I had to do my bit.”

A Cornish Chough feeding near Lizard Point
A Chough feeding near Lizard Point
A Cornish Chough feeding near Lizard Point

Peter would shut the pub after lunch and go to the beach to ward off disturbance to the nest until it was opening time again. Now retired and living in Truro, he drives back twice a week to greet ramblers and share his vast local knowledge at our wildlife watchpoint. If you’re lucky enough to meet him, you’ll hear his heart beating with a passion for his homeland - it’s worth going down there just for that! 

Then there’s John Gowenlock, a former anaesthetist who also happens to be a trustee of Cornwall Wildlife Trust.

“I knew I didn’t want to be twiddling my thumbs when I retired and I love nature and the outdoors so the Trust was an easy choice. Manual labour is a complete contrast to being a doctor. The learning curve has been sharp but good fun. It’s about being a part of a social group too. I work alongside a retired bank manager, a former RAF officer, a professor – we all have plenty still to give.”

" As an incomer, I wanted to feel a part of something"
- Ingrid Davis

Not all volunteers are at the end of the career ladder though. Some are students, keen to get conservation work experience, and others, like Ingrid Davis who volunteers at the tiny and remote Lizard Wireless Museum, see it as part of a life change which also involves training to be a teacher, singing in a choir and becoming a dog owner.  

“I got married, left my job in IT and moved to Cornwall. When the Marconi museum volunteer post came up, the scientist in me responded. As an incomer, I wanted to feel a part of something.”

The Marconi Centre at Poldhu, Lizard, Cornwall
The Marconi Centre at Poldhu, Lizard, Cornwall
The Marconi Centre at Poldhu, Lizard, Cornwall

So, if we need something doing on the Lizard, do we ask a busy person?

“We don’t have to,” says Catherine Lee, Community and Volunteering Officer. “They put their hands up first!”