How human generosity helps nature thrive on the Lizard

Walking on the Lizard feels like a great honour. As nature thrives around you, it's a great pleasure to wander freely amongst so many rare species that call this area home. Wildlife comes first here, but the care and protection of the area is only possible thanks to some very important people.

It’s possible to spend an entire morning walking on the Lizard without seeing another living soul. We humans are privileged to spend time on this peninsula.

While we may visit, it’s home to some spectacular species. Rare beetles, exotic flowers, migrating marine birds – how can a human compete with such significant species?

In fact, certain humans have played a vital role in ensuring that this habitat exists. If it wasn’t for the generosity of people like Miss J. Jolly, Cyril Medley and Robina Wallis, the Lizard’s natural gems might be a lot thinner on the ground – or in the air, come to that.

If these key players and others (Dr. Mark Hunter, Miss Ironside, Lady Isla Twysden and Miss Chatwin to name a few more) hadn’t bequeathed land and/or money to the National Trust in their wills, a morning’s walk around Britain’s most southerly point could be a lot more bleak.   

Walkers taking a rest near Lizard Point
Walking on the Lizard
Walkers taking a rest near Lizard Point

It’s a great honour to be left a gift in someone’s will. We don’t always know the motivation behind these gifts, but we do have details about a few:

  • In 1966, Miss Jolly left the Trust several pockets of land in and around Cadgwith and Coverack in memory of her brother.
  • Cyril Medley’s substantial legacy in 1981 eventually allowed the Trust to buy the ‘unspoilt coastal land within the southern part of the Lizard’ that he had so enjoyed in his lifetime.    

A conundrum to solve

Managing gifts left in wills is sometimes less than straighforward. In 1987, Miss Robina Wallis bequeathed Wartha Manor, a large but dilapidated Victorian house overlooking Lizard Point. She attached a condition that the offer should be accepted within six months and the property be declared ‘inalienable’.  

‘Inalienability’ is reserved for properties of national importance, and apart from the distinctly special adjoining fields which were very important for nature, Wartha Manor fell short of the mark.  

It took a second legacy, this time from Cyril Medley to solve this problem. Thanks to him more surrounding coastal acres were secured and Wartha Manor gained the status it needed.

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

But the puzzle wasn’t quite solved; a mortgage still had to be discharged. This was sorted thanks to the auction of Miss Wallis’ collection of designer dresses from the 1930s.

And so the work of the National Trust at Lizard Point was able to begin.

Every penny helps

It’s not only the landowner who makes our conservation work possible.

Smaller donations from people from all walks of life have contributed to our ‘Enterprise Neptune’ fund since 1965, raising more than £65 million over the past fifty years.

Such thoughtful giving has allowed us to gradually stitch together parcels of coastal land all around Britain, which we care for and protect.

Progress is being made

Not so long ago, a trip to the Lizard was a very different story.

A narrow road funnelled all walkers and traffic past intensively farmed fields dotted with derelict farm sheds and unsightly residential developments.

Now, this diverse area is a thriving natural environment composed of cliffs, coves, old coastguard paths and new routes to glorious beaches.

Thank you, Miss Jolly and all.