We need to talk about nature

Hottentot fig at the Lizard

'In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand, there is the story of the earth.' - Rachel Carson

Nature conservationists everywhere will recognise the ancient truth at the heart of these poetic words from the renowned environmentalist and author Rachel Carson. Sadly, we also hear the undeniable modern threat. The story of the earth, particularly those chapters where land meets sea, is in big trouble.
 
Through the generosity of our supporters, the National Trust in the South West has the privilege of looking after great swathes of Britain’s spectacular but endangered coastline as well as thousands of precious acres inland too. We are committed to finding a better future for it all.  
 
Our new National Strategy launched in 2014 placed the restoration and conservation of nature at the very heart of our future work because we understand that along with the privilege comes a serious duty. 
 
There’s no doubt that exploring the great outdoors fills the soul. Treating yourself to a lungful of salty air fresh off the ocean, listening to the myriad calls of birds as they flit and swoop across the open skies or crouching to study the tiniest jewel of a flower – all these pleasures feel like a basic human right. But while none of us should have to live without the freedom to enjoy Britain’s rich wilderness, our relationship with nature has become complicated. We need to give it some space. 
Lantic, Cornwall
Dog playing in sea, Lantic, Cornwall

The Trust, along with other conservation organisations, has been working hard both scientifically and practically to reverse the damage that man’s activity has wreaked on nature over the last fifty years or so. Sixty per cent of species in Britain have declined in that time and we know the reasons why. Intensive farming methods, climate change, damaging planning decisions  – the list is long. We already act to limit  these but we are a long way from being able to shut the book. 

It’s not all gloom and doom. Take the stunning peninsulas of the Lizard in Cornwall or Purbeck in Dorset. We are proud of our achievements there so far. The balancing act when it comes to enhancing access (so that more people can have more fun) and at the same time protecting these vulnerable habitats is a constantly tricky one, but we are getting there. We work with our tenant farmers to deliver great conservation practice. Cliff top grazing has returned, pesticides use is minimised, miles and miles of wildlife corridors have been created. The Cornish chough, long absent in the 20th century, has returned, and our rare wild flowers are thriving. 

 
Ponies conservation grazing near Beagles Point, the Lizard
Conservation grazing ponies on the Lizard
The future is exciting too. Acquiring the 220 acre headland at Trevose near Padstow means we can make a real difference to the protection and management of this show-stopping stretch of the South West’s magnificent coastline. A little further north, there is more good news at Pentire, where a change of farm tenancy means flower-rich grasslands will be extended and nature friendly crop farming will be introduced to encourage back the rarer birds and animals we want to see once more on the North Cornish coast.
 
We will keep you posted on our progress – you can read the South West England chapter of the story of our beautiful earth right here.