Joined-up thinking on the Lizard

Lizard Lighthouse at Lizard Point

Much of the land on the Lizard is owned by three separate organisations. An absence of fences, formal boundaries and a collaborative way of working means that far from spoiling the area, it's cared for with nature conservation at the forefront. Visitors, farms and wildlife all cross invisible boundaries without even realising it.

The marsh fritillary butterfly, the nimble-footed Dexter cow, the acrobatic Cornish chough and the tiny rare oil beetle all call the Lizard home.   

While roaming around their beautiful back-yard they fly and munch their way freely across land owned by different people, a vital characteristic of the care of this area.

Three key landowners

Much of Britain’s most southerly peninsular is owned by three organisations:

  • National Trust
  • Cornwall Wildlife Trust
  • Natural England

All three have nature conservation at the very top of their list of priorities, and know that to be effective, they all need to manage land in the same way.

Working together to reduce fire risk to the precious heathland or creating corridors for nature has a much larger impact than any one could alone.

Marsh fritillary butterflies have wings like stained glass
A marsh fritillary butterfly close up
Marsh fritillary butterflies have wings like stained glass

The land owned by these three organisations is a very patchwork affair; it’s by no means neat and tidy. The only theme (and even then there’s exceptions) is that sections of cliff grazing often belong to the National Trust while arable areas are more commonly managed or owned by the other two.

These boundaries between each patch are invisible to both the casual walker or those handsome and docile Dexters. The successful working partnership between the three parties links each zone to the next.     

Tenant farmer Roland Hill’s farm, for example, is made up of land belonging to all three organisations, but the whole lot is managed as a single entity. No fences and to all intents and purposes, under single ownership. Fertilisers and sprays are banned with traditional, non-intensive farming practices adhered to.      

" We view the Lizard as one country, not lots of separate little islands. If each farm were managed differently, the piecemeal effect would be obvious to even the untrained eye."
- Alastair Cameron, National Trust Property Manager

This trio of caretakers meets regularly to share differing perspectives, new-found discoveries and future plans. Involving the community is high on the agenda too; it’s important to support the local economy.

A range of specialists can be incredibly valuable as some decisions can be complex. What’s good for the beloved Cornish chough might not be ideal for the rare moth – so three heads are better than one.

Additional partnerships

This collaboration on the Lizard goes even further, with fruitful partnerships being forged with other organisations, including the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the University of Exeter, the RSPB and the NFU.

The University of Exeter has been working with the National Trust on the Lizard for more than a decade. Professor Catherine Leyshon’s important research on climate change is a go-to document when new initiatives are in the planning stage. She has also studied the dynamics of multi-agency working, with her findings being put to practical use in the search for new farm tenants.     

A visit to the ‘one-stop shop’ website will help you find out more about this impressively co-ordinated method of management. You can also stay up to date on what’s best to see, where to find it and how to get the most out of a trip to this special Cornish space.