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Our work at Boscastle

Rangers installing new waymarkers on the coast path at Boscastle, Cornwall
Rangers installing new waymarkers on the coast path at Boscastle, Cornwall | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Dramatic cliff top views with a backdrop of fascinating countryside and an abundance of nature. The appeal of Boscastle to visitors is unsurprising. What’s less known about is the work that goes on behind the scenes by our rangers. From looking after footpaths to habitat management and working with volunteers; daily tasks are varied and often change with the seasons.

Ranger brushcutting a path at Boscastle, Cornwall
A ranger brushcutting a path in the Valency Valley, Boscastle | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Looking after footpaths

We look after many miles of path and keeping them accessible, whatever the weather, can be challenging. During winter, muddy paths can become tricky to walk along so, where possible, we lay stone down and often try to mitigate the problem by putting in drainage channels, allowing the water to run off. Cutting back hedges and trees (out of bird nesting season) away from paths also helps to dry them out.

In summer, fast-growing vegetation is what gets in the way. With the help of volunteers, we use brushcutters to cut this back. By installing and repairing steps, gates, bridges and waymarkers we aim to make people’s access to the countryside the best it can be.

Working with volunteers

We’re very fortunate to be supported by a team of volunteers from the local community. Volunteers support us with our hands-on practical work, repairing footpaths, fixing fences and planting trees. They also help with surveying wildlife (butterflies, birds and wildflowers), keeping an eye on paths and public life saving equipment.

Volunteers massively increase the amount of conservation work we can take on, bringing energy, ideas and hard graft. In return they get to spend time in nature, meeting other likeminded people whilst contributing to looking after the countryside in the National Trust’s care.

A ranger surveying butterflies at Boscastle
Butterfly surveying at Boscastle, Cornwall | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Surveying wildlife

To ensure the work we do benefits wildlife, we carry out various surveys at Boscastle and the surrounding area. Some rare species make their home here and so we want to make sure our work is helping to protect them. The Ranger team, along with local experts and community groups, survey habitats such as grasslands, woodlands, meadows, heathland, rivers, and the seashore; monitoring the condition of different habitats as well as surveying the wildlife that live in them such as wildflowers and plants, butterflies, birds, bats and dormice.

View across Forrabury Stitches, an ancient field system on the cliff tops above Boscastle, Cornwall
Forrabury Stitches at Boscastle | © National Trust Images/Rhodri Davies

Managing habitats

Across our North Cornwall sites, including at Boscastle, are a diverse range of rare farmland habitats including wildflower meadows, orchards, and farmland ponds. An example of this can be seen at the Forrabury Stitches. To help reverse the significant decline these habitats have faced since the 1930s, we are restoring remaining strongholds and creating new sites across land in our care, with the aim of supporting a spectrum of plant and animal species both large and small.

Whether it is hand-sowing wildflower seed and summer hay-cuts in meadows, pruning fruit trees or planting traditional local varieties in orchards, we turn our hand to it all. Occasionally you may also see us removing invasive plant species, such as Himalayan balsam that pose an additional pressure to these unique habitats within the agricultural landscape.

A path cutting through dense overgrowth on either side
A path by Valency River | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Looking after woodland

We look after a number of woodlands and trees in the countryside, over 250 hectares are wooded (600 acres or around 350 football pitches). This includes Minster Wood along the Valency Valley and nearby Dizzard Wood. Woodlands are an important feature in the North Cornwall landscape often nestled in the more sheltered valleys.

We look to expand our woods through natural regeneration or by planting trees in the Winter. The trees help to improve biodiversity and to store carbon. Some of the trees are veterans, which because of their age host a wide variety of plants and animals. Occasionally, some of the veteran trees are thinned around to give them space to spread. Each wood has a safety survey to check they are safe for people to enjoy.

Partnership working

The Ranger team work with a variety of stakeholders across the areas we care for. This includes our tenant farmers, other wildlife organisations like RSPB, Plantlife and Buglife and statutory bodies such as Natural England, Cornwall Council or The Environment Agency. These partnerships help us deliver more benefits for nature alongside farming, provides us with knowledge and advice and access to grants and funding to help support our work.

Thank you

With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.

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Water vole by a river bank

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A visitor carrying a backpack and walking along a footpath at Divis and the Black Mountain with stone walls either side, the countryside visible in the background.

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