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Our work at Duckpool

A view of a stream and the surrounding hilly fields at Duckpool, Cornwall
Duckpool | © National Trust Images / Rhodri Davies

Dramatic cliff top views interspersed with beaches and an abundance of nature. The appeal of the North Cornwall coast to visitors is unsurprising. What’s less known about is the work that goes on behind the scenes by our rangers. From looking after the 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 strimming a footpath | © 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 peoples' access to the countryside the best it can be.

Image shows two National Trust Surf Ambassadors volunteering to clear scrub at Sandymouth; one is holding a pair of garden shears while the other is looking down. The scrub is visible behind the volunteers, along with a view of the coast
Volunteering on the North Cornwall coast | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

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 wild flowers), 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
A ranger doing a plant survey in North Cornwall | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Surveying wildlife

To ensure the work we do benefits wildlife, we carry out various surveys across North Cornwall. 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 wild flowers and plants, butterflies, birds, bats and dormice.

Pink and white wildfowers in a green grassy meadow
Wildflower meadow | © National Trust Images/Sarah Davis

Managing habitats

Across our North Cornwall sites are a diverse range of rare farmland habitats including wildflower meadows, orchards, and farmland ponds. 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 and planting traditional local varieties in orchards, or creating ponds as biodiversity oases in the landscape, we turn our hand to it all. Occasionally you may also see us removing invasive plant species that pose an additional pressure to these unique habitats within the agricultural landscape.

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.

Ranger surveying a tree
A ranger doing a tree survey in North Cornwall | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Looking after woods and trees

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 a wood and orchard at nearby Stowe Barton. 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.

Thank you

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

Sea views as walkers exploring the South West Coast Path at Pentire, Cornwall

Caring for coastal footpaths 

Find out how we look after coastal paths along 780 miles of coastline in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to make sure everyone can benefit.

Water vole by a river bank

State of Nature report 2023: UK wildlife continues to decline 

The State of Nature report for 2023 shows that the abundance of species in the UK has declined by 19 per cent on average since records began in 1970. But while the most important natural habitats are in poor condition, work to protect landscapes and support wildlife has clear benefits for nature, people and the climate.


Cornish coastal meadows project 

We are working to create 250 hectares of new species rich grassland at National Trust sites across Cornwall. The project, due to be completed by 2026, will help us rise to the twin challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change.