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Our work at Mullion Cove

Stormy weather hitting the breakwater at Mullion Harbour
Storms hitting the breakwater at Mullion Harbour | © Bill Scolding

Mullion Harbour located on the west coast of the Lizard peninsula, has been withstanding the Atlantic waves since the 1890s, when it was built by the cove's owner, Lord Robartes, in an attempt to create a commercial port. The harbour did not function well for larger vessels but it did work well to shelter the local pilchard fleet. Today it provides a haven for a few commercial fish boats, recreational boats and a dozen seafront properties, and attracts some 80,000 visitors a year.

This ageing structure is seeing increasing pressure from the impacts of climate change and we are working with the local community and other key stakeholders to adapt.

Mullion Harbour Study

National Trust has cared for Mullion Harbour since 1945, in that time, we've spent over £2 million repairing the harbour's two breakwaters, with more than 80 per cent of that spending since 1995, as winter storms have become more frequent.

In 2004, looking to an uncertain future with a predicted increase in the frequency and strength of storms along with rising sea levels and growing cost implications, National Trust commissioned the Mullion Harbour Study, which was completed in 2006. Working with a group of stakeholders (including users of the harbour, members of the local community, statutory organisations and other harbour managers) the study looked at the harbour structure and the impact of a changing climate on its future management.

The study concluded that the 100-year-old harbour was in better condition than we thought, but going forward, increased prevalence of storms, predicted sea level rises and general wear and tear would mean that repairs and maintenance alone would not be able to counteract the increasing environmental pressures the harbour is under.

People inspect damage to the breakwater at Mullion Harbour
Inspecting the breakwaters at Mullion Harbour | © John Miller

Adapting the harbour structure


Through the Harbour Study we collaboratively created a long-term strategy and management plan for Mullion Harbour, which outlined that we would continue to repair and maintain the harbour for the time being while accepting that eventually a threshold would be met when it is no longer viable to repair the harbour like for like. At this point, the focus would need to move towards adapting the harbour structure to give it better resilience in the face of increasing environmental pressures.

We continue to undertake regular repairs and maintenance to the harbour, however parts of the southern breakwater have recently reached a new threshold and, together with the local community and our partners, we need to explore how we might adapt the southern breakwater, to best respond to the quickening pace of change we are seeing around our coast.

In the meantime, we are focusing our maintenance efforts on the more robust and stronger western breakwater. This year specialist contractors have undertaken surveys and large-scale repairs, whilst harbour users and local volunteers are have helped us with small, but vital repairs and maintenance to improve the structure's resilience to winter storms.

You can read more about how we're adapting for climate change in our new report, A Climate for Change: Adaptation and the National Trust.

Thank you

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

National Trust rangers collecting marine litter and plastic waste from Mullion Island, Cornwall

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