A Monumental Improvement

Cornwall’s protected landscape is well known and much loved for its iconic tin mines and prehistoric stone circles and these features often form some of our visitor’s fondest memories of Cornwall and the reason why so many return time after time. These features are also much treasured by the many local voluntary conservation groups who tirelessly give up their own time on a regular basis to safeguard heritage sites, working with local landowners, across the county from Rame Head to West Penwith.

But did you know that the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) contains most of the County’s scheduled monuments?

There are currently 90 Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAMs) outside of West Penwith in the Cornwall AONB on the Heritage at Risk Register. The Register is maintained by Historic England and is free to search on their website. Cornish monuments at risk range from prehistoric settlements, barrows and stone circles to defensive and industrial heritage features. A further 50 sites in the AONB are also in danger of becoming at risk if no action is taken to address their condition. Collectively these sites are principally on Bodmin Moor, the Lizard and at Rame Head, with the main threats being vegetation and tree growth and a lack of awareness of their management needs. Despite their obvious interest, the vast majority of sites contain no on site interpretation or descriptions other than what survives of the monument so most people would be unaware that they are passing through an Iron Age or Bronze Age settlement or defensive fort. Only with the stone circles, tin mines or eighteenth century forts that have a significant physical presence are the monuments more obvious. 

In some cases inappropriate, albeit unintentionally, harmful attention by visitors can be a threat to sites such as at Stowe’s Pound on Bodmin Moor where the building of “fairy castles” by visitors risks harming the original heritage value of this site. On others such as the rock labyrinth art at Rocky Valley, Tintagel, the tracing by visitors on to paper of the labyrinth features on the cliff face is causing the gradual erosion of these features themselves. In these and other cases heritage is best safeguarded for future generations by leaving only footprints on the path and taking only photographs and memories home.

 “Fairy castles” examples of unintentional vandalism on Stowe’s Pound, Bodmin Moor

“Fairy castles” examples of unintentional vandalism on Stowe’s Pound, Bodmin Moor

  Redoubt 5 at Maker Heights, owned by the Rame Conservation Trust, dates from the American War of Independence being subsequently extended and reinforced during the Napoleonic War to protect Plymouth Sound from enemy attack

Redoubt 5 at Maker Heights, owned by the Rame Conservation Trust, dates from the American War of Independence being subsequently extended and reinforced during the Napoleonic War to protect Plymouth Sound from enemy attack

       Some of these sites are of unknown origin, such as the mysterious King Arthur’s Hall on Bodmin Moor, owned by Nancy Hall of Penrose Burden. Was this a medieval animal pound or a more ancient moorland, ritual gathering place?

 

Some of these sites are of unknown origin, such as the mysterious King Arthur’s Hall on Bodmin Moor, owned by Nancy Hall of Penrose Burden. Was this a medieval animal pound or a more ancient moorland, ritual gathering place?

  Cornwall is home to the largest number of the nation’s coastal forts, such as this spectacular site on the SW Coastal Path at the Rumps, near Polzeath

Cornwall is home to the largest number of the nation’s coastal forts, such as this spectacular site on the SW Coastal Path at the Rumps, near Polzeath

 Kilkhampton Castle is a stunning 12th century motte and bailey castle situated on top of a high knoll to the west of the village of Kilkhampton and offers this spectacular view of the Coombe Valley towards the Hartland coast

Kilkhampton Castle is a stunning 12th century motte and bailey castle situated on top of a high knoll to the west of the village of Kilkhampton and offers this spectacular view of the Coombe Valley towards the Hartland coast

Earlier this year the Cornwall AONB Partnership was awarded a £9,700 grant from Historic England to develop a project to increase our understanding and awareness of the needs of our scheduled monuments across some of Cornwall’s most outstanding landscapes, working collaboratively with landowners and community based conservation groups.

With the support and expertise of the Cornwall Archaeological Unit, we have now completed four training sessions with Truro College Archaeology students and community-based conservation groups Timeseekers, Cornwall Archaeological Society, Lizard Archaeology Network, Meneage Archaeology Group, Rame Conservation Trust and Caradon Archaeology to equip local volunteers to gain new surveying skills and knowledge and to enable them to help shape the project. These training sessions were the first time that some of these separate groups had met together to share their expertise and experience and to consider how they might build on this and work together increasingly in the future for the benefit of Cornwall’s scheduled sites.

This is the first step to developing a plan that will seek to safeguard and stabilise the most vulnerable and threatened sites and provide more opportunities for local people and visitors to learn about, respect and appreciate the built heritage of the Cornwall AONB whether through walking and cycling past these sites or taking a more active role in their physical conservation such as through scrub clearance or volunteer archaeological digs.

As Roy Goutte the Team Leader of TimeSeekers says: -

'These wonderful sites and Prehistoric remains have been bequeathed to us by our Late Neolithic/Early Bronze age ancestors. To allow them to fall into a continuing state of ruin and hidden by undergrowth is an insult to their outstanding building achievements and why we, as a group, are so committed to keeping them tidy and in the public gaze for the foreseeable future'.

  James Gossip of the Cornwall Archaeological Unit shows volunteers how to research scheduled sites using the Historic England website and the Cornwall Council online public mapping website prior to a practical session at Goonhilly Downs

James Gossip of the Cornwall Archaeological Unit shows volunteers how to research scheduled sites using the Historic England website and the Cornwall Council online public mapping website prior to a practical session at Goonhilly Downs

Anyone interested in finding out more about scheduled monuments or the Heritage at Risk Register can search for sites near to you at HistoricEngland.org.uk

By registering with the Historic England website people can now contribute their own photos and information about listed sites to add to our shared knowledge of these important monuments in the Cornwall AONB.

So next time you take a walk out in Cornwall’s AONB, take a deeper look at the landscape and landform and see how much more you can spot, appreciate and learn about this often forgotten and hidden aspect to Cornwall’s protected landscape. You will be amazed at what you will find out!

Come and be our Wheal Buzzy Project Officer!

Wheal Buzzy Project Officer (vacancy now closed for applications)

The Cornwall AONB has been successful in securing £56,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for its exciting and pioneering new project, Wheal Buzzy, to safeguard and enhance conditions for mining bees, which will take place in West Penwith, parts of the Lizard, St Agnes and North Cornwall. We are now looking for a committed and resourceful Project Officer to join us to deliver this exciting project.

 The Tormentil Mining Bee

The Tormentil Mining Bee

Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, the project focuses on protecting and enhancing declining solitary mining bee habitats in these areas of outstanding landscapes.

Matching £10,000 from the AONB Partnership and other donations from our partners and volunteers in the form of time and materials, the grant will enable the project to run for two years to work in partnership with a wide network of Parish and Town Councils, community groups and trusts, schools, universities, churches and individuals to enable local people to learn about mining bees and to work with us to help protect and support the remaining habitats for the benefit of future generations.

The project officer will help us to: -

-  Create 22 hectares of habitat for mining bees working with our partners on 16 different sites across these areas with significant opportunities for local people to volunteer with us to share enjoyment in planting these important sites to improve foraging opportunities for our vulnerable mining bees;

 The coast at St Agnes is just one of the locations that we plan to undertake community-based habitat improvements

The coast at St Agnes is just one of the locations that we plan to undertake community-based habitat improvements

- Provide opportunities for local people and our visitors to enjoy and experience guided walks and to learn through taught courses how to identify and record mining bees across Cornwall;

- Advise landowners to look after their property in ways which will cater for the needs of mining bees and,

- Support our local schools and higher educational institutions to learn about mining bee habitats through coursework and educational resources as well as improve their school grounds or community spaces working alongside other partners.

  The project officer will deliver 22 hectares of wildflower meadows across the Cornwall AONB similar to this example at Cape Cornwall

The project officer will deliver 22 hectares of wildflower meadows across the Cornwall AONB similar to this example at Cape Cornwall

There are over 190 species of bee in the Cornwall AONB and over 120 of these are solitary mining bees making our area of national significance having larger populations than anywhere else in the UK. There are over 20 endangered and nationally scarce species present, however the number of sites have declined by over 50% in the last 25 years. This project represents a unique opportunity for a suitably qualified and experienced individual to help us reverse this decline for the benefit of future generations and to safeguard this important component of the natural heritage of the Cornwall AONB.

Gill Pipkin, Chairperson of the Cornwall AONB Partnership, said: -

 “I am both thrilled and excited that we have received this support thanks to National Lottery players. Many of our nationally important species of mining bee face extinction in the Cornwall AONB at current rates of decline and this hugely welcome grant will enable us to place local people at the heart of an exciting and rewarding, community based effort to reverse this and safeguard this important aspect of Cornwall’s heritage for our local communities and visitors. We now need a skilled and committed individual to join our team in order to help us achieve this”.

We are looking for a committed, passionate and enthusiastic individual with a proven ability of working collaboratively to deliver environmental work in partnership with local communities, with experience of working with organisations in the public, private and volunteer sector and with individuals ranging from schoolchildren to the elderly to raise awareness and engagement in the project from the local community. You will need to have excellent communication skills in the broadest range of contexts; possess a high degree of empathy and diplomacy to deliver the work with local communities as well as a good working knowledge of project management techniques and practice gained in a similar community-based environmental or heritage context. You should also have a degree or equivalent in an environmental discipline.

The post is 0.8 of a full-time equivalent for 29.6 hours a week on a temporary contract. The successful applicant will be based at the AONB Unit offices at Pydar House in Truro, although you will be expected to work flexibly across our area alongside our partners and stakeholders from West Penwith to North Cornwall.

NB: this vacancy is no longer being advertised - closing date for applications has passed.

 

 

 

Success for the South West Moors!

Our ambitious three-year project to restore peatland on the South West’s iconic moors, Bodmin Moor, Exmoor and Dartmoor has been awarded £2million!

A partnership of organisations including The Cornwall AONB Unit, West Country Rivers Trust, Natural England, South West Water,  South West Lakes Trust and the Environment Agency have led on the project and have joined forces with the Dartmoor and Exmoor National Park Authorities and many others for the benefit of all the South West Moors. The Partnership has successfully apply for funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to restore 1,680 hectares of damaged peatland on Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor and Exmoor.

36- Julie Taylor - Bodmin Moor.jpg

Morag Angus from SWW explained:

“The peatlands of south-west England are very important for water quality, carbon storage, biodiversity, cultural history, recreation and farming but they are the most vulnerable in the UK to the impacts of climate change, due to their southerly position. For this reason they need to be prioritised nationally and restored for the benefit of all and future generations.The £2million from Defra presents a real opportunity to make a significant difference and to deliver sustainable management in these upland river catchments.

Colette Beckham, Cornwall AONB Partnership Manager added,

"We are really delighted to be able to make significant strides to restoring valley mire peatlands on Bodmin Moor  through this project and I think the moor has really benefitted here from the joint approach with Dartmoor and Exmoor. It has to be said that this would not be possible without our committed group of supportive landowners - so special thanks must go to them."

The moors of Bodmin, Dartmoor and Exmoor hold significant regional and national deposits of peat in the form of blanket bogs and valley mires. These wetland habitats are complex ecosystems that support diverse and unique ecology of national and international importance.

Over centuries, human interventions have and still are impacting upon the overall quality and distribution of wetland mire habitats and upland moors. The demise of such wetlands across extensive swathes of the moors has resulted in changes in the moorland ecology, including the loss of iconic species such as dunlin, golden plover, and Sphagnum mosses.

The challenge is to prevent further losses and halt the decline, while improving and restoring these degraded habitats.

The project will be delivered by a partnership including government agencies, non-governmental organisations, landowners and farmers. Restoration work will start in August 2018.

Marsh.jpg

Various ditch blocking techniques using sustainable materials (wood, peat, grass and heather) will be adopted on historic peat cuttings, drainage networks and eroding gullies in order to enable re-wetting of extensive areas of damaged peatlands.

Undertaking this peatland restoration will bring about multiple benefits. These include:

  • Increasing the peatlands’ resilience to climate change and increasing carbon storage.
  • Improving the hydrological function of the peatlands by improving the quality and quantity of water leaving the moors.
  • Restoring the ecosystems that support the recovery of the habitats and associated wildlife.
  • Protecting and increasing our knowledge of our historic environment.
  • Maintaining and improving access.
  • Economic benefits to local farmers and businesses.
  • Health and well-being benefits to society both locally and nationally.
  • A greater understanding and experience to the numerous people who work in and visit these iconic landscapes.

 

Notes to editors

 

The Three Moors project partners are:

  • Bodmin Moor: Our landowners, South West Water, South West Lakes Trust, Natural England, Environment Agency, RSPB, Cornwall AONB, West Country Rivers Trust, Country Land and Business Association and Cornwall Council 
  • Dartmoor: South West Water, Natural England, Environment Agency, RSPB, Dartmoor National Park Authority, West Country Rivers Trust, Devon Wildlife Trust, Dartmoor Preservation Trust, Dartmoor Society, Duchy of Cornwall, Ministry of Defence, farming representatives, Historic England, University of Exeter, University of Plymouth
  • Exmoor:  South West Water, Natural England, Environment Agency, Historic England, University of Exeter, Exmoor National Park Authority, Exmoor Society, farming representatives.