World Environment Day and Farms for AONBees converge in Cornwall

After a successful pilot, the next phase of the ‘Farms for AONBees’ partnership project goes live today, at a time when the world shines a light on the importance of protecting our environment.

The theme of this year’s World Environment Day is 'Connecting People to Nature’ and that’s just what Cornwall’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Unit (CAONB) and researchers at the Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) plan to do, as we extend the reach of our project into new farming communities across the county.

For the past six months the ‘Farms for AONBees’ team has been working with 5 farms and land owners across the different faces of Cornish farmland. Using a free computer programme conceived and developed at the ESI, which shows how virtual bees survive in digital landscapes, we have been able to help farmers learn where their bee colonies may be and how they could be surviving on their holdings. We have also been able to provide them with customised recommendations about how and where they could increase the habitat and flowers available to bees and other pollinators, which is not just beneficial to bees but can also help Cornish food production thrive with better rates of pollination.

Key findings from stage 1, saw how even just small changes in management could make a big difference to the number of bumblebees on not just one farm but across neighbouring farms to achieve landscape-scale benefits.  In addition, by planting the right flowers, in the right place, you could increase the rates of pollination significantly whilst providing free fertiliser for the soil and protein, vitamins and minerals for livestock.

Joe Dunstan, Farmer and owner of Cousin Jack’s Ltd was one of the pilot project participants and said, “The Farms for AONBees team came up, explained to us where the bee colonies were likely to be, then showed us all the different options that we could choose for ways to manage our areas that we don’t crop. We discovered that just by making a few small changes we can increase the pollinators around, which in turn will have a benefit to the crops that we’re growing”.

Over 20 bee-friendly delegates from across Cornwall’s scientific, agricultural and conservation communities attended a special workshop on the ‘Farms for AONBees’ project at last week’s CAONB Annual Conference on the Lizard. Their feedback and creative input is helping us to shape the next stage of the project, which has already seen the ESI expand the regional partnership to include Natural England and South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The project will also help researchers tailor the computer models for land owners, managers and advisors to support pollinator populations on farmland. After using the ESI’s model of bumblebee colonies called BUMBLE-BEEHAVE during the pilot phase, the project will now include the other models on Honeybee behaviour and pollinator landscape exploration into a new decision-support tool called BEE-STEWARD.

Credit: Clare Lemon

Credit: Clare Lemon

Grace Twiston-Davies, ESI Research Associate and ‘Farms for AONBees’ project lead said, “We’ve learnt a lot from the pilot project and it’s been invaluable in getting feedback on the models and the service we provide for farmers and agricultural experts. We’ll factor that into this next phase as we put the new model to work. Ultimately we hope this cutting-edge research developed on the Penryn campus and disseminated by the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Unit will help provide some solutions to the challenges of protecting the nations’ bees and balancing food security.

The beauty and biodiversity of the UK countryside is inherently important to the nations’ Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Along with the productivity and quality of the nation’s £100bn food industry, they are significantly dependent upon the abundance and sustainability of pollinating insect numbers. Whilst there are at least 1500 species of pollinating insects in the UK, a loss in flower-rich habitats attributable to the intensification of agriculture, rapid industrial development and urbanisation, has led to a marked decline in the profusion of pollinators. Indeed, the UK has lost 20 species of bee since the 1900s and a further 35 are considered under threat (Friends of the Earth).

Farmers, landowners and the public interested in learning more about the ‘Farms for AONBees’ project can find us at Stand 237 in the Forestry tent at this week’s Royal Cornwall Show, which takes place in Wadebridge on the 8th, 9th and 10th June.

Conference a resounding success!

Over 130 delegates attended this year's very successful Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Annual Conference.

‘Working in Partnership for Nature’ was the main message for the conference which was held on Saturday 20th May at Goonhilly Earth Station on the Lizard.

Over the past 5 years, the Cornwall AONB Unit, the National Trust, Natural England, the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, The University of Exeter and the National Farmers Union have come together to better co-ordinate work to conserve the outstanding habitats and wildlife of the Lizard Peninsula, under the banner of the 'Linking the Lizard Partnership'.

One of the major successes of the Partnership, in 2016, was the extension of the Lizard National Nature Reserve (NNR) by Natural England with the inclusion of land holdings from Cornwall Wildlife Trust and the National Trust, making it the largest National Nature Reserve in the South West. The Conference celebrated this and many other gains for nature in the AONB in 2016.

Sir Ferrers Vyvyan, owner of Trelowarren Estate opened this year's proceedings with a unique view on the conservation of nature from a man whose family have lived on the Lizard, at Trelowarren Estate for 600 years!

Dame Helen Ghosh, Director General of the National Trust was this year's keynote speaker. She gave an inspirational talk on  the National Trust - preserving the landscape forever, for everyone, including for wildlife! She stressed the huge importance of working together to address the severe challenges faced by nature. The morning presentations were rounded off by Colette Beckham of the Cornwall AONB Unit and Matthew Thomson, Chief Executive of Fifteen Cornwall and Co-chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Nature Partnership.

Conference attendees were treated to a range of nature based field trips and workshops in the afternoon led by The National Trust, Natural England, Cornwall Wildlife Trust and the Cornwall Seal Research Group. Groups learnt more about the biodiversity and management of the National Nature Reserve and about the efforts to conserve  Cornwall's iconic bird, the Chough and our unique grey seals. Another group discussed how to improve the farmed landscape for bees as part of the Cornwall AONB Unit's 'Farms for AONBees' project. In addition, a group led by Andy Hughes of Cornwall College brushed up on their landscape photography skills.

The event concluded with a series of short plenary talks from Sandy Pulfrey of 'Welcome to Wild Lizard' (the Lizard Tourism Association); Sue Scott from The Helford Voluntary Marine Conservation Group and the newly appointed Director of the Environment and Sustainability Institute at the University of Exeter in Penryn, Professor Juliet Osborne. The  event concluded  in true Cornish style with some shanties from the Lizard’s finest – the Cadgwith Singers.

Colette Beckham, Cornwall’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership Manager was thrilled to have hosted such an inspiring event, “Nature is in trouble in the AONB, in Cornwall, in the UK and globally. We wanted to use our conference this year to celebrate the outstanding work happening in the AONB to support biodiversity and to show that working together is critical to a future for wildlife.

The Lizard is fast becoming a destination of choice for nature lovers everywhere and as such is one of the finest landscapes on offer in the AONB. The story of the Lizard NNR is a great example of what can be achieved by working in partnership and we hope the conference will have inspired all who came to create new conservation success stories across Cornwall”.

Cornwall AONB Annual Conference 2017 - is now fully booked!

'Working in Partnership for Nature'

Saturday 20 May 2017 - Goonhilly Earth Station, The Lizard, Cornwall.

ET Croft Pascoe Pool & Goonhilly.jpg

With just over 100 delegates booked to attend, the Annual Conference is now fully booked. Our 'reserves list' is also now full as well.  Apologies for any disappointment.  We will post info, presentations, photos etc of the day's proceedings after the event on here.


The theme of this year's conference is 'Working in Partnership for Nature' and is a key event in a season of events to celebrate the extension of the Lizard National Nature Reserve. We are delighted to announce that this year's keynote speakers will be, 

Dame Helen Ghosh, Director General, The National Trust

Matthew Thomson, Co-Chair, Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Nature Partnership and Chief Executive, Fifteen Cornwall

The conference will be opened by Sir Ferrers Vyvyan, owner of the Trelowarren Estate.

The day will highlight the plight of nature but will focus on the positive action that is happening in Cornwall to restore biodiversity and what more can be done,  through the joint action of conservation organisations and local volunteers. 

Over the past 5 years, the National Trust, Natural England, Cornwall Wildlife Trust, The Cornwall AONB Unit, and the National Farmers Union have come together on the Lizard under the banner 'Linking the Lizard Partnership'. One of the major successes of the Partnership is the extension by Natural England of the Lizard NNR through the addition of Cornwall Wildlife Trust and the National Trust land holdings to create the largest National Nature Reserve (NNR) in the South West.

The conference will take place at Goonhilly Earth Station, located right in the heart of the NNR. In the afternoon, you will be heading out on a number of fascinating field trips to explore the work taking place across the Lizard to build a better future for wildlife. Of course this will also give us a chance to drink in the amazing landscapes of the AONB on the Lizard Peninsula.

Later in the day, there will be some quick-fire plenary talks from a variety of organisations and people who are all working their socks off for nature.

We'll round of the day in fine Cornish style with some pasties for tea accompanied by the rambunctious Cadgwith Singers!



09.30 - 10.00  Registration, tea and coffee


Welcome and introduction - Dr Robert Kirby-Harris, Chairman, Cornwall AONB Partnership

 Opening remarks - Sir Ferrers Vyvyan, Trelowarren Estate 

'The National Trust - Working in Partnership for Nature' – Dame Helen Ghosh, Director General, The National Trust

'environmental growth and the local nature partnership' - MATTHEW THOMSON, CO-CHAIR, CORNWALL & ISLES OF SCILLY LOCAL NATURE PARTNERSHIP AND chief exec, fifteen cornwall 

Nature in the AONB - Stories from our year - Colette Beckham, Cornwall AONB Partnership Manager

Questions and Answers Session


12.15   Locally Sourced Lunch 

Planning Surgery* - during lunch delegates can speak to Jim Wood, Cornwall AONB Planning Officer about local planning issues max 5 mins per delegate (*prior booking essential)

Tour of Goonhilly Earth Station* – (NOW FULLY BOOKED) during lunch delegates can book on a short guided tour of Goonhilly Earth Station, led by Shaun Richardson, Goonhilly Estate Manager.  An interesting and informative tour of the work taking place at the Earth Station and will include walking outside around the estate (*prior booking essential - now fully booked)

1.15  Afternoon

Field trips and indoor workshop sessions.  Delegates will attend ONE of the following field trips or indoor activities (prior booking essential - see booking form)

Delegates to attend ONE of the following:

1  Conservation grazing on the National Nature Reserve (NNR) in partnership with our farmers - Kynance.  Leader: Justin Whitehouse, The National Trust.  Field trip – off site to Kynance via bus.  Walking ability: Moderate

2  Farms for AONBees Project - working with land managers, advisors and farmers to produce tailor-made, pollinator friendly management recommendations to enhance the Cornish landscape for conservation and food and drink production.  Leader: Dr Grace Twiston-Davies, University of Exeter (Penryn campus) and Cornwall AONB.  Indoor activity (may include possible field trip to nearby farm).  Walking ability: Easy

3  Windmill Farm - part of the National Nature Reserve thanks to Partnership working.  Leader: Callum Deveney, Head of Nature Reserves, Cornwall Wildlife Trust.  Field trip - off site to Windmill Farm via bus.  Walking ability: Easy

4  Provoke The Picturesque - Photographic Workshop.  Walking and talking, using digital SLR camera, digital camera or iPhone camera.  A short walk around the local vicinity i.e. the paths next to the World War II radio stations and undertaking two specific visual arts tasks.  Leader: Andy Hughes, Photographer.  Please bring YOUR OWN: DSLR camera (with SD card) or a digital camera (with SD card) or an iPhone (no other phones please).  Outdoors walking on-site at Goonhilly Earth Station.  Walking ability: Easy

5  The Biodiversity of the Lizard National Nature Reserve (NNR).  Leader: Phil Bowler, Senior Reserves Manager, Natural England.  Field trip – off site.  Walking ability: Moderate

6  Working in partnership for two of Cornwall's speciality species; Cornish choughs and Atlantic Grey seals – walk and talk including the invaluable input of volunteers in these projects and will hopefully include opportunities to see choughs and seals.  Leaders: Catherine Lee, Community and Volunteering Officer, The National Trust; Sue Sayer, Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust and Nicola Shanks, RSPB.  Field trip to Lizard Point – off site via bus.  Walking ability: Easy/Moderate

3.30     Tea and Coffee at Goonhilly Earth Station

3.45     Plenary talks

Wild Lizard – Promoting the Lizard as a destination for nature, -  Sandy Pulfrey of The Hen House and "Welcome to Wild Lizard" Committee

Working together to protect our shores, - Sue Scott, Helford Voluntary Marine Conservation Area

The ESI and AONB - acronyms working together in Partnership - Prof Juliet Osborne, Director, Environment & Sustainability Institute/University of Exeter

4.15     Chairman’s closing remarks

4.25     Cadgwith Singers and Pasties for tea

5.00     Depart

Places on this conference are limited and it is now fully booked

Thrift in Lizard hedges.jpg