The Cornwall AONB Time Capsule Project

 Time Capsule contents

Time Capsule contents

As the deadline of the recent opening of the Temple to Higher Carblake A30 highway improvements loomed, we were busy working behind the scenes with the pupils of Cardinham Primary School and Kier Construction to complete a time capsule project. The capsule has been buried alongside the A30 dual carriageway and is not due to be opened until 2117 – a hundred years from now!

With all the major civil construction taking place in such close proximity to the Bodmin Moor section of the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty it made sense to take advantage of the support Kier Construction had offered and work with the pupils of Cardinham Primary School to bury a time capsule underground alongside the A30. The children were all very excited at the thought of burying their chosen items in a lead capsule to be dug up in 100 years’ time.

A time capsule is anything that encapsulates time – think Tutankhamen’s Tomb or the Great Pyramid but on a miniscule scale. It is a way of capturing time in a container filled with items of interest from the present day for others to find far into the future and gain an understanding of what life was like in another time.

The International Time Capsule Society (ITCS) estimates that there are currently between 10,000 to 15,000 time capsules sealed and buried worldwide. Our time capsule was made of lead much the same as the Romans would have used and it was sealed airtight by the kind assistance of Peter Scholey from ‘Just Lead’ in Wadebridge who have been involved in a wide variety of heritage restoration projects.


Bodmin Moor forms one of the twelve local sections of the Cornwall AONB and in itself has amazing historical significance. Ten thousand years ago during the Mesolithic period, Bodmin Moor was heavily wooded and hunter gatherers would have roamed the area. From about 4,500 to 2,300 BC people began clearing trees, farming the land and building various megalithic monuments such as long cairns and stone circles. During the Bronze Age the creation of monuments dramatically increased with a further 300 cairns, more stone circles and stone rows and more than 200 Bronze Age settlements have been recorded.

Our time capsule has captured a very different period and lifestyle in 2017 and we can only guess what life will be like in 2117?

Our thanks go to the pupils of Cardinham Primary School, Kier Construction and ‘Just Lead’ for their help and support on this project.

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”.