Newsletter September-October 2022

Hello again! I hope you have enjoyed the summer. Those crazy too-hot days feel like ages ago, but we are thankful that our Towans didn’t go up in smoke and that our parched streams, fields, gardens and reservoirs are now being replenished.

Summer is the time when we get out and about on the Towans, observing and enjoying the wildlife that – we always hope! – responds positively to our hard work in the previous winter months. I really hope that you have managed to do that this year – maybe  as part of the very successful Bioblitz in June?

It struck me recently that if the Towans was a forest or had a high fence around it, with lights and warning signs saying ‘Keep out – very important nature area’ it might be easier for people to realise its value, whereas its open boundaries, bramble patches and in places unkemptness and few signs don’t make this high value such an easy thing to grasp, so let’s keep on talking the Towans up to people we know or meet. Here’s the nugget to memorise: 25% of all of Cornwall’s wild plants are found here, within only 0.2% of Cornwall!

 Talking of responding to management work, ace botanist Colin French has been incredibly busy this summer, carrying out detailed botanical surveys of both Gwithian Towans and Gwithian Green on behalf of the landowners, to guide future management. He made some incredible discoveries! I quote here from his Gwithian Green report:

The very distinctive Horsetail Equisetum palustre var. polystachyum has only ever been found at six sites in Cornwall. It was last seen in the Hayle dune system before 1890 when it was reported by John Ralfs at Loggans. In 2022 six plants were found on Gwithian Green.

Colin believes the reappearance of this plant is directly linked to pony grazing last winter, and he found some very rare plants at Gwithian Towans – such as Irish Sorrel – and also in areas which were grazed recently, really underlining the value of grazing. Ponies and cattle will be returning to the Towans in the next few months, so let’s see what turns up next year!

On the flip side, Colin discovered Gunnera perpensa on the Green, at its first wild location in Britain! We need to remove this ASAP, as it is likely to be very invasive.

Another busy bee this summer has been our own Paul Clark, who has run a full programme of beach cleans as Save our Sand, which are proving to be as popular as ever. Most book up within a few days. Thanks so much, Paul, for organising and running these so efficiently.

Talking of saving our sand, the FOTT trustees and I, along with local councillors, continue to try all we can to ensure that the Towans is properly protected in the face of, or when considering, various development proposals. This is not easy, as so much depends upon the attitude of individual landowners, and as we all know, Cornish coastal land is becoming ever more valuable. We will continue to do what we can to protect this important area.

Believe it or not, it’s 10 years since we started developing the ranger role in earnest. We’ve come a long way and have achieved a lot I think, not least establishing FOTT as a charity last year. We have just received a report from a local consultant to advise us on how and where we might seek funding to keep on developing our work even more, so that’s exciting. All the challenges I listed in the 2014 Management Plan I wrote remain relevant, so there’s definitely plenty to keep us busy!

Returning to the here and now, the opportunities that FOTT offers people have developed in the last six months into three different aspects:

  1. Our trusty scrub-bashing/habitat management gang
  2. A range of art activities under the banner of the Friends of the Towans Art Club
  3. Towans wildlife recording and monitoring, as part of the new Cornwall Dunes Recording Group

This last group has developed well this summer under the guidance of Andy and Pip from Dynamic Dunescapes, along with Derek and Sally from Budding Nature. It aims to create and sustain a team of volunteers to carry out surveys on various dune species and habitats, and to exist beyond Dunescapes (April 2023). There’s quite a wide range of survey types available, and coaching on identification, techniques etc is available.

We’ll also be teaming-up with a group of young people from Mount’s Bay Academy under a Wave Rangers scheme, where they come outside to learn, hands-on, about conservation. Some other local schools will be working with us too, as well as other community groups.

There’s loads for us to get on with over the coming months, as you’ll see from the Events page. We’re now back into the autumn/winter rhythm of Tuesdays and Thursdays, out on the Towans somewhere, so blank out those days now! We’ll also chuck in extra dates – wildlife walks etc – as and when we can.

Happy Autumn!

Martin Rule, Towans Ranger