Bridge Over Troubled Water

A few weeks ago a worried phone call alerted us of a possible broken bridge in Cleave Valley near St Gennys. Rangers headed out to investigate and were shocked to find no bridge at all!


The mystery was solved several hundred yards downstream where the broken remains of the previous bridge were discovered scattered over the bank. Heavy rainfall and steep sided valleys caused a torrent to wash down the Cleave Valley, taking the bridge with it.


On the case, the ranger team designed a new bridge to be erected in place of the old one. Materials bought and cut, we loaded the land rover and set off on our intrepid adventure down the hillside.

Some exciting off-road driving got the wood, tools and people down the steep-sided valley intact, ready for construction.


Legs where put in first and then secured ready for the stringers and treads. 50 treads (okay, so maybe that’s exaggerating a bit) later and the odd bent nail, you could finally cross the river without getting soggy feet.

After a couple of enjoyable days’ working in the beautiful Cleave valley, we were really pleased to have a created a great bridge, which will hopefully be a bit more resilient to Cornwall’s winter storms. Look out for it when walking between St Genny’s and Crackington.

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A Quercus robur stairway to heaven.

Over the last two winters the wooden staircase providing access to Lundy Bay beach (near Polzeath) has been given some rough treatment by the winter storms. Heavy seas had hefted boulders about knocking the staircase out of shape and putting in on its last legs (literally!).

The old softwood staircase, battered and wobbly.

The old softwood staircase, battered and wobbly.

With money donated to the National Trust, we were able to purchase and fit a new staircase out of heavier and sturdier oak (Quercus robur) that should stand the test of tide and time. The oak timber definitely felt a lot heavier than the original timber as we carried it down to the beach! The 10m long oak stringers that form the sides of the staircase were so heavy they had to be towed down to the beach by our tractor, with the other end skidding along on a fishing crate.

After 4 days of work by Johnny and Tim (from Steve Price Plastering and Building) as well as support from the ranger team, the staircase is officially ready for business, although with the recent rains sweeping through, the path above the staircase has become quite muddy so please take care.

If you’ve not been to Lundy Bay before, now’s the time to check it out. Pick a sunny day with a low tide and you can have the beach almost all to yourself, a real hidden gem, with rockpools, caves and golden sand.

Phase one complete…

Newquay Tretherras Poetry Club. Vegetation clearance extraordinaires!

Newquay Tretherras Poetry Club. Vegetation clearance extraordinaires!

Many months ago, a driftwood log washed up on the beach at Baby Bay, New Polzeath. Wanting to put it to good use we decided to turn it into a bench and put it somewhere where people could use it to soak up some of our North Cornwall ambience.

So… we have decided on a river side spot on the South West Coast Path from Crantock beach around to Penpol creek on the Gannel estuary near Newquay. Enlisting the help of the Poetry Club from Newquay Tretherras School, we have cleared the site of brambles, and blackthorn, opening up the view of the river and making the site suitable for a bench.

Whilst cutting back the vegetation, the students were encouraged to have a think about what the place meant to them and how it made them feel, we even managed 3 whole minutes of silence just watching and listening! We’re now eagerly awaiting their offerings of poems, one of which will be carved into the bench itself.

So watch this space… we’ll let you know when we’ve installed the bench and what the winning poem was. Thanks for all the hard work from the Poetry Club so far!

The driftwood bench top awaiting inspiration...

The driftwood bench top awaiting inspiration…

The Co-operative Bank also rebuilds coastal footpaths…

Recently, we’ve been out working on the South West Coast Path, tackling a badly eroded and steep section overlooking Trebarwith Strand. But as is often the case, we couldn’t get the job done without the help from a team of willing volunteers.

The team from Co-operative Bank, with their backs to Trebarwith Strand.

The team from Co-operative Bank, with their backs to Trebarwith Strand.

Teaming up with Volunteering Matters (, they in turn, organised a team from the Co-operative bank to join us for a day. This was made up from Area Managers from across the country who would spend one day with us in ‘Boot Camp’ as one member of the team called it and another day catching up with each other about their day jobs.

With a request for some serious labouring out on the coast from team leader Simon, the 120 metre long section of path was the ideal place for the team to earn their volunteering stripes.

With the help of 12 extra pairs of hands, we easily regraded the path surface, rebuilt more effective drainage and easier to use steps, widened the path where necessary as well as re-turfing over areas of erosion. Without this help, it would have taken the ranger team a lot more time than one day.

Thanks again to the team from the ‘CoOp’ for helping us make the coast path more enjoyable to walk on. Whilst I apologize for not taking more photos of the finished footpath, its a good excuse for you to get out and have a look for yourselves!

North Cornwall Ranger

457 species Found at Sandymouth Bioblitz !


The North Cornwall team had a great day last weekend, hosting our first Bioblitz.

BioBlitzes are an intense, biological survey bonanza held over one day in a designated area. The North Cornwall ranger team held the final of the National Trust’s Coastal Bioblitzes at Sandymouth (3 October). We were joined by scientists, naturalists and members of the public to work together to find as many living species as possible in one day.P1000252

A good day was had by all, even the weather held out for us. In total 457 species have been recorded, a phenomenal number for the area. Events like these are important in helping know the distribution of species as well as having a fun day out and getting to know nature up close. A big thank you to the experts and volunteers who came to join us, and everyone who took part. The National Trust will be running more again next year so we hope to see you then.

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Deptford Pink (Dianthus armeria)

Along the coastal grasslands, botanical walks were led by the BSBI County Recorder, Ian Bennallick. After a day of surveying he reported back that the event had found a whopping 370 species, adding 103 vascular plant species to the known 1999 records for this site. This included the rare Deptford pink, a wild relative of the popular carnation, which the site is partly managed for. A variety of birds including stonechats, skylarks, a kestrel and the iconic herring gull where all also spotted. It shows you that even simple looking grassland can be full of surprises.

In the tent, not cakes but butterflies were to be found, from small coppers to brimstones. Members of the public along with our expert, Alan Rowland, brought along what they had caught in the bug hunt trails where dark spiny bush crickets were joined by delicate emerald coloured lacewings. Moths that had been caught the night before included the ‘L-Album Wainscot’ a species that our expert, Mary Atkinson, had never caught in this country before. It makes the L Album one of our more unusual species, being at its northern most range.


Down on the beach, rock pooling lead in conjunction with the Marine Conservation Society, found a myriad of sea life from algae to mussels. Covering some rocks where honeycomb reef worms, which build a delicate pocket like structure from sand that any architect would be proud of. Even with the tide out, nine different fish species were found hiding in the rock rools. This including the familiar face of the common blenny (shanny), a small feisty fish that when the tides goes out can hide itself away in small rock crevices out of water! Next time you are rock pooling look out for them.


As dusk approached people gathered to go on a walk lead by Tony Atkinson from the Cornwall Bat Group. Bat detectors at the ready, lesser horseshoe and common pipistrelle bats were both heard and seen. The resident barn owl remained elusive, however we did find its prey species, field voles and wood mice.

Sandymouth BioBlitz

Come and join us on Saturday 3 October anytime between 12.30pm – 7.30pm for the Sandymouth BioBlitz….

Are you interested in nature and conservation? Help us to find and record as many different plants and animals with a range of specialists and experts to help identify everything we find. Join in anytime between 12.30pm and 7.30pm for as long as you like.

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Trailing through the Hinterland

Making the event trailer for The Cruel and Curious


When asked by Cai from Hickory Nines to create the trailer for the Cruel and Curious Hinterland, I, like the artists involved, had to define not only the term, but also what it meant to me personally.

The hinterland as a theme is brilliantly ambiguous – looking inland/inwards can mean different things to different people and how they express this could (and hopefully will) differ greatly, offering endless modes of expression, and a variety of media to do so.

Cai and I could pinpoint a few mutual aspects of what was meant by ‘hinterland’ and this helped determine the shots, tone and what we wanted the film to achieve. Focusing in from the dictionary-style definition of ‘the land behind the sea’, we looked at the loneliness and isolation afforded by this liminal zone; the unknown and thus unnerving; the concept of there once being a human presence in an area and the idea of the natural world reclaiming what was rightfully its own. We wanted the film to be slightly unsettling but not have the feel of horror.

Immediately I saw the film being in black and white. I thought it would provide a stark contrast to the colourful, scenic view usually offered when showcasing the West Country. I hoped that such a dramatic change would create an unsettling feel and almost a pessimistic tone, as experienced in film noir.


I tried to include a couple of sites looked after by National Trust; Wheal Betsy, seen at the end of the film, being one of them.

With the tone set, I then had to scout and chose locations that fitted these criterion.

As someone with an interest in archaeology and built heritage, it seemed natural for features like redundant engine houses, viaducts, railway track beds, disused mills and the like to make an appearance. After all, the landscape of Devon and Cornwall is littered with relics of the industrial revolution, but often on the periphery of the landscape and thus of our attention.

Davidstow airfield was also a prime contender. I looked at it from the view of an outsider: if you came across it by accident you would ask – ‘what happened here? Why is it no longer used?’

This to me, was the hinterland. These were areas often overlooked and unexplored by most – after all, these buildings are ruinous, so serve no purpose. Paradoxically, this made me want to visit them, to find out what happened here and why? In the process I came to terms with the great endeavors people had gone to when altering or manipulating the landscape and how those times are now gone. They offered an air of mystery, and their often dramatic positions in the landscape or the mixture of lighting they offered seemed to look good on camera.


Looking upstream towards the ruined mills of Rocky Valley.

Other locations in this hinterland were deemed curious as they posed unanswered questions. The fallen pylon along the road between Bude and Otterham Station was one such site. This structure had fallen over, only to be replaced by another pylon – but why had the old, broken one not been removed? The land owner had kindly given me permission to film, but did not allude as to why it was still lying there. It was this very discourse that had sparked the theme of the show. This seemed a flagship shot for the film and Cai was keen to include it. Visually it would look great. I was happy to oblige.


In terms of the voiceover, Cai had organised interviews with two artists with differing backgrounds: Eldmer, a male tattoo artist (and like myself originally from Wales) and Somerset/Devon girl Hannah Wheeler, a painter working in oil portraiture. (Both of which now work in Bude). Such a contrast in background and style, we hoped would offer an interesting narration to the film.

Planning the shoot for this film was totally different to any others DSC_1256I have
done, in that I planned little. As someone not originally from the area, much of the landscape felt like the hinterland to me and many locations that feature in the film are places that I have simply stumbled across when walking the dog or out with my camera. This act of discovery in unknown areas epitomised the theme to me. There were of course some shots that were planned, whether by driving past a place, through conversation with others or by hovering over an OS map. But the best locations, I feel, were the ones that would reveal themselves unexpectedly to me, and simply said ‘hinterland’.

– Rhodri