Ever thought about going on a National Trust Working Holiday?

 

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The working holiday crew above Porth Mear valley

If you have no idea what a working holiday is or you’re not sure whether it would be your sort of thing, here’s a taster of what a working holiday would be like in North Cornwall.

In early October, the National Trust Tintagel to Holywell ranger team was joined by 13 people from across the country who had signed up for a Cornish working holiday. Staying at the Beach Head Bunkhouse at Park Head a few miles west of Padstow, the working holiday involved a good mix of conservation work with the rangers and time off to explore the area.

The conservation task planned for the week was predominantly some reed bed management, reed bed being a Biodiversity Action Plan priority habitat and quite a rare habitat in North Cornwall. It’s home to all sorts of wildlife so it is very important to look after it. The down time activities included sampling the local cream teas, soaking up a sunset on a cliff top walk and braving a surfing or coasteering session. It was going to be a busy week!

Arriving on Monday evening, the guests were given a warm welcome in the bunkhouse by our working holiday leaders.  Waking bright and early on Tuesday and following a hearty breakfast, the team, along with a few of the rangers and regular volunteers, headed down to Porth Mear to get stuck into some reed bed management. Areas of the reed bed are cut every autumn (after the breeding season to avoid disturbing nesting birds and other wildlife) in order to stimulate fresh new growth the following year. The team set to work armed with slashers, strimmers, forks, rakes and even a rugged motor mower, cutting down the reeds and other scrub and piling it up.

It is important not to let the cut material rot down where it is, as this results in a high level of nutrients in the soil that is not beneficial to reed beds, usually resulting in it becoming overgrown with more aggressive plants such as brambles and bindweed. As it was not practical to remove the vast amounts of cut vegetation being produced, we started two fires which were lovingly tended and kept topped up for the rest of the day – although the ensuing clouds of smoke did lend the whole scene a somewhat apocalyptic atmosphere!

Practical habitat management is thirsty work, and we were kept hydrated and warm with regular tea breaks complete with hot drinks courtesy of two wood powered Kelly kettles.  At the end of the day the team climbed the hill back up to the bunkhouse, having cleared a huge area of land, with the two fenced-off bonfires still smouldering.

On Wednesday, the team had the opportunity to try out something a bit more adventurous with a couple of our ambassador outdoor activity businesses. Six people split off to join Big Green Surf School for a surf lesson at Crantock beach, and the other eight headed off to try out coasteering with Cornish Rock Tors. In the morning the surfers headed to Holywell beach to do a litter pick, and then went on to Crantock after a brief stop off at local bakery for fortifying pasties and pies. Although the weather was cold and wet, and the seas choppy, a good time was had by all – with varying amounts of surfing success – and a grey seal even came to watch! After a long walk back to the car park carrying surfboards, an exhausted group voted to head back to the bunkhouse.

Cornish Rock Tors operate out of the picturesque natural harbour at Port Gaverne, near the Doc Martin famous Port Isaac. Unfortunately, the sea conditions weren’t ideal for coasteering this week with some wild swell rolling in. This meant the remaining 8 team members were whisked off to a bad weather venue at the nearby flooded Tregildrans quarry, surrounded by autumnal oak trees. Here they got the chance to try out stand up paddle boarding, messing about in a canoe and a few adrenaline-pumping jumps from the rocky quarry walls.

Thursday dawned with Cornish sunshine and blue skies. We split the team again, with some folks finishing off raking and burning the reeds we had already cut in Porth Mear valley. The other half were set to work undertaking repairs to the South West Coast Path for the benefit of the thousands of walkers who walk it each year. With mattocks and spades they installed drains to reduce water erosion and leveled the path where it had become uneven and worn.

With the work complete, there was still just about enough time to head off over to the nearby Carnewas tea rooms for a cream tea overlooking the beach at Bedruthan Steps. Making the most of the good weather, the team also squeezed in a quick walk on Trevose Head that evening as the sun went down over the north coast.

Come Friday morning the team were getting ready to say goodbye to each other and head their separate ways. Working holidays are a great way to meet new people and firm friendships are often forged in the short space of a week. Working holidays are also really useful for getting conservation work done as there are often tasks that require many hands. In this case it was the raking and burning of cut reeds from the reed bed but there are any number of other tasks that just require lots of willing volunteers. With the extra help it’s great from our point of view to see how quickly the reed bed was tidied up where it would usually take the rangers at least three times as long.

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Thanks for all the hard work!

 

If you’re interested in the idea of getting outdoors and helping out with some conservation work, meeting new people and experiencing a completely different style of holiday, why not have a look on our National Trust Working Holidays website? Currently the working holidays are divided up into 11 different categories including archaeology, rural skills, farming, historic houses and coast and countryside to name a few, so there’s always the possibility that you might find something that really ticks the box for you. Equally we tend to find there’s always a good age range represented on these holidays, so age should be no barrier to you signing up!

Thanks again to everybody who came on the working holiday in North Cornwall this year. It was great to meet you all and we couldn’t have achieved half as much of the conservation work without you. See you next time?

Tintagel to Holywell ranger team

Adopt a Footpath – New volunteer role now available…

We have just advertised for a new volunteer role on the National Trust MyVolunteering website.

The new role is Volunteer Footpath Ranger for North Cornwall (specifically the coast between Tintagel and Holywell. “And what does this involve?” I hear you say.

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The Background

Well… here in the Tintagel to Holywell ranger team, we look after over 50 miles of public rights of way and 6 miles of permissive footpaths. With the recent acquisition of Trevose Head, the mileage of footpath that we care for has shot up again!

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A freshly scraped drain overlooking the secluded Porth Mear beach and valley

All of these footpaths take a great deal of looking after, especially through the winter with extra helpings of wind and rain.

The Role

With this in mind, we are offering people the opportunity to get involved with making sure these walking routes remain in top condition, by adopting a section of footpath, and helping us look after it.

In this case though, adoption is more hands on. We’re asking for volunteers to carry out regular (every month or two) checks, reporting any problems, clearing out some drains and chopping the odd bramble. What could be better, a valid reason to get out and walk the coast path every month and at the same time you’re doing your bit to look after this valuable resource for everyone.

It could be your favorite stretch of coast path or just a length of footpath close to where you live. We’ll kit you out with a spade and secateurs, give you all the training you might need and set you off.

We’re hoping to build a team of Volunteer Footpath rangers, so there will be the opportunity to meet other people but also it will be possible to volunteer when you want and for as long as you want.

The Requirements

  • Some free time (not after dark!)
  • Your own transport to get you to your footpath.
  • Fit enough to walk a stretch of footpath and do minor maintenance (no experience nessecary though)
  • Willing to commit to a monthly (or every other month) patrol for a minimum of a year. This is the ideal time commitment, although there is no obligation.
  • Live within 20 miles of the stretch of footpath you would like to look after.
  • Enthusiasm, willingness to get stuck in
  • Desire to volunteer for a charity
  • Happy to work by yourself or enlist the company of a friend!

Benefits

  • Volunteering for a good cause
  • Helping others enjoy the footpaths
  • Training and learning new skills
  • Reimbursement of travel expenses.
  • Improving your fitness
  • Getting out in the fresh air and sea breezes
  • Meeting new people

Footpaths up for adoption

National Trust land in North Cornwall can often be grouped into clusters. In each of the following areas, there will be sections of footpath up for adoption. If you live nearby or have a particular area you love walking in, let us know.

  • Tintagel
  • Trebarwith Strand
  • Tregardock and Dannonchapel
  • Pentire Head to Port Quin
  • Trevose Head
  • Porthcothan and Park Head
  • Holywell, Polly Joke, Crantock

Get in touch

If the idea of becoming a Volunteer Footpath Ranger  and adopting a footpath intrigues and you want to find out more, please get in touch with Tom Sparkes by calling 01208 863821 or emailing tom.sparkes@nationaltrust.org.uk

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A finer spot for footpath maintenance couldn’t be found! Looking out towards Stepper Point and Trevose Head on a hot day in June.

 

 

Working Nine to Five. A work experience week…

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been joined by three work experience students from a local school. They joined the Tintagel – Holywell ranger team for a week or two, helping and finding out exactly what a National Trust ranger does and trying out a nine to five job. Well, 8:15 – 4:30pm!

We try and plan our work experience opportunities to get a good flavour of the different tasks we might do in the ranger team. Highlighting a few tasks, this might be anything from improving footpath access, installing gates, cutting back vegetation or working with schools.

But as well as booking in different tasks, we also like the week to be really representative of a normal working week. A lot of our work is very seasonal, for example over winter we spend a lot of time carrying out habitat management on our coastal grassland which ultimately means scrub clearance. Come summer, we’re spending a lot of time cutting back vegetation along paths or tackling invasive species like ragwort. This can mean that we can sometimes end up doing similar tasks from week to week in a season.

Here’s a few words from two of the students describing what they got up to and what they thought of their time with us.

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Installing new field gates on a work experience week. James on the far right.

 

James, Year 10

I had a two week placement with the National Trust and the two weeks can be described as very enjoyable. I went to many different places, some of which I had never been to and completed a wide range of jobs from cutting back the overgrown coast paths to repairing fences. Also I got to work with a great team of people who do this job day in day out with the ultimate goal of helping out their local community. Overall I think it was a great experience and would recommend it to people who love the countryside and helping the community.

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Lianne helping us cut back overgrown footpaths near Epphaven.

 

Lianne, Year 12

My name is Lianne and I came to the National Trust for a week’s work experience. I decided to choose the National Trust as I enjoy being outside and wasn’t sure of all the things they did, so wanted to find out. On Monday I started off doing some raking of grass cuttings behind an overgrown house at Port Gaverne. I then did a litter pick on the National Trust owned beach there. In the afternoon we went to Pentire Head and pulled up common ragwort, a plant that can poison cows and other livestock.

The rest of the week was mostly similar but in different locations such as Epphaven and Newquay. However in Epphaven we also did some coast path maintenance by inserting some slate into the path to make some steps to make it easier for public access. Over the week I have learnt how to use a range of tools and equipment.

The part of the week that I enjoyed the most was the maintenance work in Epphaven as it was something different and interesting rather than just clearing the path. I also learnt a lot about using tools like the pinch bar and a mattock. I also just enjoyed being out and about in the sun in different locations around North Cornwall.

When I first came to the National Trust I wasn’t sure what their jobs consisted off, but now I realise how much they do to maintain the coast paths and how busy they are all the time. I think that the National Trust is a very good charity organisation and I have really enjoyed my week here.

Thanks for your help guys! Being a charity we appreciate help from volunteers and work experience students. If you would like to find out more about what we do through volunteering or a work experience placement please email tom.sparkes@nationaltrust.org.uk.

Wreckers in Porth Mear

If you have taken a stroll down the Porth Mear valley over the last few months, you won’t have had to be too eagle-eyed to have noticed something different about it.

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An unusual lizard now lives in the valley

The lush valley often feels a world away from the crashing seas and craggy headland of the neighbouring Park Head. Offering valuable shelter from the weather rolling in across the sea, in winter it is dominated by stands of common reed. Later on in spring, it can be flushed with bluebells before the bracken steals the show into summer.

This summer, poking its bow up out of a sea of bracken is a shipwreck populated by lizards, owls and a whole host of other local wildlife.

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Wrecked in the bracken

But this wreck hasn’t been lured ashore by Poldark-esque locals waving lanterns on a stormy night. This wreck has been created by a Somerset based chainsaw artist called Matt Crabb, pieced together from windfall beech and ‘washed ashore’ by the North Cornwall ranger team.

The sculpture has been commissioned as part of the Coast Festival which we celebrated in 2015. This was the 50th anniversary of the Neptune project, a fundraising campaign established in 1965 to raise funds to protect and secure our special coast line in the UK.

The shipwreck can be seen at any time of year as the vegetation grows then dies back around it. To reach the sculpture, there’s a lovely 4.5 mile circular walk that you can do from either the Park Head or Carnewas car parks. The walk takes in Park Head with views over the beach at Bedruthan Steps before descending down into the Porth Mear Valley itself. You can download the route here as one of our downloadable walks. Why not take a stroll and see what you can discover? Here’s a hint; the sculpture is just south of point 6 on the downloadable map.

Watch this space for a time lapse video of the work that went into the sculpture’s installation. The most challenging part of construction was possibly getting the timber into the valley which was impossible to access with a  vehicle!

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Matt Crabb (Somerset based chainsaw artist) at the beginning of a long day constructing the sculpture. The hardest part of a job on the coast can often be transporting the materials to the site.

We hope you enjoy discovering the sculpture on a walk in North Cornwall.

Tom Sparkes North Cornwall Ranger

Have you done any skygazing recently?

When was the last time you just lay back and watched the clouds scudding over head or sat outside, closed your eyes and just listened to the wind and the buzz of tiny insects?

Of course, you can do this anywhere. But if you’ve not already discovered it, we’ve created a dedicated outdoor space at one of our properties in North Cornwall that you can do just that. If you visit Carnewas at Bedruthan, you can make the most of our Sky Glade. This is a small glade set amongst the heather and gorse, decked out with purpose built outdoor furniture designed to help you  make the most of the amazing view, not out to sea (which is also very good) but up at the sky!

And now we’ve added a Sky Watchers Record book, so when you’ve decided whether that cloud looks like a duck on a bicycle or a pirate ship made of cotton wool, you can record it for other people to see.

Go on, this bank holiday why not get outside and challenge yourself not to rush about, but  just to sit and watch the clouds?

 

It’s time to run the North Cornwall Coast, isn’t it?

IMG_6670The National Trust Coastal Challenge series is back for 2016! Five guided trail runs on (hopefully!) sunny evenings between May and September, lead by experienced leaders finishing with a BBQ on the beach or a pint in a beer garden.

We think we’ve got some of the best views and the best trails around. Craggy headlands, deep valleys, long sandy beaches. And even better, anyone with a small amount of running in their legs can join in. We’ve got a 5k and a 10k option and the groups will cater to all abilities.

The challenge, if you choose to accept it is twofold. Firstly, to come along to all of them and take on the trails overlooking the Celtic Sea. We’ll lay down the gauntlet that you’ll struggle to find a better set of running routes in North Cornwall, if not the World!

Secondly, we love this section of coastline, but as with a lot of the coast path it takes a lot of time and money to keep it looking as good as it does. As a charity it costs the National Trust an average of £3000 per mile of coast path to maintain it in good condition each year.

Last year, from the five evenings of running, we raised £492. It would be amazing to top this and raise some much needed funds to help us look after this landscape that we’re all privileged to be able to be a part of. Spread the word about the events, bring your friends!

See the poster below for further details and get in touch with us to find out more: 01208 863046 or email northcornwall@nationaltrust.org.uk

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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.