The mission statement of the Penwith Landscape Partnership (PLP) proposed a holistic approach, requiring experts in Archaeology; Ecology and Cornish Hedges; Farming; Footpaths and Access; Communication; and Practical Tasks, backed by administrators and supported by teams of volunteers. To achieve this in practice, meant bringing together specialist staff with skills and expertise to work together, recognising that their skills overlap and inform each other. The whole is more than the sum of its parts. This could have been a recipe for confusion, competition and disharmony, but anyone who has met and worked with the staff, will agree that they had excellent working relationships. In addition – crucially – they all enjoy what they did and shared that enthusiasm with volunteers.
So what has PLP done for us?
Penwith Farmers have been given advice, soil sampling and support with applications for DEFRAs Countryside Stewardship. Several Farms have had planning applications supported to bring redundant farm buildings back into use. One of these provides accommodation for adults with learning difficulties. The PLP has provided grants to improve working practices, including managing water run-off, planting herbal leys and improved fencing. It has also supported farmers with the introduction of Nofence technology for cattle, an adaptable electronic way of managing cattle without erecting intrusive fencing, especially appropriate on moors and downs.
The PLP and volunteers have used a Brush Harvester to collect wildflower seeds from donor sites and plant them to restore or enhance meadow land. Habitats have been created to encourage the Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary, a threatened butterfly species. The same PLP group have for five years worked on some 90 different historic and ancient sites, Bronze and Iron Age settlements, stone circles, tin processing sites, often visiting each several times a year to clear vegetation, and to restore Cornish Hedges. Some sites have been overgrown for years, such as Sperris Ancient settlement, Porthmeor Stamps, and Goldherring, allowing site records to be updated to inform future planning. Clearing has also made it possible for local people to visit, sometimes for the first time in decades.
Volunteer groups have also kept clear kilometers of footpaths around Penwith. Paths have been surveyed and cleared; rights of way have been unblocked. Volunteers trained in rights of way and archaeological recording can now continue to identify and report issues after the PLP ends. Stiles and pedestrian gates have been installed, numbers of trails have been devised and comprehensive details published on the PLP website, many linking ancient sites. The Tinners’ Way route has been surveyed, made accessible and is now one of the routes available on the PLP website. These route guides have consistently proved to be some of the most visited parts of the PLP website. Happily, the website will remain for at least five years more, so walkers can continue to consult these records.
PLP archaeological volunteers and staff members have surveyed and recorded 100 new sites in Penwith, including some for the first time, such as the Mulfra Vean settlement and the wonderfully named Merriment Stone, near Boscawen-un stone circle. Excavations have been undertaken at Tregaminion Chapel and Well, and at St Levan’s Chapel, before it was lost to the sea, revealing, and recording previously unknown information about the sites. The archaeological statistics are impressive. 127 existing site records enhanced, 50 sites cleared and improved or brought into better management, some 30 sites conditions monitored, 14 reconstruction drawings recorded on the PLP website. The Archaeological Volunteers will continue monitoring and making new records after the PLP has gone. All the information they have found is attached to the monument records held by the county, so anyone an access them.
Another PLP initiative that will carry on, is the Penwith Wildlife Recording Group, whose activities are described by the title. So far after just one year, involving 500 Volunteer days, they have submitted over 6000 wildlife records to the Environmental Records Centre, finding 1099 species. Perhaps no surprise to an Ecologist but impressive to anyone else.
PLP cultural initiatives have included art exhibitions in Mousehole, Sancreed and St Just. Mousehole schoolchildren were introduced to nature photography in 2020 and later in 2022 made a remarkable contribution to the ‘Seeing the Landscape’ exhibition in the Miners’ Chapel in St Just, alongside paintings by professional artists. Tirwedh Pennwydh Facebook group was launched to allow Cornish language discussions in spring 2020 during the Covid pandemic. It now has 500 members.
Other cultural activities are too numerous to list fully. They include Hedge Week, a celebration of the Cornish Hedge; ‘Outstanding Penwith at Night’ photo contest to support the Penwith bid to become an international Dark Sky Park; our Cornish team supporting the St Just Ordinalia presentation of historic Cornish plays, by providing translations and organising bilingual walks around the town; the launch of PLEN on the PLP website, an interactive site enabling people to investigate some of Penwith’s ancient sites from home; the Tinners Way Art contest for adults and children, photography, visual arts, writing and designs, Trythall School and Tony of our Cornish team were presented with awards by Gorsedh Kernow for work on the language and Penwith landscape stories.
To sum up, it has been a busy, creative and enjoyable few years, bringing together large numbers of local people, looking after our landscape, making a difference, and hopefully initiating activities which will continue.
CASPN, Cornwall AONB, Cornwall Council, Cornwall Heritage Trust, Cornwall Wildlife Trust, National Trust
The above partners have agreed to continue collaboration on sustainable land management within West Penwith through the use of a shared activity calendar hosted by The Cornwall Heritage Trust. The calendar is open to use for any environmental or heritage volunteer activity within West Penwith and is designed to keep the skilled Penwith Landscape Partnership volunteers active in their efforts towards clearing footpaths, ancient sites, repairing Cornish Hedges etc.
If you would like to know more about volunteering or have an opportunity to share in West Penwith please contact email@example.com
September 2023. Written by Peter Parkinson - PLP Volunteer with additions from Victoria Hole - PLP Programme Manager