Rockpool Ramble at Prisk Cove

21st August 2012

The weather didn’t bode well for our Rockpool Ramble event at Prisk on Tuesday 21st August, with heavy showers hitting hard as we drove to our meeting point. However, by the time we all assembled at Mawnan Church car park the sun was shining and the afternoon turned out to be warm and beautiful. We were a small group with only three families from Helston, Truro and Perranporth, and a keen naturalist from Penzance who very kindly recorded our day’s findings for the Environmental Records Centre for Cornwall and Isles of Scilly. I was also joined by three enthusiastic members of the Helford Marine Conservation Group – Paul Garrard, Dave Thompson and Rhiannon Pipkin.

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Helford Conservation Cruise

1st July 2012

Helford Marine Conservation Cruise. Image: Pam Tompsett.
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What’s beneath your feet? (Dr Tegwyn Harris)

6th June 2012

Bar beach, Helford Passage

What’s beneath your feet? Image: Pam Tompsett
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Coastal Ketches and Inside Barges (Andy Wyke)

14 January 2012

‘A sewn boat? What’s that?’ ‘Well, it was a way of constructing boats in the Bronze Age, about 2500 BC, before nails had been invented. With the tools available at the time, bronze axes and adzes, logs would be split and fashioned into planks, to be stitched edge-to-edge with fibres from yew branches. Moss was used for caulking.’

Our speaker, Andy Wyke, was well qualified to tell us. As Boat Collection Manager at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, he has been one of the prime movers in a project which will use ancient tools to build a 60ft replica Bronze Age boat at the museum this summer (Apr – Sep), in an open workshop on view to the public.

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Leatherback turtles and their jellyfish prey (Dr Matt Witt)

31st March 2012

Of the 7 species of marine turtles, 3 are seen regularly in UK waters: the Leatherback, Loggerhead and Kemp’s Ridley turtles. However, Britain also has interests in overseas waters, such as the Caribbean, and so the work of the Marine Turtle Research Group of Exeter University, based at Tremough, encompasses the world’s oceans. For our speaker, Dr Matthew Witt, the principal study area has been the beaches of Gabon, West Africa. Secluded and little frequented, (although with oilfields offshore), these are the nesting grounds for the world’s largest population of Leatherback turtles.

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Rockpool Ramble

30 August 2007

Out at sea, yachts were heeIing in a brisk wind. Onshore, all eyes were directed downwards as Ruth Williams explained the mysteries and delights of the Rosemullion rockpools to 9 persons (and a dog). It must he admitted, since it was our dog, that the latter was more interested in splashing than learning: and his curiosity to discover why we were staring quietly and intently into the water was of no help in persuading timid creatures to emerge from their hiding places.

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Helford River – Where The Land Meets The Sea

17 February 2007
A detailed look at this watery world and how we influence it gave a large audience (67) much food for thought as the issues of pollution, clean seas, farming and recreation were highlighted. This followed recent studies by scientists from the Environment Agency, University of Exeter, and the Farming and Wildlife Group as described by Dr Peter Jonas, Dr Julian Greaves and Annabel Keast.

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HMCG Seashore Safari at Helford Passage

4th April 2008

Taking advantage of the extremely low tide and with dry, mild and slightly breci conditions, 40 persons, about half of them young children, assembled at Helford Passage to take part in the Seashore Safari run by Joana Doyle with two helpers from the Cornwall Wildlife Trust.

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Seashore Safari, Helford Passage with Ruth Williams

Monday, 18th April 2011
If shellfish, crabs and other marine creatures have an early warning system, it must have clicked on ‘Red Alert’ today as the Seashore Safari got underway. But to no avail. A horde of searchers, 30 adults and 45 children, with ages ranging from 2 to 80, was advancing over the rocks, armed with nets and buckets. There was little chance of any creature remaining undetected as sharp eyes and quick hands and nets probed the rock pools and watery gullies; and soon treasured finds were being placed in the buckets and carried to Ruth for identification.

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British Divers Marine Life Rescue

19th March 2011 (following AGM)

Photo by Colin Speedy
Photo by Colin Speedy
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Non-native Marine Invasive Species (Guy Baker)

Saturday, 26th February 2011
“You should clean your bottom every year”! Australians and New Zealanders are known for plain speaking, but this seemed unnecessarily rude. However, just to clarify, they were talking in this instance about the hull of your boat. The point was quickly driven home by an underwater film, taken in N.France, which showed a hull so thickly coated with weeds and invertebrates that it looked like a sagging roll of shaggy carpet. Boat fouling is a worldwide problem and marinas and harbours are important staging posts in the process, because hulls, piers and jetties provide numerous firm surfaces on which sessile plants and animals can gain a foothold.

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The Fal-Helford Marine Special Area of Conservation (Kevan Cook)

Saturday, 15th January 2011

Because of its very special nature in terms of habitats, biodiversity, species, geology and scenery, the Helford River has long been recognised as worthy of protection at both European and national levels. Fortunately our speaker, Kevan Cook, Lead Marine Adviser for Natural England, was able to guide us through some of the acronyms. The Fal-Helford SAC (Special Area of Conservation), lying west of a line from St Anthony Head to Manacle Point and giving the highest level of protection, is a European designation relating to habitats and some species.

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Tales of a Wildlife Photographer (David Chapman)

Saturday, 11th December 2010

Is that a pin-tailed duck? No, it’s a long-tailed duck. Isn’t that a gannet? No, it’s a black-tailed godwit. We were trying to identify birds on David Chapman’s jumper, knitted by his mother who had produced separate jerseys for different talks. His outdoor gear depended on conditions, one photograph showing military-style camouflaged top and trousers, plus a back-pack to carry a tripod, camera and lenses and a chest-pack containing a portable hide. When erected, the last looked like a camouflaged igloo, just large enough to accommodate David and Adrian Langdon for several hours bird watching at the Walmsley Reserve. His account of that outing was returned by Adrian with the comment that the phrase “the mud came nearly to the top of our wellies” had a typographical error in the final word!

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Plankton on Parade

Saturday, 13th November 2010

The term ‘plankton’ comes from a Greek word meaning ‘wanderer’ or ‘made to wander’,an apt description for creatures which drift at the mercy of winds and currents. Some are large and easily seen – the Macroplankton, such as jellyfish and the Portuguese man-o’-war. Others are small – the Microplankton, which measure a millimetre or so across – or less – and are studied using a microscope. These are collected with a conical fine-mesh net swept or towed through the water and they include a great variety of plants and animals, in adult or larval stages. There is a third, even smaller, size category – the Nanoplankton, such as coccolithophores, which are just a few microns across and only seen with the aid of an electron microscope.

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The National Trust around the Helford

Saturday, 16th October 2010

Justin Whitehouse, National Trust Area Warden for the Lizard, first became associated with the National Trust as a volunteer shortly after graduating as a botanist and moving to Cornwall in 1994. His daily journey to work involved rowing across the river from Porth Navas to the office at Helford. Subsequently came five years work at Trelissick and then a return permanently to the Lizard, back to the woodlands and creeks that he preferred.

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Goongillings Exploration and Picnic

Sunday, 5th September 2010

“I waved goodbye to the couple I had just killed”. What an excellent quote to relate to Amanita phalloides, the Death Cap fungus. Pauline Penna had just dug one from the field adjacent to Scott’s Wood and she passed it round the group, pointing out that the gills were white, not grey-black as in a mushroom.

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Rockpool Ramble, Prisk Cove

Saturday, 14th August 2010

Twenty adults and eight children was the tally for the Rockpool Ramble —- but age was irrelevant. Soon everyone, from youngster to pensioner, was in the same position, with bottoms up, eyes down and hands and nets probing the multitude of rock pools left by the ebbing tide. One intrepid man waded out up to his waist to the far rocks, amidst the Kelp and Thongweed, and came back with a hand-sized Velvet Swimming Crab. He was holding it very carefully, with good reason, for another crab had already scarred his finger and this one was furious, waving its large pincers in the air, its scarlet eyes glaring.

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Helford Conservation Cruise

Sunday, 11th July 2010

Once again, the weather was kind, producing a warm, dry and wind-free day. With 95 passengers on board, plus tanks containing a variety of live fish, crabs and other creatures, the Enterprise boat headed to the mouth of the estuary and around into Gillan Creek, in sight of St Anthony church. The National Trust owns two small properties on the south bank, one containing Bronze Age barrows and an Iron Age cliff castle. Looking seaward there was a clear view of Nare Point and its observation post, now occupied by Coastwatch, but, during WWII, part of a testing range for air-drop torpedoes.

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Farming through the Ages

Sunday, 20th June 2010
Gear Farm, the home of the Hosking family since 1933, is the site of a large hillfort, dating back to perhaps 3000 BC, which was the subject of excavations and a TV programme by the BBC’s Time Team in 2001. For this event we had the benefit of two experts, James Gossip from the Cornwall Archaeological Unit (Cornwall Council) and Mary Combe from the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, each assisted by a member of the Hosking family. The group of 43 was divided into two parties, one going with James and the other with Mary and then, after a swap, our experts kindly repeated their tours for the other party.

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Wild Foods Walk with Caroline Davey and Ruth Williams

Sunday, 16th May 2010

Despite the unpromising weather – overcast and drizzly, 35 enthusiastic members and friends, including 5 children, gathered in Helford Car Park to meet Caroline Davey, the ‘Fat Hen’ food forager from St Buryan, and Ruth Williams from CWT, to learn about what natural foods can be gleaned from the vicinity of the Helford.

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Heron and Egret Survey

Sunday, 18th April 2010

What a pleasure to be in the open air, ambling gently along the Calamansack road with the blackthorn bushes in full flower and listening to bird song. The sun shone warmly from a cloudless blue sky and a goldfinch popped on to a nearby hedge to greet the 21-strong party with a cheerful tune. Chaffinch and blue tits added to the chorus, a couple of linnets flew over, twittering, and an unseen dunnock gave forth a beautiful melody. As if in contrast, a green woodpecker ‘yaffled’ in the distance. Turning off the road and across pastured fields we had an uncommon view along Polwheveral Creek, with white houses at its head and above them the village of Constantine, dominated by the church, whose bells were ringing out clearly across the valley.

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Seashore Safari

Thursday, 1st April 2010

The beach in front of the Ferryboat Inn resembled a market day, with a group of colourful tables, a banner and a leaflet stand, all weighted by heavy rocks against the brisk, rather chilly wind. Abby Crosby, with Emma and other volunteers, had brought her displays for the Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s ‘Your Shore’ Project, teaming up with Ruth Williams’ ‘Seashore Safari’; and so there was no lack of expert knowledge as people crowded round the tables to look in the tanks and trays at live creatures collected from nearby rock pools.

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The National Lobster Hatchery – the future (Dominic Boothroyd)

Saturday, 20th February 2010

Starting with a global perspective, Dominic Boothroyd told us that the world’s population of some 6 billion people is expected to rise to over 9 billion over the next 40 years, with the largest increases being in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Such growth will not only require the production of more food but could also increase the demand for protein, including a higher demand for sea food.

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Cornish Dolphins – an update (Dr Nick Tregenza)

Saturday, 23rd January 2010

In his talk to an appreciative audience of 57, Dr Tregenza began with the largest cetaceans, the whales, showing photographs of stranded animals, alive and dead, and mid-water sightings. It was a surprise to hear of the great variety of whales which have been recorded in Cornish waters, for example a Baleen whale at Sennen, Fin whales around the Lizard and Lands End and Sei whale in Carrick Roads.

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Wreck and Torpedoes to Coastwatch – the extraordinary history of Nare Point.

5th December 2009

Nare Point, at the south-east corner of the Helford estuary, appears to be unremarkable, just another of the many Cornish headlands although with a look-out post on top. But if an author had decided to weave a story about it, such as was about to be told by our two speakers from the National Coastwatch Institution, Paul Phillips and Len Jepp, he would be accused of having a fevered imagination.

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Dive Bahamas

14th November 2009

Reality sometimes exceeds expectations, sometimes it does not.

When Helford River diver and expert photographer, Tony Sutton was invited by the Bahamas Tourist Board to dive on the reefs of this Caribbean Archipelago his feelings of good luck and expectations were, not surprisingly, high. Likewise, his audience of Helford River supporters, who, braving the frost, gathered at Mawgan Village Hall expecting to escape in, if only in their imaginations, visions of blue tropical waters, multi-coloured corals and fish of innumerable shapes and sizes.

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The Private Life of Cornish Seals by Sue Sayer

17th October 2009

Around 35 members were treated to a fascinating evening on Saturday, 17th October 2009 at Gweek Village Hall, when Sue Sayer of the Cornwall Seal Group spoke with great enthusiasm on The Private Life of Cornish Seals, illustrating her talk with a large number of photographs, drawings and video clips.

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Bats know best!

Sunday, 6th September 2009

Over 30 friends and members of the Helford MCG gathered at Mawgan Village Hall for an evening “bat talk and walk”. Dr Carol Williams, with her characteristic enthusiasm, delivered a 30 min. crash course in bat identification, life-cycle and habits before we ventured out into the gathering gloom assembling in the woodland car park on the Trelowarren Estate. Bat detectors swung into action immediately and to our delight we heard several pipistrelle bats as they hunted for insects overhead using their stuttering echo-location calls.

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Explore the Shore

Sunday, 23rd August 2009

“Dare you to put your finger in this bucket!”. Then came a yelp, and a rapid withdrawal of the hand. The Velvet Swimming Crab had instantly reared up, arms wide, claws open, its bright red eyes glistening. Only later, when it had subsided, did we see the flattened back legs, with hair-like fringes, that enable it to swim.

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Seashore Safari

Saturday, 25th July 2009

Clearly something interesting was about to happen as a group of nearly 30 people, adults and children, gathered on the beach at Helford Passage for a short introductory talk by Ruth Williams, Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Marine Officer. Then, armed with an assortment of nets, buckets and trays, we set off, clambering over limpet- and barnacle-strewn rocks to the shallow pools left by the receding tide. The Seashore Safari had begun. Weather conditions were ideal – sunny and warm with a slight breeze. Intrigued holidaying families joined in; and by now the numbers had swelled to 40, of whom half were children.

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Helford Conservation Cruise

Sunday, 21st June 2009

It was a glorious day – the sort of weather one always hopes for, with a warm sun, hardly a cloud in the sky and negligible breeze. The boat was unfortunately late in arriving, but the 100 passengers were very patient, enjoying the sunshine, watching holidaymakers and having an occasional ice cream. Setting off, we motored up Porth Navas Creek to see the Duchy Oyster Farm and Childrens’ Sailing Club, then across to the mouth of Frenchman’s Creek, where Justin Whitehouse of the National Trust took up the commentary.

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Seacore Ltd – from Gweek Quay to Far-off Seas

Thursday 29th January 2009

The boardroom at Fugro Seacore in Falmouth was packed as 40 members squeezed in to hear John Gleadowe’s re-scheduled talk. Seacore began in 1976 as the concept of two CSM mining engineers to develop underwater drilling equipment for tin exploration off the north Cornish coast. A prototype was tested in a creek in Zambia.

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HMCG Dawn Chorus beside the Helford River

Sunday 20th April 2008
At 6am, in the half light of a slightly misty hut dry morning. 15 persons converged on Goongillings Farm near Constantine to ioin Martin Rule and listen to the dawn chorus. Some of the birds were already in full voice. A wren interrupted its song to tick annoyance at the group and a chaffinch, likewise, gave vent to “spink-spink”. A wood pigeon cooed in the distance, more melodious than the pheasant’s harsh welcome to the new day.

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Mud, mud, glorious mud!

19th January 2008
The hidden world of our Helford creeks was revealed to a large gathering by the well-known marine broadcaster and retired lecturer of the University of Exeter, Dr Tegwyn Harris.

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Form and function of underwater life

1st December 2007
Dr Thomas Bligh, who lives beside the Helford River, has enjoyed an illustrious career in precision engineering and craftmanship, explosives research, energy conversion, robotic systems, underwater diving equipment, catamaran design and more recently until his retirement, Fellow and tutor at Caius College, Cambridge.

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Fascinating Fish – the story of Bass and other special species

3rd November 2007
National sea bass expert Graham Pickett described the life-cycle of this fish so familiar to our shores and also commercially important, these days attracting higher prices than salmon.

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Otter Conservation: meddling, monitoring and muddling through

27th October 2007
Dr Paul Chanin, international otter expert, talked about the milestones of the last 30 years of otter studies.

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Port Navas Regatta

28 July 2007
Sat. 28 July 2007 was the day of the Port Navas Regatta Family Fundraising Day, where the Helford MC Members Group for the first time decided to have a stall to further the public awareness of the HVMCA.

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Annual Conservation Cruise

8 July 2007
After weeks of heavy rain countrywide we hardly dared to hope for our “traditional” sunny day for the cruise but we were not disappointed as the sun shone brightly until obscured by cloud at the very end of the afternoon! The water sparkled against the soft green of the Helford woodlands.

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Strandline Search and Marine Mosaics

16 June 2007

By the middle of June we had expected a return of the earlier spring sunshine but it was not to be and some beefy showers proved off-putting for this Saturday event at Durgan. A handful of adult HMCG members joined Margaret on the shore but the younger generation were less robust and missed a very pleasant morning on the shore.

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Wildflower Wanderings

6 May 2007
Two weeks later Goongillings Farm was again the venue for an HVMCA event but this time it was for an afternoon look at the flowers and other vegetation. A relaxed stroll for the 21 participants with Keith Spurgin and other botanists highlighted the amazing variety of plants appearing on an organic farm under countryside stewardship management. Habitats included woodland with trickling stream, herb-rich meadows with a lake and the upper shore slopes of the saltwater creek. Once again the hospitality offered by Charles and Barbara was greatly appreciated.

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Dawn Chorus Beside Polwheveral Creek

22 April 2007
An early start did not deter an eager band of some 28 people armed with binoculars converging on Goongillings Farm where a delicate grey mist swirled amongst the trees edging the creek. The expertise of Martin Rule, the group leader was much appreciated in recognising the songs of the unseen vocalists. Charles and Barbara Pugh rounded a very successful expedition with hot drinks and refreshments amid requests for an even earlier start next year!!

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Seashore Safari

3 April 2007
A warm Spring day attracted an enthusiastic group of 17 adults and 32 children to explore the magical seashore exposed as the tide fell at Helford Passage. Colourful sea anemones, scuttling crabs, wonderfully sculptured shells, delicate worms and skulking shore fish were all discovered to the delight of the young explorers under the guidance of marine biologist, Ruth Williams.

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Regenerating the Helford Oyster Fishery

24 March 2007
After many years under the management of the Hodges family, in 2005 the Duchy of Cornwall Oyster Farm had been acquired by Ben Wright and Wright Bros Oyster Merchants. Ben gave a lively description of his current operations to rejuvenate the native oyster beds by lifting and cleaning all the stock, initially by hand – a daunting task but to be continued with a recently acquired oyster barge.

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Ramblings on the Helford River

20th January 2007
Leslie Collins, vice-chairman of the Group, delighted a large audience (57) with his fascinating narrative on his favourite pictures as he shared a lifetime of local experience in Gweek.

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© Helford Voluntary Marine Conservation Area