Wildlife Trust celebrates a decade on Looe Island

Beautiful view of Looe Island
Photo by Paul Lightfoot

Beautiful view of Looe Island Photo by Paul Lightfoot - Credit: Archant

Way back in 2004 Babs Atkins bequeathed Looe (St George’s) Island to Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Cornwall’s leading wildlife charity. Ten years on and the Trust have had their hands full as they’ve worked to carefully look after the island wildlife’s and its visitors!

Grey seal known as Lucille
Photo by Cornwall Seal Group

Grey seal known as Lucille Photo by Cornwall Seal Group - Credit: Archant

Guided walk on Looe Island Nature Reserve
Photo by Jon Ross

Guided walk on Looe Island Nature Reserve Photo by Jon Ross - Credit: Archant

This winter the island has been battered by the relentless storms but during the weekend of 22nd March they plan to open once again for public visits. It is a fantastic time of year to visit the island. The reserve comes to life with trees bursting out of bud, birds preparing to nest and best of all, the cheerful daffodils will be in full bloom. Will you be one of the first visitors to step ashore this Spring? If you take one of their trips the warden’s will tell you more about island life, but for now here’s a taster of what’s happened since the Atkins’ era.

In the last decade hard work by Cornwall Wildlife Trust staff and it’s invaluable volunteers has paid off, with visitors enjoying a wealth of wildlife on this peaceful island paradise. Along the coast the vegetation has been kept in check by the healthy flock of Hebridean sheep and as a result the coastal grassland has flourished and the ground nesting sea birds are reaping the benefit. The woodland is becoming more diverse with thinning, coppicing and planting up with a range of native species. The inherited problem of troublesome rats has been overcome, resulting in a healthy population of breeding birds. And the wildlife-friendly approach to the gardens has been rewarded with benefits for nature as well as a bountiful range of crops that are enjoyed by guests and residents alike. They’ve even raised funds by selling their own juice from a tasty mix of dessert, eating and cider apples.

Cornwall Wildlife Trust is especially grateful to the volunteers and specialists who have helped them to learn more about the island’s wildlife. Over the last ten years, key activities include a photo identification project of seals, transect counts of butterflies and bird ringing of great black-backed gulls. Each year around 60 different birds are recorded on the tiny island, there are typically over 15 butterflies species and more than 50 different seals have been identified using the island’s waters. All these records and more have helped the Trust to share the wonders of Looe Island Nature Reserve with so many visitors. Why not go there and find out for yourself?

One of the most popular ways to visit the island is to book a place on a Looe Island Guided Walk. The extended visit starts with a boat crossing from Looe to the nature reserve where you’ll be met by the resident wardens. During the escorted tour the wardens will help you spot wildlife such as wonderful grey seals and impressive great-black-backed gulls, they’ll describe how the island is managed and of course explain how the island was left to the Trust by the amazing Atkins sisters. Afterwards there’s an optional slide show inside the charming Jetty Cottage or time to independently explore the island before your boat journey back to the mainland. However there are only a limited number of spaces available for these unique walks, so you’ll need to be quick and book your place via the Cornwall Wildlife Trust website: www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/islandwalks

Another great way to enjoy Looe Island Nature Reserve is to stay overnight in the island’s tipi. But you’ll need to act fast if you want to reserve one of the tipi breaks as only a few dates are offered each year - check the Cornwall Wildlife Trust website for availability. Even more unique is exclusive use of this wonderful location for weddings, blessings and renewal of vows. What better way to celebrate than your own beautiful island for such a special occasion?

Claire Lewis Assistant Warden for Cornwall Wildlife Trust on Looe Island says,

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“The last ten years has been quite an experience. We’ve learnt that managing the island is always full of unexpected challenges! Still we hope that Cornwall Wildlife Trust has kept the spirit of the Atkins sisters alive by keeping Looe Island a unique place – one that’s special for both wildlife and visitors alike.”

As to the next ten years? In the future it’s hoped that the recently vacated Smuggler’s Cottage will become a delightful holiday let. There are also plans to improve the visitor centre so that it not only offers more information about the island’s wildlife but also Cornwall Wildlife Trust hope to display an innovative insight into the island’s recent history when the extraordinary Atkins sisters were at the helm!

If you want to discover more about Looe Island Nature Reserve, visit www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/looeisland

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