Halfweek Habit #4 Digital Fieldwork

Through our work on the Tin Coast Project we have been working alongside and admiring the work of Penwith Landscape Partnership.  This week Nick Taylor, Volunteer Co-ordinator, describes how the digital realm has been crucial to the continuation of community focussed activity that is usually delivered in the natural environment.

“You won’t be surprised to hear that Penwith Landscape Partnership has been hugely disrupted by the Coronavirus outbreak. However, we’re finding a way through so far, and are enormously grateful that that few of our staff and volunteers have been badly affected – so far at least.

Penwith Landscape Partnership is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Our focus is on the archaeology, wildlife, countryside access, farming and rural businesses of West Penwith. We have ten staff and over 200 volunteers, with our practical work tasks being central to the weekly routine of many of us. Then, in March we suddenly found ourselves facing the completely unexpected. Should we mothball the whole operation for the duration?

We are lucky that we’ve got such a diverse range of aspirations, so we could redirect ourselves onto things like preparing interpretation of ancient sites and trails. We were already well set up digitally, and we’ve ramped this up with more social media content and blog posts on our website. The weekly email sent to all our volunteers by Richie Smith, our Practical Tasks Officer, has become much more important, with more news and links to activities and online resources, coupled with the vital weekly reminder that we’re a community and need to keep in touch and help each other where we can.

“We’ll definitely keep this going”

Of course we’re unable to run ‘conventional’ events for now. We decided that we must use our YouTube channel more, to take people out with us on virtual nature walks to inspire permitted daily exercise, encourage wildlife gardening, nature spotting and ways we can get our hands dirty trying something practical whilst still being under lockdown. These films have been really popular. We’ll definitely keep this going.

And if you can’t hold face-to-face events, what could we do online? Well, we organised the first ever Penwith Virtual Garden Bioblitz. A BioBlitz usually has the public congregating on a site, with experts on hand, to identify as many species of wildlife as possible.

We employed ‘Budding Nature’, home of the huge knowledge and enthusiasm of local experts Sally Luker and Derek Green, and put out the call for everyone in West Penwith to take part. It went brilliantly – we had over 100 households taking part. Well over 700 species were seen, from the commonplace like Blackbirds, Red Campion and Garden Snails to rarities like Cornish Moneywort (one of our plant specialities) and Small-pearl Bordered Fritillary butterflies.

With more than 3,000 individual wildlife records documented, this is a big contribution towards saving wildlife – conservation work is built around knowing what is out there. Lots of folk looked at their gardens in a new way. It was an incredible result and the whole weekend had a real buzz about it. There’s something so lovely and life-affirming about noticing the wildlife sharing your own patch, which is added to by knowing that you are one of many simultaneously sharing this local appreciation right across West Penwith.

There’s no getting away from the scale of the challenge that faces us all. As soon as public safety allows, we’ll have a backlog of clearing footpaths, managing habits, recording archaeological sites and running training courses. But we are very glad to be keeping going as best we can, doing what we can, and continuing to reach out to the community, keeping connections with everything that makes West Penwith so special.”

For more Penwith Landscape videos subscribe to their youtube channel:


Creative Kernow, based at Krowji, is the umbrella organisation for the following nine projects. Together we support the production, promotion and distribution of work by creative practitioners in Cornwall because we believe in creativity's transformative power and want more people to benefit from it.
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