Here at Finisterre, we strongly believe that you protect what you love. It’s why we try to encourage people to experience and enjoy our oceans as much as possible; because the more people discover, the more they love it, the harder they will fight to protect it.
PK Porthcurno, a charity based in Porthcurno in Cornwall, take the same approach. One of the most iconic and breath-taking natural landscapes in the UK, the charity's aim, through its award-winning environmental programme ‘Planet PK’, is to protect and manage this natural beauty, so that people can experience it and fall in love with this rare, unspoiled coastal valley, enjoying it in the most sustainable way possible.
Some coastal locations, particularly in Cornwall, can become a victim of their own sheer beauty – where increasing visitor numbers can begin to threaten the very thing that makes them so special. Porthcurno in West Penwith is one of those places. From its humble beginnings of a one farm valley over 150 years ago when the first undersea cables were brought ashore to connect us with the rest of the world, it is now home to one of the country’s most popular outdoor theatres and become one of the UK’s most photographed beaches.
PK Porthcurno is the Museum of Global Communications and tells the remarkable story of the last 150 years of global communications; starting with the famous 1870 Porthcurno cable landing enabling the very first direct contact between Great Britain and India, via connections in Portugal, Gibraltar, Malta, and Egypt – to becoming in the 1920s the world’s largest telegraph station which would lead to the amazing advances in communications technology of the 21st Century and the lighting fast global connections we see today.
PK Porthcurno is the biggest communications museum in the UK, and only dedicated one. With the growing footfall upon Porthcurno, the museum began to think of how they could use the power of communications and partnership working to help preserve its beauty…
Planet PK is the award-winning environmental programme of PK Porthcurno, which formerly recognises a duty of care as residents and landowners in the beautiful Porthcurno Valley, which is part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Planet PK embeds green values within the charity’s future programming, engagement, and business plans to ensure that green values are at the heart of every decision made at the museum.
Everyone loves Porthcurno, from locals and tourists to film and TV producers, and if you have visited or seen the pictures it is not hard to see why. However, as is the case with other coastal locations in Cornwall, with such popularity comes a significant strain on the infrastructure and environment of what is not only a breath-taking beach, but a valley steeped in natural and cultural heritage. PK Porthcurno works closely with the local National Trust on land management and endeavours to work closely with its neighbours, partners, local community, and visitors alike to ensure Porthcurno is enjoyed in the most sustainable way possible with wildlife and habitat protection placed at greatest importance.
In 2020 PK Porthcurno were national winners of the Cultural Enterprises Green Award (Association for Cultural Enterprises, 2020) for biodiversity enhancing wildflower planting in partnership with The Eden Project, sustainable sourcing in the museum shop and café, installation of renewable energy, beekeeping, and habitat and wildlife protection on site. Last year, Planet PK also won at the Cornwall Heritage Awards, organised by the Cornwall Museum Partnership, and sponsored by Tevi, who acknowledged PK Porthcurno’s ‘Contribution the Environment and Circular Economy’.
The staff at PK Porthcurno have worked closely with Tevi Cornwall to remove single-use plastics from the museum’s shop, café, and offices and have subsequently been awarded Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) ‘Plastic Free Business Champion’ status. This year Planet PK aims to build on this and unite all those in Porthcurno Valley to become an official SAS ‘Plastic Free Community’.
Encouraging environmental literacy with Porthcurno’s visitors will be a key focus for Planet PK with the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic likely resulting in unprecedented numbers heading to Cornwall for their holidays when the lockdown is lifted, and in particular popular beauty spots like Porthcurno. The museum is currently closed but offers incentivised travel with discounted entry fees for those choosing to use public transport rather than drive into a valley whose infrastructure is often unable to cope with such high visitor numbers. PK Porthcurno will also be working closely with organisations such as British Divers Marine Life Rescue and Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust to ensure visitors are well informed on how to enjoy marine life from a safe distance and not cause unnecessary disturbance as well as knowing who to contact if they spot marine life in distress.
Planet PK is also in full support of the West Penwith application to become an official International Dark Sky Park, working together with Cornwall AONB, Penwith Landscape Partnership and Cornwall Council to ensure the night skies of this beautiful part of Cornwall are protected. The increased use of artificial light at night not only impairs our views of the universe but adversely affects our environment, energy consumption, and health. An upcoming exhibition at the museum ‘Lights Out for Darker Skies’ will celebrate the beauty of the night sky and feature stunning dark sky images, nocturnal wildlife footage, and local artist collaborations, inviting visitors to explore their own relationship with the night and to consider their individual actions for promoting darker skies.
Whilst we are in this third national lockdown with PK Porthcurno’s doors closed to the public a local legend named Patrick Trembath who has been Gardener and Groundsman for over 20 years continues to maintain the museum’s beautiful subtropical gardens, including the award-winning wildflower beds and five beehives. Throughout the lockdowns, thanks to Paddy many local residents have been inspired to use the gardens for their daily exercise and whilst he prides himself in their appearance, he always has his eye out for the insects, birds and animals that call them home. Paddy’s tireless endeavours for community and wildlife have been formally recognised as he was a joint winner of the ‘Unsung Hero’ award at this year’s Cornwall Tourism Awards.
To find out more about PK Porthcurno’s environmental work please follow @planetpkporthcurno on Instagram, @PlanetPK_ on Twitter, and visit www.pkporthcurno.com/discover-pk/planet-pk/ which includes the Planet PK Young Curators blog with regular stories of the wildlife and natural history of Porthcurno Valley.
Words by Chris Betty | Images by Maeve Cushla