Looe Island nature reserve re-opens post-lockdown to a restricted number of visitors

  • Report by Grace Pascoe

A haven for wildlife just a mile off the Cornish coast has reopened to the public once more following coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Looe Island is home to a whole host of animals and seabirds, as well as Cornwall Wildlife Trust wardens Claire Lewis and Jon Ross.

The island has the largest breeding colony in Cornwall of the great black-backed gull. Credit: ITV West Country

Claire Lewis, the assistant warden of the island, says, "It’s the jewel in the crown of Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves. There’s lots of different types of gulls, cormorants, shags, oystercatchers... mostly seabirds because they enjoy nesting on the coastline here.

"Then out at sea one of the things I love to see are the grey seals, we have a duty to enjoy them but also to look after them, we encourage people if they are out on the water to give wildlife a bit of space and a bit of time so the animals aren’t constantly being disturbed."

Seals are a common sight on Looe Island. Credit: ITV West Country

Each summer members of the public are allowed to visit Looe Island on guided walks by taking an authorised boat trip, this year numbers are restricted even further due to social distancing.

Extra safety measures are in place this season including hand sanitiser stations and social distancing. Credit: ITV West Country

The island was gifted to Cornwall Wildlife Trust in 2004 by sisters Babs and Evelyn 'Attie' Atkins to ensure the protection of the wildlife and continued wild beauty of the place.

Claire says it is a privilege to live on Looe Island, "I feel very lucky that I've been given this opportunity to look after wildlife and when we have people come across on the authorised trips I can share the wonders of the island and wildlife with them.

"It's what Cornwall Wildlife Trust does, help protect Cornwall's wildlife and wild places, but I'm in the lucky position to be able to do that 24/7."

Jon Ross & Claire Lewis live on Looe Island year round as the full-time wardens. Credit: ITV West Country

The priority for Claire and Jon is making Looe Island the best possible habitat for the wildlife they share their home with, that means not having all the modern amenities that come with living on the mainland.

Claire says, "We have to be relatively self-sufficient because there are no shops, we don't have full-time electricity, at the moment we rely on a generator but soon we'll have 24 hour solar power.

"Things that people take for granted we have to be more organised about, we keep lots of stocks and supplies in and grow a lot of our own fruit and vegetables."