A collaboration of coast and countryside organisations on The Lizard Peninsula

Exploring the rich archaeology of Goonhilly from the Early Bronze Age until World War Two   

with Charlie Johns, Senior Archaeologist, Cornwall Council


For nature lovers, the Lizard’s Goonhilly Downs form a landscape of orchids, butterflies and dragonflies, of lizards and of birds. On a warm day at the right time of year you might see Cornish heath, green-winged orchids, round-leaved sundew, black-tailed skimmers, silver-studded blue butterflies, or perhaps a kestrel hovering overhead.

You don’t need to wait for summer, however, to enjoy a visit to this beautiful heathland. The open horizons and relative height of Goonhilly when compared to the rest of the Lizard have drawn generations upon generations of people here, from the Early Bronze Age to World War Two, and right up to the modern day. The evidence these people left behind them turns the Downs into a treasure trove of history and archaeology to enjoy at any time of the year. Early Bronze Age barrows, old trackways, a deserted croft and an abandoned wartime radar station are hidden away in the heathland landscape, all under the watchful eye of ‘Arthur’, one of the now defunct satellite dishes built in the 1960s as part of British Telecom’s Satellite Earth Station.

Read on to take a walk revealing the archaeological landscape of Goonhilly Downs, in the company of Charlie Johns, Senior Archaeologist with Cornwall Council, and a local expert on the history of Goonhilly. The walk is downloadable as a set of related PDFs.

The expert: Charlie Johns

Charlie Johns is Senior Archaeologist with Cornwall Council. He is Cornish: Charlie was born on Meneage Street in Helston and attended Helston Grammar School, and also lived at The Lizard for many years. Charlie’s first dig was on the Lizard (the Romano-British saltworks at Trebarveth near Lowland Point) in 1969, before studying history at the University of Leicester and becoming a professional archaeologist in 1979. Charlie has worked for the Council since 1991, and has spent much time working on the Lizard, both with the Council and with the Lizard Ancient Sites Network (LAN), an active group of volunteers who protect and maintain archaeological sites on the peninsula. His main current areas of responsibility are projects in the Isles of Scilly and maritime-related projects. 

Instructions for the walk and Charlie Johns’ descriptions of the archaeology and history you are walking through are covered on four separately downloadable PDF sheets. 


NB. If you plan on downloading these to a Smartphone or other device rather than printing them off, do it before you leave – mobile reception on Goonhilly is extremely patchy.