|IPA Factsheet - North Cornwall and Devon Coastal Woods|
Site Description This stretch of coast on the Devon/Cornwall border between Trebarwith and Peppercombe supports large areas of oceanic oak woods which have been identified as an IPA due to their rich lichen flora. In addition, the southern most stretch of the coast has been identified due to the vegetated sea cliffs which support old sessile oak woods.
Botanical Significance IPA noted for lichen assemblages. From north to south, the interest is described as follows: Hobby to Peppercombe is a 6 km section of the North Devon coast supports extensive sessile oak Quercus petraea woodlands which contain nationally important communities of Atlantic climate old-woodland lichens, many of which are rare or have a restricted distribution. The north-facing seacliffs rise very steeply from the intertidal rocky platform to about 150 m where sessile oak is the dominated woodland tree over much of the site. More varied woodland occupies the relatively sheltered valleys and slopes away from the sea with ash Fraxinus excelsior, downy birch Betula pubescens, holly Ilex aquifolium, sallow Salix cinerea and rowan Sorbus aucuparia amongst the oak as well as small amounts of hazel Coryllus avellana, hawthorn Crataegus monogyna, blackthorn Prunus spinosa and gorse Ulex europaeus. There are some planted beech Fagus sylvatica, and sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus and rhododendron Rhododendron ponticum occur as invasive aliens, particularly where the native tree canopy has been broken by tree-fall. The site’s long-established woodland and suitable prevailing climate have enabled an extremely rich and healthy lichen flora to develop. The Lobarion assemblage is particularly well established and includes the very rare Lobaria amplissima, Parmeliella atlantica, P. plumbea, Pannaria rubiginosa and Sticta canariensis. There is a luxuriant development of many species, including Usnea articulata and several western species such as the rare Enterographa hutchinsiae. Marsland to Clovelly Coast is a 19.5km stretch of coast which is nationally important for its geological, geomorphological and biological interest. The cliffs, clifftops and valleys carry a wide range of habitats including extensive areas of ancient woodland and parkland which support nationally important lichen communities, and a range of species-rich grassland, heath and scrub communities. The cliffs are very steep rising to 110m in places above the rocks of the intertidal wave-cut platform. Inland, several streams have cut deep sheltered valleys and these provide a wide variety of aspects and conditions for plant growth. There is considerable variety in soil type. The richest and most extensive grassland is sheltered by St Catherine’s Tor, with the nationally scarce Rock Sea-lavender Limonium binervosum and Portland Spurge Euphorbia portlandica on the cliffs. In places the grassland gives way to heathland. Near Hartland Point the heathland is particularly rich in lichens: Trapeliopsis flexuosa and Placynthiella oligotropha are noteworthy and 26 Cladonia species occur, many in abundance. Further inland Bracken Pteridium aquilinum and Bramble Rubus fruticosus become common, and scrub appears. Sessile Oak Quercus petraea is the dominant tree in much of the semi-natural woodland in this area and is the main tree species of Clovelly Deer Park. Within the woods, Beech Fagus sylvatica, Ash Fraxinus excelsior and Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus are locally abundant with an understorey Hazel Corylus avellana, Holly Ilex aquifolium and Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna. Alder Alnus glutinosa and Willows Salix spp. occur along the streamsides and wet valley bottoms. The rare Devon Whitebeam Sorbus devoniensis is present. Much of the ground flora is dominated by Great Wood-rush Luzula sylvatica, but some mineral rich soils permit the growth of Bugle Ajuga reptans, Sanicle Sanicula europaea and Woodruff Galium odoratum. Ferns are abundant, including Hay-scented Bucklerfern Dryopteris aemula. The rich bryophyte flora contains several rare Western species, such as Fissidens ceticus, F. curnowii, Plagiochila punctata, P. spinulosa, Nowellia curvifolia and Leucodon scluroides. With the exposed sea cliffs supporting very stunted, well-lit Oak trees, the sheltered moist woods of the valleys, and the old age of the parkland and its trees, the site as a whole provides a wide variety of conditions that have enabled a very rich and diverse lichen flora to develop. Over 120 species have been recorded, including many rare western species and old-forest indicators. Among the rarer species are Cetrelia olivetorum, Tomasellia lactea, Catillaria sphaeroides, Loxospora elatina, Lobaria amplissima, L. laetevirens, L. scrobiculata, L. pulmonaria, Nephroma laevigatum, Pannaria pityrea, P. rubiginosa, Peltigera collina, Parmeliella atlantica, P. jamesii, P. corallinoides, Sticta canariensis and Thelopsis rubella. Also of importance are some eastern species almost or at their western limits in Britain: Opegrapha lyncea, O. prosodea and Pertusaria hemispherica. The site also includes the type locality for Refractohilum galligenum para-symbiotic on Neophroma laevigatum. Steeple point to Marsland Mouth This section of the north Cornwall coastline supports a rich oceanic flora on this exposed west-facing coastal site. The range of habitats include rocky foreshore and cliffs, streams, ponds, flushes, grassland, heath, scrub and woodland which support several uncommon plant species including Monks-hood Aconitum anglicum, the prostrate form of Dyer's Greenweed Genista tinctoria, Wavey-leaved St John's Wort Hypericum undulatum, Portland Spurge Euphorbia portlandica, Rock Sea-lavender Limonium binervosum and an unusual range of the colour forms of Kidney Vetch Anthyllis vulneraria. Further inland an extensive woodland area, including areas of ancient woodland, is located in the Marsland valley, where there are large areas of Sessile Oak Quercus petraea coppice; with some Beech Fagus sylvatica, Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus and Ash Fraxinus excelsior with stands of Alder Alnus glutinosa occur along the valley bottom. Bude Coast The coastal clifftop grasslands to the south of Bude Haven on the North Cornwall coast comprises herb-rich calcareous grassland and coastal scrub supporting a number of rare and locally restricted plants such as adders-tongue Ophioglossum vulgatum, dwarf thistle Cirsium acaule and autumn gentian Gentianella amarella. The edges of some of the gorse and bramble scrub provide a habitat for hoary ragwort Senecio erucifolius. Sea cliff plant communities include rock sea-lavender Limonium binervosum, a plant of restricted coastal distribution. Boscastle to Widemouth This site lies on the North Cornwall coast and comprises a 12 mile section of cliffs and coastal habitats of outstanding biological interest. This area includes the unique Dizzard Oak woodland, maritime heaths and intertidal zones. A wide range of habitats occurs within this site, the outstanding feature being the dwarf Oak Quercus spp. woodland at Dizzard Point. This has developed in an exposed situation, partly on unstable cliffs, forming a dense, windclipped canopy between 1 and 8 metres high. The woodland is dominated by Sessile Oak Quercus petraea with Pendunculate Oak Q.robur, Rowan Sorbus aucuparia and the rare Wild Service Tree S.torminalis. The ground flora is varied; moister parts support a base-rich plant community (Ramsons Allium ursinum, Lords and Ladies Arum maculatum, Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria), elsewhere a heathy ground flora association with Ling Calluna vulgaris and Bilberry Vaccinium myrtilus predominates with frequent Cow Wheat Melampyrum pratense. The occurrence of Hay-scented Fern Dryopteris aemula is of particular interest. This woodland is of international importance for its rich lichen communities in particular the Lobarion community including nationally rare species such as Lobaria scrobiculata, Parmeliella plumbea and P. atlantica, the latter which is known from only two localities in South West England. The nationally rare foliose lichen Pseudocyphellaria crocata, which occurs here, is recorded from only one other site is England and Wales. Several other lichen communities are well-represented at the Dizzard and include the following rarities: Megalospora tuberculosa, Graphina ruiziana, Japewiella tavaresiana, Melaspilea ochrothalmia and Pannaria rubiginosa. The remainder of the coast is of national importance; the coastal slopes supporting a mosaic of maritime grassland, heathland and scrub. The following plants of county interest have also been recorded: Madder Rubia peregrina, Dyper’s Greenweed Genista tinctoria, Musk thistle Carduus nutans and Heath Pearlwort Sagina subulata. The coast supports one Red Data Book plant species: Babington’s Leek Allium ampeloprasum spp. babingtonii. Several uncommon plants occur along streams and wet flushes notably: Royal Fern Osmunda regalis, Bristle Clubrush Isolepis setacea, Slender Club-rush I.cernua, Brookweed Samolus valerandi and Wood Vetch Vicia sylvatica. An important feature of the site is the zonation form seacliff vegetation through maritime grassland, heath and scrub into woodland communities. This is particularly well illustrated along the valleys at Crackington Haven, Cleave, the Dizzard and Millook. Bryophytes have been well studied, with a total of 205 species recorded within the site. The Strangles is of particular importance with the two nationally rare mosses Campylopus pilifer and Coscinodon cibrosus, growing on shaley rocks. Not included in the SSSI site is Millock Woods, a 100ha area of old woodland with oak and ash deep, sheltered ravine woodland as well as willow carr. Rich Lobarion, Graphidion and Usneon communities of lichens can be found in these woods which comprise a total of 124 lichen species. The Lobarion in particular is exceptionally rich with Degelia plumbea, D. altantica, Thelopsis rubella and Collema nigrescens. (REIC score 95, NIEC 36/70 + 5 bonus species). This was the best ravine wood in Cornwall (according to a 1993 report to JNCC and is now owned by the woodland trust. The site used to be a SSSI but is no longer listed. This site is much larger than its former size (as shown on a 1930’s OS map): http://wtp2.appspot.com/wheresthepath.htm?lat=50.75269654803413&lon=-4.572065902998688&gz=14&oz=8>=5 . The current state of this site is unknown (though Neil/Coppins’ may have more info). Tintagel Cliffs Tintagel Cliffs lie on the North Cornwall coast between Boscastle and Dennis Point. The cliffs supporting an outstanding flora due to the vegetated sea cliffs which support old sessile oak woods. Exposure to winter gales and salt spray has led to the development of maritime grassland and maritime heathland, which together support a rich flora with a number of rare species with populations of Autumn Squill Scilla autumnalis and Hairy Birds-foot-trefoil Lotus subbiflorus, both species of restricted occurrence in Britain are abundant here. In addition the steeper cliffs support Golden-samphire Inula crithmoides, and Maidenhair Fern Adiantum capillus-veneris. Calcareous soils support a species rich flora which includes the very rare chives Allium schoenoprasum which flourishes in wetter hollows.
General Habitat Description Old sessile oak woods with Ilex and Blechnum in the British Isles; Vegetated sea cliffs of the Atlantic and Baltic coasts. Broadleaved deciduous woodland: oceanic woodland Best ravine woodland in Cornwall for bryophytes Oceanic woodland supporting rich epiphytic lichen communities.
Conservation Issues Some areas dominated by gorse scrub or bracken and would benefit from more grazing or invasive control of some sort (however access is difficult in places due to steep slopes in places). SSSI condition assessments often carried out by non lichenologists, Boscastle to Widemouth is being surveyed in 2010 however to produce a site dossier.