Area: 10.9 hectares.
Site boundary amended. Formerly called Fernhills Moor SSSI.
Description and Reasons for Notification:
This site comprises an area of unimproved herb-rich acidic grassland of a restricted community type, together with scrub and woodland; it is of importance for its high botanical interest.
The area is situated a few miles north of Dartmoor on Carboniferous shales. The soils are acidic clays, soil drainage varying over the site from poor to good. Much of the land is on a gently south facing slope.
The grassland sward consists predominantly of purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea and includes eleven sedge species, the most abundant of which are tawny sedge Carex hostiana, carnation sedge C. panicea, flea sedge C. pulicaris and green-ribbed sedge C. binervis. The herb content is high and a wide range of species are found including petty whin Genista anglica, lesser butterfly-orchid Platanthera bifolia, devil’s-bit scabious Succisa pratensis, meadow thistle Cirsium dissectum, bitter-vetch Lathyrus montanus and saw-wort Serratula tinctoria.
In the wettest areas where rushes Juncus spp. are abundant, bog asphodel Narthecium ossifragum, marsh pennywort Hydrocotyle vulgaris and marsh St John’s-wort Hypericum elodes occur.
The areas of scrub are dominated by young birch Betula pendula and sallow Salix spp. which merge with the narrow woodland strips associated with old field boundaries.
Tree pipit Anthus trivialis and the woodlark Lullula arborea have recently bred in the grassland areas, which also provide a hunting ground for barn owls Tyto alba.
The breeding butterflies include good populations of the uncommon and declining marsh fritillary Eurodryas aurinia, small pearl-bordered fritillary Boloria selene, silver washed fritillary Argynnis paphia and brown hairstreak Thecla betulae. In total twenty-eight butterfly species have been recorded.