Area: 227.6 hectares.
Description and Reasons for Notification:
Kelsey Head is located on the North Cornwall coast approximately 5 km west of Newquay and 6 km north of Perranporth.
The exposed headlands of Kelsey Head and Pentire Point West rise to a maximum height of 46 m at Kelsey Head. Black calcareous slates and thin limestones of the Lower Devonian Meadfoot Beds outcrop on the headlands. Soils are shallow, well-drained loams. However, the majority of the peninsula is overlain by extensive accumulations of calcareous wind-blown sand. There are small alluvial deposits along the stream valleys.
Kelsey Head exhibits a wide range of habitats, the most extensive being the sand dune system at Holywell Bay and associated unimproved calcareous grassland of Cubert Common, which has developed over wind-blown sand. The Porth Joke stream valley supports a small amount of woodland with adjacent herb-rich meadows. In addition there are small areas of scrub vegetation, wet flushes, intertidal habitats and offshore islands.
The site is particularly important for the occurrence of several rare plant species. The nationally rare plant species, Babington’s leek Allium babingtonii grows in the brackish marsh at Holywell Bay, along with marsh arrowgrass Triglochin palustris, a scarce plant in southwest Britain. Common gromwell Lithospermum officinale and a large population of southern marsh-orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa are also found here.
The herb-rich maritime grassland fringing the headlands is greatly influenced by the overlying calcareous wind-blown sand, and supports extensive stands of cowslip Primula veris. Particular rarities on the cliffs are rock sea-lavender Limonium binervosum and autumn squill Scilla autumnalis with spring squill Scilla verna occurring extensively around the coastal margins. The wet meadows alongside the Porth Joke stream support a rich assemblage of herbs, including yellow bartsia Parentucellia viscosa and galingale Cyperus longus, a plant species of local distribution. The extensive dune system backing Holywell Bay supports several noteworthy plant species including sea holly Eryngium maritimum, henbane Hyoscyamus niger, houndstongue Cynoglossum officinale, cowslip and pyramidal orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis.
Several invertebrate species of importance have been recorded at Kelsey Head, including the silver-studded blue butterfly Plebejus argus, the stripe-winged grasshopper Stenobothrus lineatus, one of the only three recent recordings of this species from Devon and Cornwall. The two weevil species Apion hooleri and Ceutorhynchus punctiger, which have not been previously recorded in West Cornwall also occur here.
This headland together with its offshore islands are also of importance for their colonies of breeding seabirds including guillemot Uria aalge, herring gull Larus argentatus, shag Phalacrocorax aristotalis and razorbill Alca torda.