Area: 29.77 hectares.

Description and Reasons for Notification: 

Kernick and Ottery Meadows are fragments of a formerly extensive moorland and mire system on the Carboniferous Culm Measures of north Cornwall. The unimproved ‘Culm Grasslands’ that occur here support a vegetation complex comprising grassland, heath, mire and fen communities, several of which are nationally restricted in distribution. The extent of such sites in Cornwall has decreased by at least 64% during the past six years and the remaining 137 ha of unimproved Culm grassland represents a highly fragmented and decreasing resource. 

Kernick and Ottery Meadows are located approximately 8 km north-east of Boscastle, within the catchment of the River Ottery. The site is underlain by shales of the Upper Carboniferous Culm Measures which weather to form typical cambic gley soils. These have been overlain by alluvial deposits along the river valley. 

Kernick and Ottery Meadows support a range of mire, fen, rush-pasture and tall herb vegetation communities which are typical of unimproved acidic grassland overlying the Culm Measures, including vegetation types not found elsewhere on the Culm grasslands in Cornwall. 

Of particular nature conservation importance here is the occurrence of the highly localised community bog asphodel–sphagnum moss Narthecium ossifragumSphagnum papillosum valley mire, bog bilberry–sphagnum moss Vaccinium oxycoccusSphagnum fallax sub-community. This particular community occurs as a mosaic together with purple moor-grass–tormentil Molinia caeruleaPotentilla erecta mire, cross-leaved heath Erica tetralix sub-community. This association of community types forms a species-rich, low sward supporting bog asphodel, common cottongrass Eriophorum angustifolium and devil’s-bit scabious Succisa pratensis together with carnation sedge Carex panicea, heath spotted-orchid Dactylorhiza maculata and cross-leaved heath. Species indicative of wetter conditions include bog pimpernel Anagallis tenella, marsh St John’s-wort Hypericum elodes, round-leaved sundew Drosera rotundifolia, bogbean Menyanthes trifoliataSphagnum fallax, pale butterwort Pinguicula lusitanica, bog pondweed Potamogeton polygonifolius and the nationally scarce wavy St John’s-wort Hypericum undulatum. The associated bryophyte flora is diverse and includes Campylium stellatumWarnstorfia exannulata and Riccardia multifida

The site also includes small areas of purple moor-grass–meadow thistle Molinia caeruleaCirsium dissectum fen meadow, sharp-flowered rush–cross-leaved heath Juncus acutiflorusErica tetralix sub-community. The short sward supports abundant meadow thistle, frequent heath spotted-orchid and a rich sedge flora, particularly carnation sedge and tawny sedge Carex hostiana. This sub-community type is restricted to the south-west of England, south Wales and scattered occurrences in the New Forest. 

Occurring widely throughout the site is purple moor-grass–tormentil mire, wild angelica Angelica sylvestris sub-community, a diverse vegetation type dominated by tall tussocks of Molinia and sharp-flowered rush Juncus acutiflorus with frequent wild angelica, common valerian Valeriana officinalis, heath spotted- orchid, common sorrel Rumex acetosa, sneezewort Achillea ptarmica, ragged robin Lychnis flos-cuculi, common marsh-bedstraw Galium palustre and marsh lousewort Pedicularis palustris. The fern flora is represented by hard fern Blechnum spicant, lady fern Athyrium filix-femina and royal fern Osmunda regalis. A small base-rich flush supports a rich bryophyte flora, including the uncommon liverwort Trichocolea tormentellaClimacium dendroides, a moss which is rare in Cornwall, and the moss Calliergon stramineum. The more uniform sward of the sweet vernal-grass Anthoxanthum odoratum sub-community of this community type is characterised by an abundance of Molinia and sharp-flowered rush and the associated species carnation sedge, common cottongrass, bog asphodel, pale butterwort and bog pimpernel, the latter often occurring as dense carpets. Tawny sedge, marsh violet Viola palustris, bog myrtle Myrica gale and cross-leaved heath occur locally. Of particular note is the occurrence of lesser skullcap Scutellariaminor together with skullcap S. galericulata and frequent wavy St John’ s-wort. This sub-community also supports a rich bryophyte flora. 

Soft rush/sharp-flowered rush–common marsh-bedstrawJuncus effusus/acutiflorusGalium palustre rush-pasture comprises short sedge-rich areas scattered throughout taller rush-dominated vegetation characterised by the presence of marsh thistle Cirsium palustre, lesser spearwort Ranunculus flammula, marsh-bedstraw Galium palustre, greater bird’s-foot trefoil, marsh willowherb Epilobium palustre and marsh pennywort Hydrocotyle vulgaris

Areas of tall-herb vegetation are characterised by the presence of dense stands of meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria, wild angelica, common valerian, marsh thistle, common sorrel, water mint Mentha aquatica and hemlock water-dropwort Oenanthe crocata

The fast-flowing River Ottery is fringed by woodland and scrub, much of which is dominated by alder Alnus glutinosa, downy birch Betula pubescens and willow carr, wet woodland. The nationally scarce lichen Usnea articulata grows profusely on hazel Corylus avellana coppice. 

The habitat diversity of this site is further enhanced by the occurrence of limited areas of swamp vegetation, consisting predominantly of large tussocks of greater tussock-sedge Carex paniculata, some over 2 m high.