Area: 124.0 hectares.
Description and Reasons for Notification:
In the North Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Where the River Fowey leaves the southern edge of Bodmin Moor, between Harrowbridge and Westerlake Farms, its valley widens for some 3 km. This flood plain has a mosaic of vegetation communities including wet heath, valley mire, acid grassland and willow carr. A high diversity of flowering plants supports a wide range of invertebrates and there is a large number of breeding bird species.
Within the valley, waterlogged raw acid peat soils overly alluvial gravels while on either side are the rounded granite hills of Brown Gelly and Siblyback. The unpolluted River Fowey displays a range of natural structural features including riffles and pools and both eroding and accreting banks.
The wet heath vegetation is characterised by an abundance of hare’s-tail cotton grass Eriophorum vaginatum and purple moor grass Molinia caerulea with deer grass Trichophorum caespitosum, cross-leaved heath Erica tetralix, tormentil Potentilla erecta, common cotton grass Eriophorum angustifolium, green-ribbed sedge Carex binervis and carnation sedge Carex panicea.
The herbaceous valley-floor mire communities are again dominated by purple moor-grass with tormentil but display a range of tall herbs including valerian Valeriana officinalis and angelica Angelica sylvestris. Pools and hollows here contain bog bean Menyanthes trifoliata and bottle sedge Carex rostrata and several Sphagnum moss species. There is also marsh St John’s wort Hypericum elodes, marsh violet Viola palustris and marsh cinquefoil Potentilla palustris. There are populations of round-leaved sundew Drosera rotundifolia, the rarer oblong-leaved sundew Drosera intermedia, pale butterwort Pinguicula lusitanica, bog pimpernel Anagallis tenella, lesser skullcap Scutellaria minor, ivyleaved bellflower Wahlenbergia hederacea and white beak-sedge Rhynchospora alba. Drier, unimproved acid grassland at the fringes of the wet areas is dominated by common bent grass Agrostis capillaris and contains lousewort Pedicularis sylvatica, bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus, field woodrush Luzula campestris and some Heather Calluna vulgaris. There are scattered areas of gorse Ulex europaeus.
Stands of grey willow Salix cinerea within the wetland communities and bordering hedgebanks with oak trees provide important habitats for birds.
The valley has a good diversity of breeding birds with populations of tree pipit Anthus trivialis, whinchat Saxicola rubetra, stonechat Saxicola torquata and redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus. Five species of warbler breed including grasshopper warbler Locustella naevia, dipper Cinclus cinclus and grey wagtail Motacilla cinerea nest along the river and kingfisher Alcedo atthis occur regularly.
There are recent records of otter Lutra lutra and there are suitable lying-up sites along the river.
The site supports an outstanding assemblage of dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata) with 15 breeding species including the rare white-legged damselfly Platycnemis pennipes and small red damselfly Ceriagrion tenellum.