General site character
Shingle, Sea cliffs, Islets (5%)
Heath, Scrub, Maquis and Garrigue, Phygrana (20%)
Dry grassland, Steppes (72%)
Other land (including Towns, Villages, Roads, Waste places, Mines, Industrial sites) (3%)
Habitats that are a primary reason for selection of this site:
Vegetated sea cliffs of the Atlantic and Baltic Coasts.
St Albans Head or St Adhelms Head to Durlston Head, with Isle of Portland to Studland Cliffs, form a single unit of cliffed coastline some 40 km in length. The cliffs are formed of hard limestones, with chalk at the eastern end, interspersed with slumped sections of soft cliff of sand and clays. The cliffs support species-rich calcareous grassland with species that are rare in the UK, such as wild cabbage Brassica oleracea var. oleracea, early spider-orchid Ophrys sphegodes and Nottingham catchfly Silene nutans.
Semi-natural dry grasslands and scrubland facies on calcareous substrates (Festuco-Brometalia) (* important orchid sites).
This site contains extensive species-rich examples of tor grass Brachypodium pinnatum calcareous grassland. The site holds the largest UK population of early spider-orchid Ophrys sphegodes. This species has declined very dramatically in the UK since the 1950s, in both population size and range.
Species that are a primary reason for selection of this site:
Early gentian Gentianella anglica.
This site on the Dorset coast, together with Isle of Portland to Studland Cliffs, supports important long-standing populations of early gentian Gentianella anglica numbering several thousands of plants in floristically-rich calcareous grassland.
Species present as a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for site selection:
Greater horseshoe bat Rhinolophus ferrumequinum.