Area: 80.8 hectares.
Description and Reasons for Notification:
Bedruthan Steps and Park Head are situated about 10 km southwest of Padstow on the north Cornwall coast. The cliffs are higher and steeper in the south, rising to about 65 metres. The majority of the site is underlain by Lower Devonian slates, with a small outcrop of Staddon Grits in the south of the site. Marine erosion of the Lower Devonian slates has resulted in rapid retreat of the coastal edge and the formation of the spectacular series of remnant stacks known as Bedruthan Steps in the intertidal zone north of Pendarves Island. The extreme tip of Park Head is composed of diabase. The soils are well drained and loamy or silty.
The site is scheduled both for its biological and geological interest. Geologically the site is of importance for the richly fossiliferous strata. Between Bedruthan Steps (SW 84856965) and Pendarves Island (SW 84756935), extensive exposures of grey Devonian slates have yielded a fossil rich fauna indicating an Eifelian Age. Included in the fauna are large numbers of the problematical fossil Pteroconus mirus. This is the best Eifelian site in Cornwall.
Despite the extreme maritime conditions experienced on these west-facing cliffs, several plant species of interest occur here including golden samphire Inula crithmoides and tree mallow Lavatera arborea. The site also has interesting areas of maritime grassland and heathland along the coastal margin. Within the maritime grass/heath near Porth Mear, to the north of the site occur the nationally rare autumn squill Scilla autumnalis and hairy bird’s-foot trefoil Lotus subbiflorus. Other noteworthy species occurring here are spring quill Scilla verna and the prostrate form of dyer’s greenweed Genista tinctoria var. prostrata.
The sheltered valley which runs inland from Porth Mear contains a variety of additional habitats including scrub, streams, tall herb and a small area of woodland which add further interest to the site.
The site also supports two mosses of limited distribution, Tortella flavovirens and Schistidium maritima. Two noteworthy beetle species – Cteniopus sulphureus and Dasytes aerosus, have also been recorded here.