Area: 621.17 hectares.
A new site. The site overlaps in part with the Bodmin Moor North and De Lank Quarries SSSIs previously notified for other interests. It abuts the Rosenannon Bog and Downs SSSI. Otter, greater and lesser horseshoe bats and marsh fritillary are all listed on Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, as amended. Kingfisher is listed on Schedule 1 of the 1981 Act. Otter and bats are also listed on Schedule 2 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations, 1994. Annexes II, IV and V of the EC Habitats and Species Directive (92/43/EEC) list the following: Otter and greater and lesser horseshoe bats (II/IV), bullhead, sea lamprey and marsh fritillary (II) and Atlantic salmon (II/V). Annex I of the EC Wild Birds Directive (79/409/EEC) lists kingfisher. The site overlaps in part with the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Description and Reasons for Notification:
The rivers Camel, Allen and tributaries, their associated woodlands, carr, fen, heath and wet meadows are of special interest for wildlife. The system is particularly important for otters Lutra lutra which benefit from some of the most unspoilt river corridors in the South West with extensive woods, excellent bankside cover and little disturbance. The rivers are also of great value for fish such as the Atlantic salmon Salmo salar, bullhead Cottus goblo, sea trout Salmo trutta and sea lamprey Petromyzon marinus. Rare greater and lesser horseshoe bats Rhinolophus ferrumequinum and R. hipposideros feed along the watercourses along with the kingfisher Alcedo atthis, dipper Cinclus cinclus, grey wagtail Motacilla cinerea and water vole Arvicola terrestris which also breed.
One tributary, the De Lank River, is of national importance as an outstanding upland, acid river. Some of the largest remaining ancient semi-natural woodlands in Cornwall are found alongside the Camel. They are often sessile oak Quercus petraea dominated but the system also supports significant areas of more recent wet grey willow Salix cinerea and alder Alnus glutinosa woodland for which Cornwall is particularly notable. These areas support a rich wildlife including many important insect species and lower plants such as mosses. Some of the last few remaining meadows, marshes and area of fen vegetation of high wildlife value in Cornwall are found alongside the rivers. Some are rich in wildflowers. At Brynn Moor as well as grassland the vegetation includes a rich mix of willow carr and wet heath amongst which are some rare plants.
The River Camel and its tributaries represent the full range of conditions used by the otter in freshwater in the South West. These range from the upland headwaters of the De Lank to lowland reaches of varying sizes, flow rates and cover and include small side streams. The lower reaches of the Camel and Allen are tidal providing added diversity. Otters require high water quality, good fish stocks and areas of undisturbed riparian vegetation such as scrub and wet meadows, all resources available in the site. Three national otter surveys have confirmed the widespread use of the catchment by otters even during the population’s low point making it a South West stronghold. The catchment also performs a pivotal role in linking important rivers for otters allowing for population interchange. The headwaters of the Penpont Water (part of the River Tamar catchment), the River Fowey and the De Lank tributary of the Camel all arise within a kilometre of each other on Bodmin Moor. The Ruthern approaches the source of the River Fal whilst the source of the Camel links to the River Inny (part of the Tamar catchment) and the north Cornish coast rivers.
The River Camel originates on Hendraburnick Down at approximately 280m (above mean sea level) draining acid moorland overlying Devonian and Carboniferous slates. The underlying substrate of the river is boulder, cobbles, pebbles and gravel with some sandstone and slate bedrock. The channel exhibits riffles, rapids, pools and slack and is generally fast flowing. Together with the other rivers in the site the full range of upland, upland/lowland fringe and lowland river conditions found in the South West are provided. Downstream towards the confluence of the Camel and Allen, the rivers are tidal. The main catchment land use is agriculture predominantly grazing on improved pasture. However, broadleaved woodland is an important feature of the river corridors.
On the Camel itself the aquatic and marginal flora is sparse and bryophyte dominated due to factors such as shading by trees, river flow and lack of marginal mud and silt. Typical bryophyte species include Chiloscyphos polyanthos, Fontinalis squamosa, Rhynchostegium riparioides and Hygrohypnum luridum. Typical algal species include Vaucheria sessilis, Lemanea fluviatilis and filamentous green algae.
In contrast the De Lank River which rises in acid peats on Bodmin Moor and flows over granite and slates around 14km before joining the Camel has an exceptionally rich flora for an upland river. It is comparable with other high quality rivers in the Lake District, Wales and Scotland. Of over 70 plant species recorded more than 30 are bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) whilst the high cover of rooted aquatic macrophytes is unusual in a nutrient poor river. The river exhibits considerable variation along its length. It has an interesting geomorphology which influences its value to plants. In contrast to the northern uplands the differential weathering of the granite batholith underlying Bodmin Moor and the killas slates around it creates a shallow gradient on the granite which increases quite sharply as the granite gives way to killas.
The upper reaches meander through flattish bog and open grazed moorland. There the channel tends to be dominated by bulbous rush Juncus bulbosus, floating club-rush Eleogiton fluitans, bog pondweed Potamogeton polygonifolius and marsh St John’s wort Hypericum elodes. The mosses F. squamosa and Hyocomium armoricum and the liverwort Scapania undulata occur here and along the whole of the river.
Bankside flora includes common marsh bedstraw Galium saxatile, the marsh St John’s wort, marsh violet Viola palustris, the nationally scarce Cornish moneywort Sibthorpia europaea, the moss Polytrichum commune and liverwort Pellia epiphylla. The middle section is steeper and the vegetation is dominated by bryophytes and plants of coarse bedded rivers with rapids and large in-stream boulders. Here alternate water milfoil Myriophyllum alternifolium and floating club-rush are often dominant in the channel. Sharp-flowered rush Juncus acutiflorus and the nationally scarce coral necklace Illecebrum verticillatum are found along the edge. The middle and lower sections are bordered by deciduous woodland, mainly sessile oak. In the last kilometre before it joins the main River Camel the river valley broadens into farmland, mainly improved pasture but with some arable fields. In the lower part of the river hemlock water dropwort Oenanthe crocata dominates the channel in places with the moss Plagiomnium punctata occurring on the banks. There is also a good population of Royal fern Osmunda regalis. The De Lank is rich in invertebrate species particularly mayflies Ephemeroptera and caddis flies Trichoptera, the latter include the rare Ylodes simulans. Nationally scarce species include the water beetle Stictonectes lepidus and the meniscus midge Dixella filicornis.
Woodland is particularly characteristic of the Camel, Allen, Clerkenwater and parts of the Ruthern. The steeper valley side woods on acid to neutral soils comprise oak wood characterised by bramble Rubus fruticosus agg. and bracken Pteridium aquilinum or birch Betula spp. and wavy hair-grass Deschampsia flexuosa. Much of it has been historically coppiced. In some areas heathy plants such as heather Calluna vulgaris and bilberry Vaccinium mrytillus dominate the ground flora. In others mosses such as Leucobryum glaucum or herbs such as bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta provide striking displays. Rocky outcrops provide habitat diversity and support species such as foliose lichens, wood melick Melica uniflora and smooth stalked sedge Carex laevigata. At Treworder on the River Allen the outcrops, clitter and open areas associated with a railway cutting through woodland support two national rarities – the only Cornish population of toadflax-leaved St John’s wort Hypericum linariifolium and the only inland Cornish population of slender bird’s-foot trefoil Lotus angustissimus.
Where woodland soils are enriched ash Fraxinus excelsior and sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus become more dominant with a richer ground flora including dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis and wild garlic Allium ursinum. Beech Fagus sylvatica is also common. Understorey species include holly Ilex aquifolium, hazel Corylus avellana and rowan Sorbus aucuparia. Fringing areas to the woods support blackthornPrunus spinosa, hawthorn Crataegus monogyna, bramble and bracken characterised vegetation. The nationally rare Cornish bladderseed Physospermum cornubiense and the nationally scarce butterfly pearl-bordered fritillary Boloria euphrosyne are found in this habitat.
On flatter ground grey willow Salix cinerea and alder Alnus glutinosa carr has developed with a variable and sometimes rich ground flora including ferns, yellow iris Iris pseudacorus, opposite leaved golden saxifrage Chrysosplenium oppositifolium, hemlock water dropwort Oenanthe crocata and greater tussock sedge Carex paniculata. Guelder rose Viburnum opulus and alder buckthorn Frangula alnus have also been recorded.
The woods support a wide range of interesting and uncommon species such as bryophytes, including oceanic species and the nationally scarce Fissidens polyphyllus and Anthoceros punctatus; lichens including the nationally scarce Sticta canariensis; fungi and invertebrates. The latter include the nationally scarce rove beetle Deleaster dichorus, snipe fly Ptiolina obscura, white-letter hairstreak butterfly Strymonidia w-album and the moths waved carpet Hydrelia sylvata, white spotted pinion Cosmia diffinis and ruddy carpet Cattarhoe rubidata. A wide range of birds are associated with the woods including buzzard Buteo buteo, green woodpecker Picus viridis, wood warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix and redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus.
Along particularly the Ruthern, Allen and lower Camel a range of fen and wet neutral grassland plant communities have developed often in mosaics and associated with scrub and wet woodland. The vegetation is variously dominated by purple moor grass Molinia caerulea; sharp-flowered or soft rush Juncus acutiflorus and J. effusus; tall herbs such as meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria and wild angelica Angelica sylvestris; mesotrophic grasses such as Yorkshire fog Holcus lanatus and tufted hair-grass Deschampsia caespitosa; or crested dog’s-tailCynosurus cristatus and marsh-marigold Caltha palustris. There are transitions to valley mire characterised by species such as bog asphodel Narthecium ossifragum, black bog-rush Schoenus nigricans, bog mosses Sphagnum spp. and a wide range of sedges Carex spp. There is also limited wet and humid heath development notably at Brynn Moor and Demelza characterised by heathers, such as cross-leaved heath Erica tetralix, as well as western gorse Ulex gallii and bristle bent Agrostis curtisii. These mosaics, including associated open ground, ponds and seasonal water bodies such as ditches, support a range of nationally scarce plants. They include Cornish moneywort, coral-necklace, wavy St John’s wort Hypericum undulatum, pale dog violet Viola lactea and yellow centuary Cicendia filiformis. A wide range of orchids have been recorded including heath spotted-orchid Dactylorhiza maculata, southern marsh orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa, fragrant orchid Gymnadenia conopsea, early purple orchid Orchis mascula, common twayblade Listera ovata and lesser butterfly orchid Platanthera bifolia.
These wet meadows and mires are rich in invertebrates including the nationally scarce marsh fritillary Eurodryas aurinia, the scarlet tiger moth Callimorpha dominula and damselflies such as the beautiful demoiselle Agrion virgo and nationally scarce small red damselfly Ceriagrion tenellum. The open habitats support varied birdlife. In marshy areas and wet woodland this includes sedge warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus, grasshopper warbler Locustella naevia and reed bunting Emberiza schoeniclus.
In more brackish areas around the confluence of the Camel and Allen common reed Phragmites australis and tall herbs are prominent. Saltmarsh plants are also found in places including the nationally scarce Borrer’s saltmarsh-grass Puccinellia fasciculata and stiff saltmarsh-grass P. rupestris.