Area: 4,957 hectares.
Description and Reasons for Notification:
Bodmin Moor occupies much of the central part of east Cornwall. It is remarkable as a moorland both for its low altitude: between 230 metres in the valley bogs and 420 metres at the summit of Brown Willy, and for the Atlantic elements in its flora and fauna with a number of species known only from south-west Britain. The site is of particular importance as the only upland massif in Cornwall and for the extensive area of semi-natural vegetation, which includes examples of a range of upland plant communities: wet heath, dry grassland, valley bogs, blanket bogs and crags. The area incorporates several catchments each with a range of wetland communities supporting a number of rare and local plants.
The Moor is the eroded remnant of a massive, sub-surface intruded granite boss of Armorican age. During its cooling, secondary intrusions occurred and extensive mineral deposits were formed, notably of tin, copper, zinc, lead, silver and iron. Around the main granite massif is an aureole of highly metamorphosed rock derived from the surrounding slates and shales.
Several peneplains have been identified and above these rise the high tors. These granite outcrops show many features of periglacial erosion including “cheeswring” type structures, screes and clitter slopes. A number of streams and several important rivers, including the Fowey, Camel and Lynher rise on Bodmin Moor cutting valleys across the plateau.
The granite-derived soils are mostly gritty, very acid loams of the Hexworthy series of stagnopodzols. There is frequently a wet peaty surface horizon and an ironpan is often present. Slightly better-draining but similar soils are found high on the tors while basins and river valleys contain thick, very acid amorphous waterlogged peaty soils. On steep bouldery slopes there are occasional exposures of well-drained humic brown podzols, and much of the metamorphic aureole is overlain by typical well-drained, loamy brown podzolic soils.
The diverse topography and soils give rise to a range of vegetation types. The two most widespread are: Festuca ovina – Agrostis capillaris – Galium saxatile (sheep’s-fescue – common bent – heath bedstraw) grassland and Scirpus cespitosus – Erica tetralix (deergrass – cross-leaved heath) heath. Clitter slopes on the high tors, and in other areas of relaxed grazing typically support dwarf shrub heath vegetation with dominance of heather Calluna vulgaris, bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus, bristle bent Agrostis curtisii, purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea or western gorse Ulex gallii. Humid creviced amongst the higher tors support the uncommon Wilson’s and Tonbridge filmy-ferns Hymmenophyllum wilsonii and H. tunbridgense.
At intermediate altitudes, between about 250 metres and 300 metres the vegetation of the more gently sloping ground displays the influence of several thousand years of pastoral activity. A number of grassland types have been identified here, typically dominated either by common bent, velvet bent A.canina, red fescue Festuca rubra, sheep’s-fescue, mat-grass Nardus stricta or purple moor-grass. The balance between these communities is maintained largely by local variation in grazing intensity and type of livestock. These grasslands probably represent degraded heathland communities. Where grazing is very light, bracken Pteridium aquilinum, western gorse and gorse Ulex europaeus may dominate. On the margins of wet areas the frequency of Sphagnum mosses increases, and heath rush Juncus squarrosus may be locally dominant.
Hollows and valleys on Bodmin Moor are typically colonized by a range of wetland communities, notably: Carex rostrata – Sphagnum fallax mire (bottle sedge – Sphagnum moss mire), Carex echinata – Sphagnum fallax/auriculatum mire (star sedge – Sphagnum moss mire) and Narthecium ossifragum – Sphagnum papillosum valley mire (bog asphodel – Sphagnum moss mire). These have been frequently subjected to burning and intense grazing pressure. Throughout the moor a number of such areas have been flooded by reservoir construction, though at the eastern end of Crowdy Reservoir a high degree of biological interest remains because of the gradual transition to peatland with a complex of islets and emergent vegetation and Cornwall’s only major colony of black-headed gulls. Rare or local flowering plants occurring within the bog communities include: bog pimpernel Anagallis tenella, oblong-leaved and round-leaved sundew Drosera intermedia and D.rotundifolia, bog orchid Hammarbya paludosa – a nationally scarce species, bogbean Menyanthes trifoliata, pale butterwort Pinguicula lusitanica, lesser skullcap Scutellaria minor and ivy-leaved bellflower Wahlenbergia hederacea.
Lower plants are not well documented from Bodmin Moor but there are records of the epiphytic lichen Usnea articulata from rocks on clitter clopes. These clitters and some of the high tors have developed an attractive lichen turf deserving further study. A number of rare epiphytic lichens are found on trees in the strips of deciduous woodland which follow the courses of some of the rivers into the Moor. At least nine species of local or rare liverworts are known from tors and clitter slopes and a further eight local species, including the very rare Jamesoniella undulifolia, are recorded in boggy areas. A rich moss flora includes Antitricha curtipendula from high rocky outcrops, Pohlia bulbifera from wetlands, and there are records of the very rare Fontinalis squamosa var. curnowii from rocks in streams.
Otters Lutra lutra penetrate the moor along watercourses, particularly the River Fowey, and there are records of harvest mouse Micromys minutus.
Bodmin Moor is of major importance for both nesting and wintering birds. Of the breeding species the site is of county importance for lapwing Vanellus vanellus, snipe Gallinago gallinago, redstart Phoeniicurus phoenicurus, stonechat Saxicola torquata and black-headed gull Larus ridibundus; it is of regional importance for its populations of wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe, curlew Numenius arquata and whinchat Saxicola rubetra. The latter breeds here at exceptionally high densities for Britain. The tiny breeding population of dunlin Calidris alpina represents the southern limit of the world breeding range of the species.
In winter Bodmin Moor supports a number of rare species of bird in small numbers, including hen harrier Circus cyaneus*, merlin Falco colubarius*, peregrine Falco peregrinus* and there are regular winter records of red kite Molvus milvus*. It is the main wintering area in Cornwall for snipe and short-eared owl Asio flammeus*. The winter population of golden plover Pluvialis apricaria* regularly reaches nationally important levels and occasional counts of well over 10,000 birds qualify the Moor as being of international importance. While migrant and overwintering birds range widely across Bodmin Moor they are dependent upon the large area of semi-natural habitats within the site for shelter, roosting and feeding.
The Moor is one of the best dragonfly and damselfly sites in the county. Of the sixteen species recorded the black sympetrum Sympetrum scoticum, the small red damselfly Ceriagrion tenellum and the scarce blue-tailed Ischnura pumilio are of very restricted range and distribution nationally.
Other invertebrate groups are rather poorly studied by there are records of the nationally scarce butterfly species silver-studded blue Plebejus argus and marsh fritillary Euphydryas aurinia as well as dark-green fritillary Argynnis aglaia, silver-washed fritillary A. paphia, green hairstreak Callophrys rubi and grayling Eumenis semele.
*These species are listed in Annex 1 of the EC Birds Directive.