Area: 228.7 hectares.
In South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and South Devon Heritage Coast. In Structure Plan Nature Conservation Zone (partly) and Coastal Preservation Area. Owned above HWM by the National Trust.
Description and Reasons for Notification:
This site is of high botanical value due to the presence of many rare or local flowering plants and lichens and is also important for its invertebrate fauna and for breeding birds.
The bedrock consists of mineral-rich Lower Devonian schists forming cliffs rising to some 120 m for about 9 km, facing mostly south west. On the cliffs there is a thin layer of well-drained loamy brown-earth soil supporting maritime rock-crevice, maritime grassland, maritime heath and scrub communities. Broadleaved woodland occurs at the sheltered north-east end.
The maritime grassland communities are characterised by red fescue Festuca rubra with thrift Armeria maritima, Yorkshire fog Holcus lanatus, sea and buckshorn plantain Plantago maritima and P. coronopus, wild carrot Daucus carota and bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta. Bloody cranesbill Geranium sanguineum also occurs. The grassland often fades out on to bare rock, or merges with heathland of heather Calluna vulgaris, bell heather Erica cinerea and western gorse Ulex gallii. These plant communities contain a number of nationally rare or uncommon species such as carrot broomrape Orobanche maritima, upright chickweed Moenchia erecta, autumn squill Scilla autumnalis, Portland spurge Euphorbia portlandica and sea storksbill Erodium maritimum. There are many areas of bracken Pteridium aquilinum and of scrub species such as gorse Ulex europaeus, blackthorn Prunus spinosa, hawthorn Crataegus monogyna and bramble Rubus fruticosus. North of Bolt Head, facing the Salcombe Estuary, there is a stretch of woodland dominated by sessile oak Quercus petraea, with some ash Fraxinus excelsior, beech Fagus sylvatica and sycamore Acer pseudoplantanus. The rocks support a wide variety of lichens, including an assemblage with Mediterranean affinities. Rare species include Cladonia convoluta and C. forma. Teloschistes flavicans, Roccella fuciformis, R. phycopsis and Buellia leptoclinoides.
The invertebrate fauna contains many species limited mainly to southerly coastal sites. Three nationally rare species of ant are found namely Solenopsis fugax, Strongylongnathus testaceus and Anergates atratulus (the latter two species being parasites in the nests of Tetramorium caespitum. The grey bush cricket Platycleis denticulata is plentiful and there are two native species of cockroach Ectobius pallidus and Ectobius panzeri.
The scrub provides nesting cover for Cirl bunting Emberiza cirlus and other birds, while fulmar Fulmarius glacialis and shag Phalacocorax aristotelis breed on the cliffs and rocks.