Area: 261.5 hectares.
The site boundary has been amended by extension and deletion. The site includes most of the Bovey Valley NNR (excluding Higher Knowle Wood). It is wholly within the Dartmoor National Park and the Devon County Structure Plan Dartmoor Conservation Zone. It is part of the Nature Conservation Site which also includes Yarner Wood National Natrue Reserve (NNR).
Description and Reasons for Notification:
This site comprises a large area of semi-natural broadleaved woodland composed of various stand types, and Lustleigh Cleave which adds a variety of habitats. The lichen flora is of national importance and the bryophyte flora of regional importance.
The site lies between 100–300 metres in altitude, within the valley of the River Bovey which flows in a south-easterly direction at this point. Part of the site extends up the Becka Brook valley to beyond the Becka Falls.
Much of the site lies over granite on loamy, acid brown earth soils with many granite boulders at the surface. Some of the woodland grows on similar soils derived from Carboniferous slates. In the river valley bottoms, gleyed, humic soils with various textures have developed in alluvium derived from the granite and the slates.
Much of the woodland is comparatively recent in origin. The wide range of relief, aspect, soil conditions and management history has resulted in different types of woodland developing. Generally a mixture of sessile oak Quercus petraea, pedunculate oak Q. robur and silver birch Betula pendula has colonised well drained ground, whilst alder Alnus glutinosa, ash Fraxinus excelsior, aspen Populus tremula and sallow Salix sp grow with pedunculate oak and birch on wetter ground. These stand types have developed as a result of a cessation in management of old field systems and common ground. Other areas have pedunculate oak/ash stands with a hazel Corylus avellana understory; these are probably remnants of a coppice-with-standards system. There are also areas of neglected oak coppice which now have a holly Ilex aquifolium and rowan Sorbus aucuparia understory. Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus is locally dominant in places and invasive in others.
The ground flora varies from a dense cover of bracken Pteridium aquilinum and bramble Rubus fruticosus with a few calcifuge herbs such as cow-wheat Melampyrum pratense and wood sorrel Oxalis acetosella to a herb rich flora including sanicle Sanicula europaea, primrose Primula vulgaris and dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis. There is an area of marshy grassland dominated by purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea but including bog myrtle Myrica gale, royal fern Osmunda regalis, alder buckthorn Frangula alnus, lemon-scented fern Thelypteris oreopteris and bog mosses Sphagnum spp.
Older trees and the boulders especially those nearer to the two rivers are exceptionally rich in lichens and bryophytes. There are many rare and notable lichens including: Lobaria amplissima, L. laetivirens, L. pulmonaria, Carillaria pulverea, Nephroma parile, Lecanora piniperda and Thrombium epigaeum (growing on soil). Bryophytes include Trichocolea tomentella and Hookeria lucens. The Tunrbidge filmy-fern Hymenophyllum tunbrigense grows on streamside boulders.
Lustleigh Cleave occupies the south-west facing side of the Bovey Valley. It supports a mixture of birch and oak woodland and older oak woodland on granite clitter, together with large areas of bracken with scattered trees and gorse Ulex europaeus. Part of the Cleave is an acid grassland/dry heath mosaic and there are several acidic flushes. The most notable plants are moonwort Botrychium lunaria and adders-tongue Fern ophioglossum vulgatum. The granite boulders support a rich saxicolous lichen flora including Cetraria hepatizon and Massalongia carnosa.
The breeding bird community is typical of western woodland, with buzzard Buteo buteo, redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus, wood warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix, lesser spotted woodpecker Dendrocopus minor, pied flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca and heron Ardea cinerea.
Dormice Muscardinus avellanarius are common and the butterflies include scarce species like the purple emperor Apatura iris and brown hairstreak Thecla betulae.