Area: 49.49 hectares.
Reasons for Notification:
The site comprises a range of coastal habitats which support nationally rare and nationally scarce plant species, including internationally important populations of shore dock Rumex rupestris, a European endemic threatened throughout its world range, and the moss Weissia multicapsularis, another extremely rare European endemic which in Cornwall (its world stronghold) is now known from just three localities. Other notable species include the nationally scarce hairy bird's-foot-trefoil Lotus subbiflorus and Babington's leek Allium ampeloprasum var. babingtonii.
This is a new site. The site lies within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the Roseland Heritage Coast.
Shore dock is listed on Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as amended. It is also listed in Appendix 1 of the Bern Convention and Annexes II & IV of the EC Habitats and Species Directive (92/43/ECC).
Shore dock and the moss Weissia multicapsularis are listed as Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.
The site is located on the Roseland peninsula on the south coast, and comprises three lengths of coastline between Carricknath Point, at the mouth of the Fal Estuary, and Porthbean Beach, on the western side of Gerrans Bay.
The southernmost section runs between Carricknath Point and St Anthony Head. Here, freshwater seepages and damp rock ledges beneath overhanging cliffs provide suitable habitat for the internationally rare and threatened shore dock Rumex rupestris. Shore dock occurs here, as elsewhere on the site, in beach-head/rock-crevice vegetation associated with freshwater seepages. Plants growing in association with shore dock include creeping bent Agrostis stolonifera, sea beet Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima, field bindweed Convolvulus arvensis, cock's-foot Dactylis glomerata, wild carrot Daucus carota, ribwort plantain Plantago lanceolata, sea plantain Plantago maritima and prickly sow-thistle Sonchus asper.
The second, and longest, length of coastline in the site stretches northwards from Porthbeor Beach to Portscatho. Here there is a range of coastal habitats, including sandy beaches, broad wave-cut rock platforms with fragments of saltmarsh, cliffs of head deposits and low rocky headlands, and, particularly important for shore dock, numerous areas of freshwater seepage. The shore dock colonies are generally found amongst rocks and on damp ledges or in rock-crevices close to the cliff-base with species such as hemp-agrimony Eupatorium cannabinum, common reed Phragmites australis, hemlock water-dropwort Oenanthe crocata, silverweed Potentilla anserina, common fleabane Pulicaria dysenterica, curled dock Rumex crispus, perennial sow-thistle Sonchus arvensis and sea mayweed Tripleurospermum maritimum. One colony, occurs unusually far from obvious freshwater influence and without any associated species, in a rock-crevice on almost vertical cliffs about 10 metres above beach-level.
The head cliffs between Porthbeor and Portscatho are well-vegetated, being mainly dominated by scrub and bracken Pteridium aquilinum, together with small areas of clifftop grassland. The nationally scarce Babington's leek Allium ampeloprasum var. babingtonii occurs in several places along these sea-cliffs, while hairy bird's-foot-trefoil Lotus subbiflorus, another nationally scarce species, is recorded from dry clifftop grassland and path verges with several locally uncommon species such as wild clary Salvia verbanaca, knotted clover Trifolium striatum and rough clever Trifolium scabrum. Open patches on the exposed eastern ends of several clifftop hedgebanks (Cornish hedges) support populations of the critically endangered moss Weissia multicapsularis, a species of moist bare ground in non-calcareous habitats including earthy banks and sea-cliffs.
Invertebrate interest along this varied length of coastline is high. At Killigerran Head there are records of the nationally notable green hairy snail Ponentina subvirescens, the bees Andrena simillina and Anthophora bimaculata, and the pompilid wasp Aporus unicolour a species that feeds exclusively on the purse-web spider Atypus affinis, which suggests that it must also be present at this site. At Towan Beach the low cliffs are known to support several species of interest, including the nationally notable solitary mining bee Colletes marginatus, the soldier fly Nemotelus nigrinus and the ground beetle Harpalus puncticeps.
The northernmost, and shortest, length of coastline in this site is at Porthbean Beach, where several plants of shore dock occur around a freshwater seepage at the cliff-base. Associated species include common reed, sea mayweed, sea plantain and spear-leaved orache Atriplex prostrata. Another plant of particular interest found at this site is sea kale Crambe maritima, a nationally declining species with a very restricted distribution in Cornwall.