North Cornwall & Devon Coastal Woods IPA

Location: Begins at Start Point, west of the A39 at Camelford and runs north and east to near Peppercombe.

Grid Reference: SS 232 274


North Cornwall & Devon Coastal Woods IPA has been recognised as one of 165 Important Plant Areas in the UK.

The key features of this IPA are:

  • The species richness of lichens in Broadleaved deciduous woodland: oceanic and parkland
  • One of the best UK examples of threatened habitats of:
    Old oak woodlands with holly;
    Vegetated sea cliffs of the Atlantic coast
  • This stretch of coast on the Devon/Cornwall border from Peppercombe down to Trebarwith supports large areas of oceanic oak woods rich in lichen flora. The southernmost stretch of the coast also has vegetated sea cliffs which support old sessile oak woods. These ‘Atlantic’ woodlands are one of Britain and Ireland’s most important habitats; home to a vast diversity of plant life.

    Atlantic woodland in the southwest tends to be less wet and more sunny than its counterparts elsewhere in the UK, and is therefore important for a number of ‘southern-oceanic’ lichen and bryophyte species that are rare or absent elsewhere in the UK and Europe.

    In the north of the IPA, the section from Peppercombe to the Hobby has steep seacliffs topped by extensive sessile oak woodlands. Further inland more varied woodland occupies the relatively sheltered valleys and slopes away from the sea,and this long-established woodland and suitable prevailing climate have enabled an extremely rich and healthy lichen flora to develop.

    From Clovelly, south to Marsland, the cliffs, clifftops and valleys carry a wide range of habitats including extensive areas of ancient woodland and parkland which support nationally important lichen communities, and a range of species-rich grassland, heath and scrub communities. The richest and most extensive grassland is sheltered by St Catherine’s Tor, with the nationally scarce rock sea-lavender and Portland spurge on the cliffs. In places the grassland gives way to heathland, which near Hartland Point is particularly rich in lichens. Within the woods, the variety of trees includes the rare Devon whitebeam. Much of the ground flora is dominated by great wood-rush, but some mineral rich soils permit the growth of bugle, sanicle and woodruff. Ferns are abundant, including hay-scented buckler fern. The rich bryophyte flora contains several rare western species. The site as a whole provides a wide variety of conditions that have enabled a very rich and diverse lichen flora to develop. Over 120 species have been recorded, including many rarities and old-forest indicators.

    From Marsland Mouth down to Steeple Point the north Cornish coastline supports a rich oceanic flora. The range of habitats include rocky foreshore and cliffs, streams, ponds, flushes, grassland, heath, scrub and woodland which support several uncommon plant species including monkshood, the prostrate form of dyer's greenweed, wavy-leaved St John'swort, Portland spurge, rock sea-lavender and an unusual range of the colour forms of kidney vetch. Further inland an extensive woodland area, including areas of ancient woodland, is located in the Marsland valley.

    Further south, the coastal clifftop grasslands to the south of Bude comprise herb-rich calcareous grassland and coastal scrub supporting a number of rare and locally restricted plants such as adders-tongue, dwarf thistle and autumn gentian. The edges of some of the gorse and bramble scrub provide a habitat for hoary ragwort. Sea cliff plant communities include rock sea-lavender, a plant of restricted coastal distribution.

    The 12 mile section of cliffs and coastal habitats from Boscastle down to Widemouth is of outstanding biological interest. It includes the unique Dizzard Oak woodland, maritime heaths and intertidal zones, the outstanding feature being the dwarf, mainly sessile, oak woodland at Dizzard Point. The ground flora is varied; moister parts support a base-rich plant community (ramsons, lords and ladies, meadowsweet), elsewhere a heathy ground flora association with ling and bilberry predominates with frequent cow wheat. The occurrence of hay-scented fern is of particular interest. This woodland is of international importance for its rich lichen communities, in particular the lobarion community, including nationally rare species. The remainder of the coast is of national importance; the coastal slopes supporting a mosaic of maritime grassland, heathland and scrub. Plants of county interest have been recorded: madder, dyer’s greenweed, musk thistle and heath pearlwort. This coast supports Babington’s leek, a Red Data Book species. Several uncommon plants occur along streams and wet flushes notably royal fern, bristle clubrush, slender club-rush, brookweed and wood vetch. Bryophytes have been well studied, with a total of 205 species recorded within the site. The Strangles is of particular importance, with two nationally rare mosses growing on shaley rocks.

    The cliffs around Tintagel support an outstanding flora with a number of rare species including populations of autumn squill and hairy birds-foot-trefoil, both species of restricted occurrence in Britain which are abundant here. In addition the steeper cliffs support golden-samphire, and maidenhair fern. Calcareous soils support a species rich flora which includes the very rare chives which flourishes in wetter hollows.

    Image: Hartland Coastline © xlibber under CC BY 2.0