Caring for the English Riviera coast land

Creating the right balance of scrub land and grassland is one of the ways that the team of rangers have been caring for the coast land around Brownstone and Coleton Camp. All of the tools of the trade are used to create this carefully balanced habitat, from elbow grease when cutting back bracken, to roping in some four-legged friends for help.

An important area

The whole coastal section from Newfoundland cove, to the west of Brownstone Battery, to Pudcombe cove near Coleton Fishacre, is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its unimproved grassland habitat. To care for this area an ongoing program of scrub clearing is in place to create a mosaic of habitat equating to 30% scrub, 70% grassland.
 
This mosaic leads to a greater diversity of species, providing scrub cover and shelter for birds and invertebrates as well as the open grassland habitat with its great source of food plants. Birds such as the cirl bunting, yellowhammer and stonechat all thrive in this habitat. The abundant violets in Kelly’s cove are the food plant for the larva of the dark green fritillary. Other insects that are benefiting from this mosaic of habitats include great green bush cricket, grey bush cricket, and marbled white, ringlet and silver washed fritillary butterflies. Adders, common lizards and slow-worms are all frequently seen basking on the barer areas along the footpath edges and on exposed rock.
 
Kelly's Cove is a great habitat for wildlife
Primroses flowering at Kellys Cove in South Devon

Coastal grazing

Two small herds of hardy upland Dartmoor and Exmoor ponies, belonging to the tenant farmer, help with the control of scrub by grazing on the regeneration, allowing a wider diversity of flora and fauna to thrive. 
You may see the Dartmoor ponies grazing along the South West Coast Path
Dartmoor ponies on the South West Coast Path near Coleton Fishacre

Keeping the bracken at bay

Every summer sections of bracken are cut and then raked off to prevent this invasive plant from dominating the landscape. Areas where this has been carried out for several years are showing excellent results for grassland species such as flax-leaved St. John’s wort, hairy birdsfoot trefoil, twiggy mullein, rock sea lavender, bastard balm and southern marsh orchid. 
 
A walk along the South West Coast Path at Scabbacombe beach and Kelley’s Cove takes you along areas that have been cared for in this way since the mid-1990s. A circular walk taking in Scabbacombe beach is available at the bottom of this page.