Precious Heathland

Greater Knapweed flowering

Heathland plants love nutrient-poor soil and thrive on the harsh wind blasted cliff-tops around here. With just over two percent of the world's lowland heathland, Cornwall's heathland is important on a worldwide scale. The mix of heathers, gorse, grasses, flowering plants and bare ground is home to a surprising number of animals from bees, birds and butterflies to lizards, adders and foxes.

Our Management of the land

In some areas we clear the gorse, through cutting or burning, to open up the area to wild flowers.  Our Shetland ponies are out grazing year round which helps keep vegetation under control.

Scrub clearance and burning
A volunteer burns scrub in Cornwall

Our Shetland ponies grazing the headland
Godrevy, Cornwall and five grazing Shetland ponies

As ponies are selective grazers, they don’t tend to eat flowers, and are happy munching their way through grass stems, gorse and cut vegetation.  They trample the ground which, in moderation, is beneficial as it opens up the sward allowing the establishment of annual plants and wildflowers.  Our ponies are at work all year and happy in the blustery exposed conditions on the headland.  

Wild flowers on the Knavocks

This area has been grazed by ponies for over ten years now and swathes of saw-wort have been flowering for the last few years.  If it wasn't for clearing and grazing these wild flowers wouldn’t be here.
Purple Bell Heather
purple bell heather at Godrevy

Rare species you may see here

Purple eyebright, a  version of the more common white eyebright, and conversely white bell heather, a version of the more common purple bell heather.  Common centaury, Goldenrod, St Johns wort, wild carrot all flower here.
You may find white bell heather among the swathes of purple
Godrevy white bell heather close up
A purple version of the more common white eyebright
Godrevy purple eyebright


We are lucky enough to have silver studded blue butterflies living here on the heathland at Godrevy.   You may see them from early June through to late July.  They are a rare species, confined to a few small colonies in England and Wales.  The adults roost together which can be a lovely site if you catch them early enough in the morning.
Silver Studded Blue
Silver Studded Blue Butterfly

You might see these other species too: Common Blue, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Small Heath, Peacock , Wall Brown and Dark Green Fritillary. Sometimes migrant species such as Painted Lady and Red Admiral are also spotted.