Wildife on St Helen's Common

An orange tip butterfly resting on a wildflower

St Helen's Common is a small, fenced-off area on sloping ground to the north of St Helen's Duver and above the Mill Pond. It's an area of restored common where much of the scrub has been cleared to reveal views down to the Duver.

A gift from the Poultons

It was given to us in 1925. A memorial stone halfway down the Gaggan Edge footpath reads: ‘This common and woodland were presented in 1925 and 1928 to the National Trust by Professor and Mrs E.B. Poulton in memory of their children Hilda and Ronald and Janet who spent many happy hours at St Helens.' There's no public access apart from the public footpath.

Gaggan Edge: past to present

Gaggan Edge itself was named after the press gangs from nearby ships who used to lie in wait to gag their victims. These days, hardy black Hebridean sheep are the only threat, but mainly to coarse grass and scrub. We keep them to graze the land in late summer and restore its original condition as a flower-rich grassy common.

Plant life to watch out for

In spring the green-yellow Alexanders flower profusely and have a strong scent. There are a number of different types of orchid flowering in early summer. Later in the year winter heliotrope comes into flower. You will also see a few splendid oak tree specimens. The scattered bushes here are home to Blackcap and other small birds.

Wildlife in Priory Woods

This narrow strip of sycamore and ash wood behind the beach at Nodes Point clings to the low clay cliffs which are slipping and tumbling into the sea. Red squirrel and dormice live in the denser parts of the wood and some rare burrowing insects live in the exposed clay where it erodes onto the beach.