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Our work at Crantock Beach

A sea of red poppies in a field overlooking the sea at Crantock
Wild poppies at Crancock in June | © National Trust Images/Hilary Daniel

Crantock Beach is part of over 780 miles of coastline that the National Trust cares for, including at nearby West Pentire. Work goes on daily behind the scenes to protect these areas for future generations.

Wildflowers at West Pentire

Found between Holywell Bay and Crantock Beach and carefully managed for nature and people, the West Pentire arable fields explode in a riot of red poppies and yellow corn marigolds in early summer.

The farmland here is managed specifically as a nature reserve for plants and wildlife associated with arable cultivation and is not commercially farmed. It’s one of only a few such sites in Britain. Year after year visitors come to take in this much-loved sight – fields full of wild farmland flowers, and a real reminder of traditional non-intensive farming methods of the past, which worked in harmony with nature.

Those exploring the headland may notice two distinct patterns of plant life growing. Half of the fields are ploughed either in the autumn or the spring and left fallow, with the other half ploughed and sown with barley in the spring.

Help nature

Please keep to the footpaths and don't walk or let dogs run into the fields. Wild flowers and plants won't grow where footsteps go. There are also ground nesting birds here.

Wild flowers and poppies in a field overlooking the sea at Crantock, Cornwall
Wild flowers and poppies overlooking Crantock beach, Cornwall | © National Trust Images/Howard Stone

Helping wildlife

The areas sown with barley are intended to benefit declining species of birds such as corn bunting and mammals such as brown hare, as well as sheltering the rare arable plants. Alongside the cereal crop, wildflower plots are ploughed and then left for the seeds of dozens of species to germinate, including the poppies everyone loves to see.

This ongoing work should offer increased shelter for ground nesting birds like skylark and encourage corn buntings to use the site.

On your visit you may wish to explore and photograph the flowers and plant life at West Pentire. But to avoid damaging the plants, please stay on the various footpaths that cross the headland.

High-angle view over Cractock beach with the sea beyond
Crantock Beach | © National Trust Images/John Miller

Crantock’s shifting shores

It is thought that during storms over recent years, sand has significantly shifted on the sea and river beds around Crantock and the River Gannel. There is a breakwater that guides the Gannel and this has, at times, become ineffective because of sand building up.

The Gannel causes currents that can be dangerous, in particular at certain stages of the tide. This is the reason why the lifeguards advise not swimming near the river flow and only when and where they designate it is safe to do so.

Deciding what work to do is not as easy as it seems – it is unfortunately not just a case of shoring up the breakwater to make it effective again. Bigger and more frequent storms mean that even if expensive beach works are carried out, any benefits might be very short lived. One storm or a period of rough sea conditions could render the breakwater ineffective again in a few hours.

The National Trust is working closely with the neighbouring landowner (the Duchy of Cornwall owns the beach below mean high water) and we will continue to co-ordinate with other interested organisations including the RNLI to monitor the situation at Crantock Beach.

Thank you

With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.

Wild flowers and poppies in a field overlooking the sea at Crantock, Cornwall


Everyone needs nature, now more than ever. Donate today and you could help people and nature to thrive at the places we care for.

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