A stretch of rugged Cornish coastline that borders the medieval fortress of Tintagel has been acquired by the National Trust to look after on behalf of the nation.
Smith’s Cliff, on the north Cornwall coast, will be cared for by the conservation charity as a space for wildlife to flourish, for heritage to be conserved and for people to access and enjoy for ever.
The 55-acre (22.6 hectares) acquisition puts in place a vital piece of the coastal ‘jigsaw’ for the National Trust in the area, joining up land that the charity looks after at Barras Nose, which lies north of King Arthur’s Castle, all the way to Bossiney, to become a continuous 2.7-mile stretch of coastal land.
The site sits within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the Pentire-Widemouth Heritage Coast, and forms part of the setting of the spectacular Tintagel Castle.
Over the coming years the newly acquired Smith’s Cliff and adjacent clifftop grasslands, once a golf course, will be expertly managed for nature, bringing benefits to local species such as the small copper butterfly, maritime plants like rock sea lavender and golden samphire, a range of birds including linnet, skylark and fulmar, and a nationally-rare black headed mining bee.
Rangers will create a mosaic of species-rich grasslands and wildflower meadows, while the wild nature of the steeper cliff slopes will be enhanced by sustainable grazing. The charity aims to create a patchwork of wildflowers, scrub and trees that mirrors its approach along other parts of the coastline.
Mike Simmonds, the National Trust’s Lead Ranger for the area, said: “We’re working hard to bring back these vital species-rich grasslands on many parts of the north Cornwall coast, and wildlife surveys show the positive difference this kind of conservation work can make.
“To have the opportunity to extend these wildlife habitats at Tintagel is fantastic.”
Smith’s Cliff is also rich in history with eight known archaeological sites.
Occupation by humans here likely dates back to the Mesolithic age (9600 – 4000 BC).
On nearby Barras Nose, a Bronze Age barrow can be found, and related archaeology may well extend onto Smith’s Cliff.
Numerous features, recorded through aerial mapping, show a pattern of medieval land use and enclosures known as strip fields.
This ancient agricultural system may have had similarities to the Forrabury Stitches, one of the UK’s best-preserved examples cared for by the Trust at nearby Boscastle.
Access to this well-loved stretch of coastline will also be enhanced through improvements to the network of footpaths along the South West Coastal Path.
Footbridges will be installed across wetter areas and improvements to visitor signage are also planned.