The 115.7-hectare (286-acre) SSSI, notified in 1997, is located mainly within the civil parish of St Newlyn East, 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) south of the town of Newquay. The streams that rise on the site are tributaries of the River Gannel. The Downs are also designated a Special Area of Conservation.
Wildlife and ecology
The soil of the site, deriving from slate-based mudstones and siltstones, is permanently waterlogged in large places. It is the foundation for the largest area in Cornwall of Southern Atlantic wet heath, containing cross-leaved heath (Erica tetralix) and Dorset heath (Erica ciliaris).
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