Porthgwarra to Pordenack Point

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Coordinates: 50°02′40″N 5°41′12″W / 50.0444°N 5.6866°W / 50.0444; -5.6866

Headland between Hella Point and Gwennap Head within the SSSI

Porthgwarra to Pordenack Point is a coastal Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in west Cornwall, England, noted for its biological characteristics.[1]


The 158-hectare (390-acre) site, notified in 1977, is located on the western coast of Cornwall, 2.5 miles (4 km) south of Land's End. It starts in the south at the settlement of Porthgwarra and continues north along the coast of the last sections of the English Channel to Pordenack Point in the north. The South West Coast Path runs through the SSSI.[2][3]

Wildlife and ecology[edit]

Porthgwarra to Pordenack Point Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is designated for its vegetation of waved maritime heath, and for being of considerable ornithological interest; especially for passage migrants.[1] The southern section, Tol Pedn or Gwennap Head, in particular is favoured by birdwatchers and many travel the length and breadth of Britain to track rare seabirds.[4] The headland is renowned for its relative abundance of passing marine bird species with many common species such as northern gannet (Morus bassanus), Manx shearwater (Puffinus puffinus), common guillemot, (Uria aalge), razorbill (Alca torda), northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis), shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) and cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo). Forty-five breeding species have been recorded including the red-billed choughs (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) which have recently been breeding successfully on Gwennap Head, but lost their young to a predator in early May 2015.[1][5] Other species include Eurasian teal (Anas crecca), which is a rare as a breeding bird in Cornwall and European stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) and common whitethroat (Sylvia communis).[1]

Resident butterflies include large white (Pieris brassicae), small copper (Lycaena phlaeas), common blue (Polyommatus icarus), small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae), peacock (Aglais io), comma (Polygonia c-album), small pearl-bordered fritillary (Boloria selene), speckled wood (Pararge aegeria), grayling (Hipparchia semele) and wall (Lasiommata megera). Some insects also migrate and butterflies often seen include clouded yellow (Colias croceus), red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) and painted lady (Vanessa cardui). Migrant moths include rush veneer (Nomophila noctuella), rusty-dot pearl (Udea ferrugalis), hummingbird hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) and silver Y (Autographa gamma).[6][7]

In 2010 perennial centaury (Centaurium scilloides), a national rarity, was refound by Helen and Laurie Oakes. Despite many searches by botanists the species had not been seen in Cornwall (and England) since 1962 (or possibly 1967), and survived on only one Welsh site; coastal footpaths of Pembrokeshire National Park, Wales.[8][9]


  1. ^ a b c d "Porthgwarra to Pordenack Point" (PDF). Natural England. 1986. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
  2. ^ "Porthgwarra to Pordenack Point map". Natural England. Retrieved 8 December 2011.
  3. ^ Ordnance Survey: Landranger map sheet 203 Land's End ISBN 978-0-319-23148-7
  4. ^ "Wildlife of Gwennap Head". National Coastwatch. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
  5. ^ Williamson, Laurie (25 June 2015). "CoastWatch". The Cornishman. p. 32.
  6. ^ Wynn, Russell B; Brereton, Tom M; Jones, Alice R; Lewis, Kate M, eds. (2010). SeaWatch SW Annual Report 2009 (PDF). Southampton: National Oceanography Centre. p. 118. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  7. ^ Drayson, Paul (2012). Carey, Andrew (ed.). "Over Fifty Years of Observing Butterflies in West Cornwall" (PDF). The Butterfly Observer. 52 (Summer): 17–22. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  8. ^ Ian Bennallack (2010). Bennallick, I A; Pearman, D A (eds.). "Centaurium scilloides, Juncus subnodulosus and Phegopteris connectilis re-discovered in Cornwall after many years". Botanical Cornwall. Truro: Environmental Records Centre for Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly (ERCCIS) (14): 36–42. ISSN 1364-4335.
  9. ^ "UK: First centaury sighting in half a century". Plant Talk. Eden Project. Retrieved 13 July 2015.