Tean may be one of Scilly's larger uninhabited Islands but she is home to some of Scilly's smallest non-human inhabitants. Find out why our Ranger Team will be on Tean this week, the work they will be doing and why...

You will find Tean nestled between Tresco and St Martin's, partially protected from the Northern Atlantic winds and huge rolling swells by St Helen's and Round Island; flanked by the strange sounding islets of Old Man, Pednbrose and Crump Island.

Much like all of our islands Tean's history is a varied one. During the early 1700's Tean was an inhabited island; records show that 10 hardy souls lived there and cultivated the land. However, by the mid 1700's the inhabitants had moved on, leaving behind only ruins and fields of corn.

Following this desertion by the residents the island continued to be used for the grazing of sheep, cows and goats intermittently up until the early 1960's; with the livestock being shipped on an off the island by their owners, as they did with many of the uninhabited islands.

As a result of this grazing short turfy areas were created across the island allowing tiny plants, such as Orange bird's foot (Ornithopus pinnatus - pictured right) and Dwarf pansy (Viola kitaibeliana), to name just two, to thrive.

It was, in part, because of these species that the island of Tean was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 1971.

Since the cessation of grazing, and the subsequent disappearance of rabbits from the island in the 1990's, the short turf areas have gradually been encroached by tougher, larger plants such as bracken and bramble, leaving less space for the tiny flowering plants; although many are still present on Tean, both Orange bird's foot and Dwarf pansy have sadly declined or vanished.

It is the Trust's job to try and recreate this previous management and in turn get more of the plants to flower and to thrive once again.

However, things have changed a lot over the last 60 years and it simply isn't feasible to have grazing animals on the uninhabited islands any longer; but it is possible to substitute the action of grazing with mechanical cutting, and this is what the Ranger Team do during spring and late summer each year.

The Ranger Team "mimic grazing" in two distinct areas, one above East Porth and the other above West Porth; no, they don't crawl around on all fours munching on greenery they cut the vegetation very short using brush-cutters.

The cuttings are then been raked off to allow the delicate wild flowers to push up through the short turf and flower once again. 

Since the Trust's regular management started, 7 years ago, we have seen increases in plant species such as Western clover, Lady's bedstraw, Changing forget-me-not, Portland spurge, Bird's foot-trefoil and Stork's-bill; as a direct result of the twice annual cuts, which take place at appropriate times of the year. 

Reducing competition from the grass and other larger plants is good for a number of reasons:

  • It enables these smaller wildflower species to flower, seed and increase in abundance;
  • It decreases the amount of time spent on managing (cutting & raking) these areas;
  • This has enabled us to increase the area now under management,
  • Which will, in turn, assist the area in becoming more resilient to environmental changes.

To date we have not seen the return of or increases in Dwarf pansy or Orange bird's-foot but we are hopeful that the tiny specialities, which are only found on Scilly and the Channel Islands, will follow in the steps of the other small flowering plants in the coming years.

💥Update💥  April 2021 has seen the return of the Dwarf pansy after a 17 year absence read our Press Release to find out more!

As with many things in conservation results aren't instant and it can take years to see the effects; as can be seen by the fact that we are now in Year 7 of this programme of work on Tean.

By supporting us you can ensure that this and other important work continues across both our inhabited and uninhabited Islands; helping us to build on our successes and protect the very nature of Scilly for wildlife and people; now and for future generations.

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