Size: 33.5 hectares

% of total area of SSSI's: 8.25%

Designated Features: Heather, Kittiwake, Orange Bird's-foot

General Description

At the eastern end of St Martin’s the 35m high plateau of Chapel Down demonstrates some of the best examples of the distinctive ‘waved’ maritime heathland across the archipelago.  The steep granite cliffs are home to small populations of breeding Manx Shearwater, Fulmar, Herring and Lesser Black-backed gulls.  Whilst the rocks themselves are home to rare maritime lichen species such as the ‘Litmus’ lichen Rocella Fuciformis.  The waved heath is dominated by low growing specimens of Heather and Bell Heather and Western Gorse.  Scattered across the site are small populations Tormentil, Heath Bedstraw and English Stonecrop.   Chapel Down is particularly important for the nationally rare Orange Bird’s foot and the endangered Red-barbed Ant, the latter found at only 3 sites throughout the UK.  Further west on the north facing slopes on deeper soils Bracken is dominant, along with Bramble, but small populations of the notable Greater Bird’s-foot Trefoil and Pignut (rare on Scilly).

Practical Management

The focus of management on this site is to reduce the amount of Bracken and Bramble encroachment from the western end of Chapel Down at Bread and Cheese Cove and Coldwind Valley.  The result of twice-yearly Bracken cutting and spring and late summer grazing in recent years has resulted in an increase in the amounts of Greater Bird’s foot Trefoil, Pignut and heather species.  Future work will focus on ensuring Bracken encroachment onto the waved heathland is controlled and the large European Gorse stands on the periphery of the heathland are managed to create a varied age structure, to provide open habitat for the Red-barbed Ant and provide nest cover for breeding bird species such as Meadow Pipit and Stonechat.