Most of the land in Scilly is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall. Some of it is rented out to tenant farmers but the untenanted land (over 60% of the landscape) is managed by the IOS Wildlife Trust who rent it for the token sum of 1 daffodil per year.
The main islands are all circled by a coastal path and this does need regular inspection and maintenance due to the ever encroaching sea, which gradually undercuts the cliffs.
The shores on the outer edges of the islands are often battered by huge Atlantic waves. Undercutting at the bottom of the cliff can cause the whole slope to slide down the hill, taking the path with it.
You can clearly see the line of the new path. Look below it for traces of the old one.
There are 30 miles of footpaths on St Mary’s alone, and the IOS Wildlife Trust do a great job, ensuring that they are safe to explore.
The Scilly Isles are an AONB and contain a great diversity of habitats.
The coasts include sandy shores and rocky cliffs,
while inland there is heathland covered in heather and gorse,
and farmland with its hedges
A great variety of habitats attracts a great variety of bird life, but you are never far from the sea and so it is the seabirds who really thrive here.
The islands are home to breeding populations of 14 species, but numbers have declined over the last 25 years, largely due to multiplication of an accidental introduction – the brown rat.
The islands are a globally important site for Manx shearwater and storm petrel. Manx Shearwater have been breeding on St Agnes for decades, but as they nest in burrows, the eggs and chicks were always eaten by rats. No chicks had been seen above ground on St Agnes in living memory…until September 2014.
The change in fortune for the Manx Shearwater is a result of the Seabird Recovery Project and this has basically involved the systematic removal of the brown rat.
Last week we looked at AONBs – Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty – which are found across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. But what about Scotland?
Scotland has a similar designation – NSA – National Scenic Area. Again, these are areas of exceptional scenery which are protected from inappropriate developments. There are 40 NSAs in Scotland. That’s about 13% of the total land area.
NSAs in Scotland include mountain ranges, offshore islands and some of the more populated areas with picturesque scenery.
There are National Parks all over the world but the designation of AONB is a uniquely British phenomenon. AONB is Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
These are areas of “outstanding landscape whose distinctive character and natural beauty are so precious that it is safeguarded in the national interest”.
And Britain has such a diversity of landscapes with ancient woodlands, hay meadows, downs and moors as well as attractive villages. As a result nearly a fifth of total land area in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is designated an AONB. (Scotland has no AONBs. It has NSAs instead! We’ll look at those next week.)
The AONBs are not National Parks due to their small size and lack of wildness, so there is no authority with overall planning control, but they are protected by law. The aim is to balance use for agriculture and forestry, needs of the local communities and recreation, while at the same time conserving and improving the environment.
My pictures are of Dorset AONB which covers almost half of that county.