Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
The Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Management Plan 2011 - 2016
05 St Agnes
This section of the AONB is located near St Agnes on the north Cornwall coast. It includes a coastal strip extending from Porthtowan in the south, almost to Perranporth in the north.
Approximately 650 hectares or just under 2.5 square miles, forming under 1% of Cornwall AONB.
Statement of Significance
The St Agnes section of the AONB is dominated
by the large granite intrusion of St Agnes Beacon
rising from a surrounding undulating coastal plateau
that is edged by high unstable slate cliffs. St Agnes
Head stands fortress-like, surrounded by cliffs that
rise sheer from the sea. The deep stream valleys
that incise the plateau become especially steep
sided where they emerge at coves, their streams
flowing onto shallow sandy beaches expansively
revealed at low tide.
The open windswept plateau affords expansive views north and south along the coast and from the Beacon there are also panoramic views far inland. The sense of exposure is emphasised by the almost unbroken extent of coastal heathland stretching behind the cliff edges and down into the sloping mouths of valleys. The heathland clad summit of
the Beacon is framed and defined by an encircling network of green pastures.
Many remnants of the former mining industry including engine houses, chimneys, spoil heaps and shafts are scattered amongst heathland which has colonised much of the associated disturbed ground although large expanses of rocky bare ground, stained rust with iron ore, still exist at Cligga Head, above Trevaunance Cove at Wheal Kitty, on Higher Bal and atop Mulgram Hill, between Chapel Porth and Porthtowan. The Wheal Coates Engine House seen against expansive coastal views and poised on the edge of the heathland clad coastal slope above Chapel Porth is widely used as an iconic image of the Cornish coast.
Fields are mainly rectilinear, of improved pasture and the numerous diminutive fields of historic miner’s smallholdings, archetypical of the mining landscapes of Cornwall, are a distinctive element of the field pattern in this area. The surrounding Cornish hedges are typically of rubble stone local killas often incorporating unweathered mineralised mine spoil. Between the fields and across open heathland numerous old mining tracks are still in use providing a network of informal access.
Whilst there is a marked absence of trees in exposed areas, scrub and broadleaved woodland is developing along streams. Drainage from some old mine workings forms pools that support a wealth of wildlife. On the coastal slopes at the north edge of Porthtowan windblown sand including broken seashells supports lime-loving flowering plants that contrast with the heathland vegetation of more acidic soils.
Small villages and isolated cottages which once housed miners and their families shelter in the coastal valleys and have a rough appearance that complements the derelict engine houses. At Trevaunance Cove the huge granite blocks of a long ruined harbour are revealed at low tide lying scattered across the shore. Typical local building materials include killas walling, slate roofs and granite detailing.
Whilst mining exerts a strong historic influence, there are other visible historic remains including bronze age cairns on the beacon, an Iron Age Cliff Castle at Tubby’s Head and more recently on the cliff tops east of Trevellas are the taxiways and dispersal points of a World War Two airfield now used for civilian flying.
• National Trust managed property includes St
Agnes Beacon and a strip of coastal land extending
from Tubby’s head through Wheal Coates, Chapel
Coombe and Wheal Charlotte Moor just north of
• Perranzabuloe Parish Council have developed a Management Strategy for Cligga Head.
• The Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscapes World Heritage Site includes almost all of this Cornwall AONB section
• The St Agnes Conservation Area Appraisal seeks conservation and enhancement of local settlement character and includes Trevaunance Cove inside the AONB boundary.
• Cornwall Council Historic Environment Service has prepared on behalf of the National Trust, proposals for a common approach to some areas of habitat and historic landscape management as a basis for shared agreement between stakeholders and funders.
• Natural England’s Higher Level Stewardship scheme includes most of the areas of heathland that include historic features.
• Cornwall Biodiversity Initiative plans include linking up non designated habitats such as
broadleaved valley woodlands.
• The St Agnes Voluntary Marine Conservation Area (VMCA) includes objectives to map, measure and survey the marine environment and its important coastal habitats.
• Most of the AONB coastline is included in the Godrevy head to St Agnes SSSI.
• Existing development at the north side of the
beach at Porthtowan is out of character in materials
• Settlement expansion at St Agnes has extended onto the plateau outside the locally characteristic valley settlement pattern.
• Overhead power lines are especially intrusive in locations such as across the Beacon and around Beacon Drive.
• Perranporth airfield (partially in the AONB) includes some visually intrusive features.
• Some historic mine structures have not been estabilised hence remain vulnerable to progressive deterioration.
• Cligga Head has experienced problems with antisocial behaviour, fly tipping and use by off road vehicles.
• Footpath erosion of coastal heathland from informal routes occurs at Trevellas Coombe,
Chapel Porth and Porthtowan.
• Broadleaved woodland is re-establishing in sheltered valleys but in the absence of significant locally native tree seed sources is dominated by Sycamore.
• Coastal heathland is in varying condition with some areas showing serial succession toward scrub vegetation.
St Agnes - Guiding Principles
It is intended that these local guiding principles will support the actions of the AONB Partnership and other stakeholders and that their actions will be informed by them. Note: Some local issues may be addressed by strategic policies.
|GP05.1||Seek reduction in landscape and visual
impacts and better integration at existing holiday sites,
caravan parks, holiday infrastructure, signage and car
parks. Have particular regard to the increase in scale,
massing and associated development and respecting
local character in external works, landscaping, site
design and layout at Trevellas Coombe, Trevaunance
Cove, St Agnes Head, Cligga Head and Chapel Porth
|GP05.2||Support the provision of affordable housing
to meet identified local need in locations with access
to local services provided this respects historic
settlement patterns and the local vernacular including characteristic use of local materials in buildings and external works and this conserves and enhances the natural beauty of the AONB.
|GP05.3||Seek measures at the north side of the
beach at Porthtowan to visually enhance existing
development and car parking so that this becomes
more in keeping with local character in materials, scale and design.
|GP05.4||Support initiatives to conserve engine
houses, other mining structures and features and
smallholders field patterns that are significant in the
historic mining landscape. Important sites include Wheal Kitty, Wheal Charlotte, Polberro, Blue Hills and Wheal Coates.
|GP05.5||Seek reduction in the visual impact of overhead cables by undergrounding across the Beacon and around Beacon Drive.|
|GP05.6||Seek conservation and enhancement of the expansive openness of the coastal plateau and Beacon to keep free from intrusive development and tall structures.|
|GP05.7||Support measures to minimise footpath erosion of coastal heathland and soils at the north edge of Porthtowan, around Chapel Porth, Trevellas Coombe and Cligga Head.|
|GP05.8||Support the implementation of Perranzabuloe Parish Council’s Management Strategy for Cligga Head.|
|GP05.9||Seek protection of the setting of St Agnes Beacon by conserving the extent and character of the surrounding farmland for example between it and the existing settlement edge of St Agnes, Goonvrea and smaller groupings of dwellings, in order to protect the landscape integrity of this key landscape feature.|
|GP05.10||Encourage the sympathetic management of Perranporth Airfield, for example by improvement of boundary features and sensitive siting and design of airfield infrastructure.|
|GP05.11||Support the integrated management of
historic landscape and habitats building on existing
National Trust, World Heritage Site and Cornwall
Biodiversity Initiative aims. These habitats include: lowland meadows, post industrial habitats, maritime cliff and slopes, lowland heathland and native broadleaved valley woodlands.
|GP05.12||Promote regeneration of locally native tree
species for example at inland and coastal valleys
at Chapel Coombe, Trevaunance Cove and at
Trevellas Coombe where this does not conflict with historic and World Heritage Site landscapes and heathland habitats. Consider small scale planting of local provenance native tree species such as Sessile Oak, Hazel and Alder to act when mature as a seed source for native woodland establishment to assist subsequent natural regeneration.
PDF of this chapter - which includes all photos, maps and images