Rousdon Estate

Undercliff

Nature and the Undercliff

Some 80 acres of the Estate is found on the Undercliff, a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is a wonderland of fossils, flora and fauna and for those interested in such things, the best place on the coast to be.

This is the largest and most important landslip area on the British coast, with fine exposures of Lias and Cretaceous rocks, a species-rich naturally-developed ashwood, and a rich grassland and cliff flora. The NNR is some 8 km long, aligned east-west along the South Devon coast. Its interest derives mainly from a massive 1839 landslip, when a large field became detached from the main cliff and moved seaward. Both the chasm and the cliffs, which rise to about 150m in altitude have largely become covered with woodland and scrub.

Because of its isolation, plant and animal communities have developed virtually untouched by man. In particular, a species-rich, ungrazed, coastal ashwood has developed. A continuing series of minor slips has produced an area of varied topography, as well as exposing fresh areas for geological study and for colonisation by wildlife. The climate is typically western Atlantic, and the frequent damp mists encourage a profuse and vigorous growth of ferns and climbers.

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Highlights

Woodland flowers and funghi

Primroses, snowdrops, wood spurge and dogs mercury, white flowered wood anemone, ransomes and coltsfoot, yellow celandine and primrose, wood violet, white wood sorrel, bluebells and wild arum and early purple orchids…

Woodland birds

The jay, green woodpecker, black and white greater spotted woodpecker, smaller nuthatch and tree creeper, buzzard and raven, pheasant and gull…

Woodland habitats

Beech, holm oak, English oak, ash, rowan ash, sycamore, common alder, European yew, oak, turkey oak, grey alder, field maple, Scots pine, white cedar, sweet chestnut…

Coastal Habitats

Roosting points for Gulls and Cormorants, Oyster Catchers and Turnstones. Sea Kale and Samphire, rare chalkland plants, early purple orchid, pyramid orchid, milkwort and vipers bugloss…

Estate Life