Wildlife in North Cornwall near Tintagel

Wildlife Sanctuaries and Nature Reserves in North Cornwall

Trebarwith Nature Reserve
Wildlife Trust Reserves
Trebarwith Nature Reserve
Trebarwith Nature Reserve
Stream in Trebarwith Valley
Stream in Trebarwith Valley
Steps down to the valley floor in Trebarwith Valley
Steps from the Stream
Path under beech trees at Golithia Falls in Cornwall
Golitha Falls
Robin at Golitha Falls
Robin at Golitha Falls
Bluebells at Golitha Falls
Bluebells at Golitha Falls
Golitha Falls
Waterfall at Golitha Falls
Violet at Golitha Falls
Violet at Golitha Falls

From the lane next to Park Farm, two footpaths run down to the valley floor and Trebarwith Nature Reserve (Cornwall Wildlife Trust). Within about half an hours's drive are the following nature reserves:

Nature reserves on Bodmin Moor

  • At the Golitha Falls National Nature Reserve, the River Fowey cascades through a pretty valley covered in a mixture of ancient woodland and a beech avenue.

    The name is slightly misleading as there are no major waterfalls but rather a series of cascades and rapids. Once expectations are managed that something rivalling Niagara won't be encountered then it's a pretty spot to unwind and enjoy the riverside scenery and wildlife, and journey back through Cornwall's history from 20th Century china clay and Victorian mining to Celtic times where the last king of Cornwall drowned here in the river.

    In spring, the valley is carpeted with bluebells and in autumn, the trees are vivid colours and there are lots of fungi. In summer, look out for woodland butterflies such as the orange and black silver-washed fritillary; the males are attracted to orange items including car indicators!

  • The Priddacomb Downs nature reserve is located on the north side of the A30 from the Jamaica Inn.. The reserve consists of over 200 acres of open moorland, with views of Brown Willy and Roughtor. It was acquired by Cornwall Wildlife Trust in 2001 and a less intensive grazing regime has allowed vegetation to re-establish, providing habitats for a variety of bird species. At the top of the downs is one of the best preserved examples of a Bronze Age platform cairn in the country.

  • The Loveny Reserve is an area of Bodmin Moor to the south of the A30. The nature reserve is an important ornithological site which includes Colliford Lake and surrounding moorland. It is jointly owned between the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and the Cornwall Birdwatching and Preservation Society.

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  • Lavethan Wood lies just south of Blisland on the north-facing slopes of a river valley. Lavethan Wood is managed by the Woodland Trust and is designated a Planted Ancient Woodland Site and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Most of the wood stands on the sloping, freely draining, rich brown earths underlain with Devonian slates. Bluebells are prolific in the wood between April and June. Two public footpaths cross the wood and a permissive path along the stream links the two.

Nature reserves near Bodmin

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Nature reserves near Bude

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Nature reserves near Launceston

Birds in North Cornwall

Buzzard at Jeffrey's Pit near Trewarmett in North Cornwall
Buzzard at Jeffrey's Pit
Black backed gull
Black backed gull
Stonechat on the North Cornish coast path
Stonechat on the coast path

Birds of Prey

There are more than 20 breeding pairs of peregrine falcons along the coast from Bude to Padstow. In Spring and Autumn they can be seen doing aerial courtship displays. There is also good population of buzzards slightly inland from the coast around the wooded valleys.


The exposed coast in North Cornwall has plenty of rock ledges that make good nesting sites for seabirds. The stretch of coast between Tintagel and Boscastle has a number of offshore rock stacks which host seabird colonies. Guillimots and razorbills can be seen on The Sisters between Bossiney and Willapark near Tintagel, either from the coast path with a telescope/telephoto lens or by sea kayak from Boscastle. Fulmars can also sometimes be seen around this stretch of coast and also around Port Isaac. The best place to see puffins is The Rumps off Pentire Point near Lundy Bay.

Migrating birds

Swallows are very common in Cornwall, and usually can be seen (and heard) darting above most of the lanes and footpaths particularly where there are old barns such as the lane to Trenale from Park Farm and around Trebarwith Village and Trevalga.

The Camel Estuary is a good place to see migrating birds, being particularly good for wildfowl, waders and gulls. There is a hide alongside the Camel Trail near Wadebridge (in the Padstow direction).

Davidstow is another good place for migrating birds, particularly the disused WW2 airfield, Crowdy Reservior and the surrounding woods. There is a hide at Crowdy Reservior. There are often Nearctic waders in autumn and spectacular flocks of starlings around Davidstow in the winter.

Some other good spots are the Walmsley Sanctuary near Wadebridge, Maer Lake near Bude, Loveny at Colliford Reservior and Sibliback Lake on Bodmin Moor.

More information about birds

Marine wildlife in North Cornwall

Dolphin in Port Quin Bay
Dolphin in Port Quin Bay
Grey seal at Tintagel Castle
Seal at Tintagel Castle
Bass at Hole Beach near Tintagel
Bass at Hole Beach
Sunfish near Port Gaverne

Seals are not closely related to other marine mammals. In mediaeval times, seals were classified as fish and could therefore be eaten during lent and on Fridays and Saturdays! However, as you might be able to guess from their features, seals are closely related to dogs, bears and otters. In fact, a dog is very much more closely related to a seal than a cat. The seal species most frequently seen along the Cornish coast are grey seals and common seals.

Seal pups have been seen in every month of the year but the majority are born in the autumn and early winter. Female seals mate soon after weaning their pups whilst the males are still around defending and patrolling the beaches. For just over three months the fertilised embryo does not attach to the wall of the uterus and does not develop. There then follows a gestation period of just under 9 months. This evolutionary strategy - known as delayed implantation - results in the pups being born at the same time every year.

Research by the Cornwall Seal Group has found that the majority of seals in Cornwall are tourists, stopping over on their way to somewhere else. Very few seals spend the whole year in one place and some of those visiting Cornwall have been identified in Wales and others in France.

Grey Seals are one of the rarest seal species in the world and the biggest land breeding mammal in the UK. Roughly half of the world population of grey seals is found in Britain, a large proportion of which are found in Cornwall. They are big animals with the larger males often over 10ft long; the females are somewhat smaller at around 6ft and usually lighter colours than the males. The latin name for the grey seal translates to the somewhat unflattering "hooked-nosed sea pig" and the alternative common name of horsehead seal isn't much better.

The Cornwall Seal Group gather information about the numbers of seals in each location to study migration behaviour. Each seal has a unique pattern of spots which is like a fingerprint, allowing individuals to be identified so photos are also very useful.

If you see one or more seals, take a photo if possible but never approach the seals to take a photo - use a zoom from a clifftop. Send the location, date, number of seals and photos if you have them to sue@cornwallsealgroup.co.uk.

A good place to see seals is the large colony at Buckator cliff close to Beeny near Boscastle just south of The Strangles beach.

The rugged coastline of North Cornwall has some of the finest rockpools in the country. Some good places at low tide are: the right hand side of Trebarwith Strand, the left-hand side of Polzeath, the right-hand side of Daymer Bay, the left side of Crackington Haven, the left side of Port Gaverne and the left side of Lundy Bay. The rocky ridges along the sides of Widemouth and Sandymouth near Bude create large numbers of small rockpools.

If you go snorkelling you can see loads of marine life. You're pretty much guaranteed to see bass, pollock and wrasse in forests of kelp and on reefs rising up out of the blue. In Summer and early Autumn you may encounter mullet, garfish or shoals of mackerel. See our snorkelling section for some good places to go.

Sunfish can sometimes be seen on hot summer days basking on the surface. Sea kayaking is a good way to see them.

June and July are the best months to see basking sharks before migration takes them further north in August. Record numbers were spotted of the coast in 2009. Here is a video of someone swimming with basking sharks off Newquay at the end of June 2009.

A pod of dolphins has taken up residence in the area - boat trips on the Jubilee Queen from Padstow sometimes encounter them. Here's a video of them following the lifeboat out of Padstow.

More information about marine wildlife

Other wild animals around Tintagel

A fox in the Trebarwith Valley Nature Reserve
Fox in the Nature Reserve
Frog at Jeffrey's Pit
Frog at Jeffrey's Pit
Stoat on Trewarmett Downs
Stoat on the downs

On the opposite side of the road from Park Farm, a track runs up to Trewarmett Downs. This provides some great habitat which is rarely visited by people. Deer, foxes, stoats, weasels and badgers can often be seen on a walk and rabbits and butterflies are everywhere.

Just at the bottom of Trewarmett Hill are two old slate quarries. A wooded stream runs through Jeffrey's Pit which provides a habitat for aquatic wildlife. The slate tips at the nearby Prince of Wales are being recolonised by wildflowers. Patches of open ground between areas of cover make it a popular hunting spot for birds of prey particularly kestrels.

Minster church in Boscastle and surrounding countryside is the largest maternity roost of Greater Horseshoe bats in Cornwall with an estimated 200 individuals. They can be seen emerging just after sunset on Summer evenings.

Something you may not expect to encounter - North Cornwall has a naturalised population of stick insects.

More information

Wildlife sanctuaries in Cornwall

Otters at Tamar otter wildlife centre
Tamar otter wildlife centre
Seal at the National Seal Sanctuary
National seal sanctuary
  • Tamar Otter Wildlife Center near Launceston
  • The National Lobster Hatchery in Padstow are aiming to create a sustainable shellfish fishery in Cornwall by providing a predator-free environment for lobsters to grow past the zooplankton stage where they normally mostly perish. There is a Visitor Centre there where you can find out more about what they do and meet the lobsters.
  • The Cornish Birds of Prey centre near Newquay rescues many species of birds (article on BBC website).
  • The Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay which includes a display of the fish and crustaceans you're likely to see if you go snorkelling in Cornwall. There is a nursery of baby fish, seahorses and cuttlefish where captive breeding programmes are being pioneered.
  • The National Seal Sanctuary in Gweek is a centre for the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of seals. Most seasons they rescue over 40 pups and occasionally the Sanctuary's facilities and expertise are called upon to aid in the rescue of other marine creatures such as Dolphins and Turtles. It is home for several different types of resident seal and sea lions who cannot be released into the wild and some otters. If you book online you can get a discount.
  • The Woolly Monkey Sanctuary near Looe is devoted to the continued care and management of the woolly monkey colony originally all rescued from zoos and the pet trade in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • Newquay Zoo specialises in captive breeding of endangered species.
  • Mousehole Wild Bird Hospital & Sanctuary is a sanctuary and hospital for approximately 1500 birds a year needing care with the aim of returning healed birds to the wild
  • The Tortoise Garden near St Austell is a sanctuary for the rescue, care and conservation of all breeds of Tortoises
  • Screech Owl Sanctuary set within the Goss Moor nature reserve near St Columb provide care and rehabilitation for sick and injured wild owls in Cornwall

More information about wildlife in North Cornwall