Mullion and The Lizard’s Landscape,
Nature and Wildlife

The Lizard and Mullion Cove’s Landscape

The Lizard’s contrasting and varied landscape has earnt it the name the “The Gemini Peninsula”. It has spectacular and varied scenery from the high dramatic cliffs and sandy beaches around Mullion to the gentle wooded valleys of the Helford River.
At the heart of the Lizard is Goonhilly Downs an area which perhaps best exemplifies the Lizard’s contrasts. Goonhilly’s pre-historic landscape hosts an abundance of flora and wildlife and a 3000 year old standing stone which is overlooked by the huge satellite dishes, part of the Centre of Space Excellence, housed there.

Rare Plants

With its seaside location, mild winters, rare extreme frosts, and mainland Britain’s’ highest Mean temperature of 10•C, the Lizard Peninsula houses many unique species and plants such as the beautiful Cornish Heath (Erica vagans) with its pale pink flowers in late summer.
Much of the cliffs, heathland and coastal grassland around Mullion are managed by the National Trust and Natural England. This unique and botanically rich part of Cornwall has largely been shaped by the maritime climate and the unusual nature of the schist and serpentine rocks which break down to chemically complex soils which support a wide variety of plants.
In early summer Mullion Cove and Predannack are a riot of colour and scents with cushions of pink giving way to swathes of spring squill giving the cliffs a blue hue specked with the yellow of trefoils, vetches and tormentil. Amongst these familiar showy plants are green winged orchids, wild chives, brown spikes of the parasitic thyme broomrape and the scent of wild chamomile, mint and thyme.

Serpentine Rock

Heathland vegetation often indicates the presence of serpentine rock which derives its name from its green and red colour and snakeskin patterned appearance, and slippery feel. Kynance Cove has amazing outcrops of Cornish Serpentine.

These important habitats require appropriate management, including controlled burning during the winter months on the heathlands, scrub is cut by hand from important sites. Hardy breeds of Dexter and Highland cattle and Shetland ponies are brought onto the cliffs and heath lands throughout the year as an effective conservation tool. Without this targeted grazing, many open habitats containing unusual flora and fauna would soon become dominated by coarse grasses and scrub.

These important habitats require appropriate management, including controlled burning during the winter months on the heathlands and scrub is cut by hand. Hardy breeds of Dexter and Highland cattle and Shetland ponies graze around the cliffs and heath lands throughout the year providing a natural and effective conservation tool. Without this targeted grazing, many open habitats containing unusual flora and fauna would soon become dominated by coarse grasses and scrub.

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Serpentine Rock

The rare sighting of a Cornish chough is a reminder that it is not just the wildflowers which make the Mullion area such a Mecca for naturalists. Easily identifiable by its jet-black body, red beak and claws, centuries of years of hunting and land use changes meant the Chough, Cornwall’s emblematic bird, had all but disappeared from its native lands. But 2001 saw the birds return naturally to their Cornwall homelands and careful management, safety and grazing techniques have seen them flourish.

Cornish Mining

Underground Mining began in the 1720s when deposits of native copper were found at a site at Predannack, a half mile to the south of the Cove. Each mine would be worked for a few years, close then open up under a new investor with a new name – hence Wheal Ghostcroft, Providence, ran between 1807 and 1811, a few years later became Unity and South Unity and finally became 1845 Trenance Mine in 1845. From 1751 Soaprock was quarried from the serpentine cliffs to the south of the Cove and used in the manufacture of the earliest English Soft Paste Porcelain.

Mullion Harbour
Photography by Geraint Lewis