Natural England - West Penwith ESA

West Penwith ESA

The Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA) scheme has now closed to new applicants and has been superseded by the Environmental Stewardship scheme. Some existing agreements will, however, continue until 2014.

West Penwith ESA covers over 9,000 ha of the higher northern part of the Land's End peninsula between St. Ives and St. Just. The ESA is highly diverse, ranging between the wild expanse of the moorland, the extensively farmed grasslands, sheltered valleys and exposed coastal cliffs. The intricate arrangement of stone-hedged fields and stone-walled homesteads has been created by continuous farming by the Cornish over the last 5000 years.


The higher core of moorland and the coastal strip along the cliffs is covered with heathland. The heaths and semi-natural/semi-improved grassland, together with the mires and areas of bracken and scrub associated with them, are referred to locally as 'rough' land. The contrasting 'clean land' occurs below the moorland, and particularly along the coastal plateau as an intricate pattern of small fields enclosed by stone walls and Cornish hedges. Sites and monuments dating from early prehistory until the early 20th century are particularly numerous across the whole ESA.

Significant habitats and species

The ecological interest includes a range of rough land habitats from coastal heath and grassland to wet and dry moorland, mires and scrub. The rough land habitats support a number of rare and interesting plants and animals. The major botanical interest lies in the heathlands of the coast and inland hills, which support the characteristic vegetation community classed as 'south-western heath'. The entire coastal strip of the ESA is included within a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

ESA management options

Within the West Penwith ESA a single management option covered both 'clean and rough areas':

  • The main option provides for the maintenance of the historic field pattern of the ESA with additional prescriptions for the management of rough land only. Included in the prescriptions is provision for maintaining stockproof hedges and walls, ponds and weatherproof traditional buildings, retaining large boulders within fields and protecting features of historical interest. The additional prescriptions relating to rough land prohibit agricultural improvement by cultivation and re-seeding, or by the use of fertilisers, lime and most pesticides.
  • There are also additional management options for field margins and the retention of winter stubbles to increase the value of arable fields for farmland birds.


Natural England's Cornwall office