BRANSCOMBE PARISH

Flora and Fauna


Branscombe's narrow, hedge-lined lanes and irregular small fields, have been largely preserved, thanks to its isolation and its late development as a tourist destination. Since the 1960s, the National Trust has been a major influence in protecting the village and its environs from too much modernisation. The field-patterns visible today would, in many cases, be recognisable to Branscombe's medieval farmers, and much of the flora and fauna familiar to them has survived.

The hedgerows themselves are no longer being cultivated in the way they were, and that has reduced the number and variety of species. Nonetheless, in a world where the traditional hedge is being ripped out wholesale to make bigger fields suitable for giant machines, Branscombe is fortunate indeed to have such a rich source of shelter for native animals and wildflowers.

The forest that provided cooking fires and building materials for those first settlers is long gone, but trees still grow, especially on the slopes. Beech and ash are plentiful, but oak is no longer common. Planted conifers do well in the climate and soil. They have the advantage of keeping down the bracken. There are a dozen species of British ferns represented.

Bears, badgers and wolves were here even before the first settlers, and badgers are still here. It's believed the wild cat survived in the cliffs and copses until modern times.

Ravens, crows, buzzards and jackdaws haunt the cliffs, as do gulls, kestrels, peregrine falcons, sparrow-hawks and cormorants. But the chough (red legs) had disappeared by the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Branscombe's nameless streams have also suffered a reduction in species this century. In 1907, local writer Elijah Chick described them as being stocked with trout. In medieval times there were fish traps where the village hall now stands, and plentiful supplies of bream, roach and eels. But of course, the main source of fish was the sea.


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