Coastal heathlands are one of the most distinctive and spectacular aspects of Jersey’s maritime environment. Developing largely on exposed cliff tops, heathland stretches for almost the entire length of the north and south-west coastline of the Island.
Les Landes is Jersey's largest expanse of maritime heathland. Located on the north-west coast, it covers an area of 160 hectares, bounded by 3km of rugged granite cliffs.
The variety of habitats at Les Landes support a wide diversity of flora and fauna including rarities such as the dartford warbler and cross-leaved heath.
It was designated as a Site of Special Interest (SSI) in January 1996 due to its:
- outstanding array of wildlife
- important landscape value
- historic and archaeological remains
- fascinating geological features
Management of the area is undertaken by the Environment Department.
La Cotte à la Chevre
Les Landes retains evidence of use by mankind over the past 5,500 years. La Cotte à la Chevre is a middle paleolithic occupation site, 1 of a few remaining in north-west Europe.
Features and buildings
Le Pinnacle, an impressive geological feature, was used as a settlement and a ritualistic site during:
- neolithic times
- bronze age
- the Romans
Grosnez Castle, constructed in the 14th Century, was a medieval refuge from invaders.
During the German occupation of the Channel Islands in World War II, many gun emplacements, bunkers and observation towers were constructed as part of Hitler's 'Atlantic Wall'. They still stand today as a reminder of this part of our history.
In the past Les Landes was an important area for grazing by sheep and cattle, and the collection of gorse and bracken from the area was an important aspect of its development and maintenance, as well as providing an essential resource to the people of the area.
More modern day amenities include the rifle range used by the Jersey Rifle Club, and a small runway used for the last 30 years by the Jersey Model Aero Club. A racecourse, used by the Jersey Race Club, also borders on this SSI.
Les Landes supports over 200 species of heathland plants, several of which are rare in Great Britain. Notable species include:
- heath pearlwort
- spotted rock-rose
- sand crocus
- cross-leaved heath
- lesser skullcap
- carnation grass
- common cotton grass
The wet area of Le Canné du Squez is a breeding site for the common toad. Green lizards and slow worms inhabit Les Landes.
Many birds have been recorded on this SSI, such as:
- peregrine falcons
- dartford warbler
In order to maintain the biodiversity of this special area, management is vital. Tasks include:
- control of bracken to prevent it becoming dominant (especially in burnt areas)
- coppicing of gorse to create an uneven age and height structure, thus maintaining important bird habitats
- species monitoring
- site patrolling
- to encourage heather re-growth where erosion has been excessive and some pathways may be temporarily closed
Accidental furze fires can seriously damage heathland. Management is aimed at minimising the impact of fire by encouraging a mosaic of vegetation at various stages of development. Each stage helps maintain the biodiversity of the site.
Download Les Landes SSI leaflet (size 156kb)