Le Don Paton, a protected site managed by National Trust for Jersey, is situated between the secluded, wooded, Mourier Valley and the dramatic cliffs of Sorel Point. This area is largely scrub with patches of gorse, bramble, bracken and broom. Hidden amongst the gorse is a mature heather community. Previously a heathland area, Le Don Paton was historically farmed and in 1996 it was agreed to restore the farmland to heathland. Today it is a popular spot for walkers and naturalists alike while offering space for many outdoor pursuits.
Birds and other wildlife
Amongst the many bird species to be found here are peregrine Falco peregrinus, Dartford warbler Sylvia undata, common whitethroat S. communis, raven Corvus corax and linnet Carduelis cannabina. Many migrants including thousands of common swift Apus apus, barn swallow Hirundo rustica, yellow wagtail Motacilla flava, wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe and goldfinch Carduelis carduelis pass over on their way north each spring often following the coastline until heading out from Sorel Point. Kestrel Falco tinnunculus, sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus, common buzzard Buteo buteo and marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus regularly hunt over the site and many local rarities are recorded each year including hoopoe Upupa epops, ring ouzel Turdus torquata and even buff-breasted sandpiper Tryngites subruficollis. Stonechat Saxicola rubecula and yellowhammer Emberiza citronella formerly bred here.
Green lizard Lacerta bilineata and slow worm Anguis fragilis are found in suitable habitat while resident mammals include rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus and bank vole Myodes glareolus. There is significant insect activity including many species of butterfly and dragonfly.
Manx loaghtan sheep graze the area from Le Don Paton to Devil’s Hole in the west and a worth a visit on their own!
This is currently a work in progress but is already showing positive signs of improvement in the quality of the habitat. This as been achieved so far through the re-introduction of sheep grazing on the cliffs and by intensive gorse and bracken management. On the Devil’s Hole (western) side of the site, bracken density on flat land has already been much reduced allowing for grassland to re-establish through a heavy cutting regime reducing the re-growth of bracken from the rhizomes. However, the slopes, particularly those down to Mourier Valley, are still heavily dominated by continuous bracken. Some areas are very difficult to access because of the slope.
On the Sorel (eastern) side of the site, pioneer heather is beginning to emerge in two areas and these are being helped to further establish. There is also open grassland on both the plateau and on the slopes which provide suitable feeding habitat for many birds. Neighbouring fields can provide good feeding habitat for birds such as yellowhammer and lapwing Vanellus vanellus if suitable crops are present at the right time of year.
Management to consider:-
- Restoration of heathland by encouraging new growth and seeding;
- Control of gorse and bracken;
- Reduction in the impact of rabbits on new heather shoots by fencing areas;
- Control of vegetation growth in fields;
- Establishing a self-managing habitat through sheep grazing to control vegetation;
- Maintaining gorse corridors and islands for mammals and breeding birds;
- Replanting hedgerows along boundary on western side;
- Possible acquisition of adjacent fields to be put into cereal or weedy crops;
- Possible use of pigs to hit areas of dense bracken.