Ragwort is a native British plant and is a feature of the grassland habitat found on the Towans. It is the main food of the Cinnabar Moth. The caterpillars can often be found around the site.
Responsibility for the control of ragwort lies with the occupier of the land - in this case the Management Company. Although ragwort has some toxicity it is not generally considered to be hazardous to people but is a problem for grazing animals, particularly cattle, horses and donkeys for which it can have a cumulative affect so even small amounts eaten over several years can result in animals dying and this is why it is specified as an injurious weed under the Weeds Act 1959.
The Defra guidelines for assessing the risk to grazing animals or spread to neighbouring land states low risk as where it is more than 100m from grazing land used for grazing or forage production . It does depend to some extent on site conditions, but in simple terms this guidance shows that some form of ragwort control will be required where it is growing within 100m of land used for grazing or forage production (e.g. hay). Over that distance there is no immediate requirement to control it.
However, having taken advice from several sources including Defra and Cornwall Council, we adopt the following control methods ensuring that we balance any removal against the bio diversity benefits of allowing it to continue growing on the land. It would be a huge task to remove ragwort from the whole site, and we do not wish to eradicate it as it is part of the dune ecosystem and natural habitat.
In terms of the Defra guidance our site is low risk and we therefore we will only control it in the areas within the vicinity of the properties and footpaths on site and in certain instances for aesthetics reasons.
It can be controlled in several different ways including the use of herbicide and repeated cutting. However, the most effective method and the method we will use is hand pulling. This avoids the use of herbicides and removes the whole plant so it cannot flower again later in the season. This is still quite a labour intensive job and will need to be carried out each year due to the continued inward spread of seeds from neighbouring areas each year but this is just a feature of managing this particular natural habitat.