A stretch of rugged Cornish coastline that borders the medieval fortress of Tintagel has been acquired by the National Trust to look after on behalf of the nation.

Smith’s Cliff, on the north Cornwall coast, will be cared for by the conservation charity as a space for wildlife to flourish, for heritage to be conserved and for people to access and enjoy for ever.

The 55-acre (22.6 hectares) acquisition puts in place a vital piece of the coastal ‘jigsaw’ for the National Trust in the area, joining up land that the charity looks after at Barras Nose, which lies north of King Arthur’s Castle, all the way to Bossiney, to become a continuous 2.7-mile stretch of coastal land totalling 186 acres.

Knitting together these sections of the coastline will create a coastal corridor, connecting and encouraging the spread of wildlife throughout this beautiful and important landscape that sits within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the Pentire-Widemouth Heritage Coast and forms part of the setting of Tintagel Castle (cared for by English Heritage). Parts of the newly acquired land are also within the Tintagel Cliffs

Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Tintagel-Marsland-Clovelly Special Area of Conservation (SAC) recognising their national and international nature conservation importance respectively.

Over the coming years the newly acquired Smith’s Cliff and adjacent clifftop grasslands, once a golf course in the 1950s, will be expertly managed for nature, bringing benefits to local species such as the small copper butterfly, maritime plants like rock sea lavender and golden samphire, a range of birds including linnet, skylark and fulmar, and a nationally-rare black headed mining bee. Rangers will create a mosaic of species-rich grasslands and wildflower meadows, while the wild nature of the steeper cliff slopes will be enhanced by sustainable grazing. The charity aims to create a patchwork of wildflowers, scrub and trees that mirrors its approach along other parts of the coastline.

Mike Simmonds, the National Trust’s lead ranger for the area, said: “We’re working hard to bring back these vital species-rich grasslands on many parts of the north Cornwall coast, and wildlife surveys show the positive difference this kind of conservation work can make. To have the opportunity to extend these wildlife habitats at Tintagel is fantastic. We look forward to improving visitor access, particularly on existing footpaths and rights of way, to help local people and visitors enjoy this very special place.”

Jon Stewart, National Trust general manager for North Cornwall, said: “It’s been widely reported that 97% of traditional meadows have been lost since the Second World War, so we’re delighted to be able to make another positive contribution to halting and hopefully reversing this decline.”

Smith’s Cliff is also rich in archaeology with the area containing eight known archaeological sites and occupation by humans likely dating back to the Mesolithic age (9600 - 4000 BC). On Barras Nose there is a Bronze Age barrow, and related features may well extend onto Smith’s Cliff. Numerous features, recorded through aerial mapping, show a pattern of medieval land use and enclosure known as strip fields. This could have been similar to one of the best preserved examples in the UK, cared for by the Trust at Forrabury Stitches, a short distance along the coast at Boscastle.

Access to this remarkable stretch of coastline will also be enhanced with the Trust planning improvements to the network of footpaths along this well-loved section of the South West Coastal Path. Footbridges will be installed across the wetter areas and improvements to visitor signage are also planned.

Jon continues: “This acquisition is made even more special as Barras Nose was the first piece of coastal land in Cornwall and England to be acquired by subscription for the National Trust in 1897. As it was back then, the coast remains so important for our collective wellbeing and inspiration and the health of the wild species that call it home. With the essential support of people over the last 125 years, we continue to be able to care for these places on behalf of the nation.”

The present-day acquisition was made possible by five generous donations, and by several gifts left in wills, some of which were left specifically to support the National Trust’s work in this part of Cornwall, and some to more widely support its stewardship of the coastline.

Jon added: “Bringing this remarkable section of the coastal landscape in north Cornwall into our care highlights the importance of gifts left in wills. Thanks to our supporters, this coastline will be protected for the nation forever. What an amazing way for them to leave a gift to the nation and to be remembered, as we too enjoy the sea and the cliffs they loved so much.”