Natural England - Golitha Falls NNR

Golitha Falls NNR

Golitha Falls NNR is a steeply sided wooded valley, with the River Fowey flowing through it in a series of spectacular cascades.

Golitha Falls NNR

County: Cornwall

Main habitats: Woodland

Why visit: Golitha Falls NNR is named after the cascades which see the River Fowey spectacularly drop 90 metres in altitude. The reserve comprises of a gorge; lined with ancient oak woodland which gives way to the River Fowey in the gorge bottom.

The whole site, 18 ha in area, is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its woodland flora. The dramatic landscape created by the River Fowey is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Star species: Golitha Falls NNR is one of Cornwall’s richest valleys for bryophytes in Cornwall with over 120 species recorded here. It is equally important for lichens with 48 species including the nationally rare Parmelia minarum. Woodland wildflowers include bluebells and wood anemone.

The reserve is also home to dormice which reside in the ancient hazel coppice. Noctule, brown long-eared and lesser horseshoe bats have been recorded.

The river supports healthy populations of both salmon and sea trout. Otter are often seen exploring the falls.

Managing the reserve

Mature woodland on the site is left for natural processes to shape the habitat. In other areas, management work is undertaken to control the spread of invasive species such as larch, beech and sycamore.

Small open areas and meadows are grazed by ponies to clear scrub and to allow wildflowers and butterflies to flourish.

Seasonal highlights


The woodland floor is carpeted with bluebells and wood anemones. The meadow areas see bugle, self-heal, white clover, common tormentil and valerian species flourish.

Dippers can be seen bobbing in the river, with nuthatch, treecreeper and pied flycatcher joining more common birds in the dawn chorus.


The warm weather encourages moths and butterflies. The reserve supports 83 species of moth, including the notable double lines. Butterflies include the meadow brown, marbled white, green veined white, gatekeeper, small skipper, ringlet, speckled wood and silver-washed fritillary.


Wildlife on the site remain active as they prepare for winter. Birds such as the pied flycatcher prepare to migrate to warmer over wintering areas in West Africa; dormice fatten themselves up in order to survive hibernation.


Storms the River Fowey to swell, making the waterfalls look even more spectacular. Extra care should be taken when visiting after heavy rainfall.


Much of the reserve is known to be ancient woodland, with Draynes Wood recorded in the Domesday Book (1086). Draynes Bridge is thought to be the first bridge crossing the River Fowey. The stone was sourced from within the reserve and indicates which areas were grazed.

Mining in the 19th century caused the greatest impact on the site. Shafts were dug to extract the branch of copper ore running though the reserve. Many relics of the mining remain: the walls of two wheel pits are clearly visible along with many leats and water courses and the entrance to two shafts and four adits have been secured.

The piped aquaduct that bisects the site was first installed between 1882 and 1907, its purpose was to transport, by gravity, clay slurry won from pits on Bodmin Moor to the driers near Liskeard. It is still owned by Imerys.

How to get there

We encourage the use of sustainable transport whenever possible.

By train

The nearest train station is in Liskeardexternal link.

By bus

Bus services run from Liskeard to St Cleer. See the Traveline SWexternal link website for more details.

By car

Access to the reserve is by minor roads from the A38, A30 and B3254. The car park is a quarter of a mile north of the site, near Draynes Bridge.

On foot

Golitha Falls is near the route of the Two Valleys Walk, a circular trail starting in St Neots and passes through the valleys of the River Loveny and Rive Fowey and the heights of Berry Down.

Visiting the reserve

Want to get involved?

Within East Cornwall there are volunteering opportunities at both Golitha Falls and Goss Moor including: Species recording and monitoring, wardening, livestock checking, practical activities such as fencing and scrub management.

Both reserves welcome schools visits; guided visits can be arranged please contact the reserve team.

Further information

To find out more about the reserve, contact the East Cornwall NNR base on 01726 891096.