Kennall Vale

Kennall Vale Wildlife Trust reserve is my new local patch, in the village of Ponsanooth just a bit further inland than the University campus in Penryn. The reserve is a damp mixed woodland, with a stream flowing through the middle, and the ruins of a gunpowder factory near the paths. The gunpowder factory has been closed for around a century, so is now covered in mosses and ferns.

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My latest visit was this Wednesday (14th September), when I spent a few hours slowly wandering around, turning the numerous stones and logs! The first large log that I turned over was on particularly dry soil, but still yielded several Lithobius pilicornis, one of Britain’s largest centipedes. It’s very fast, and can bite, so I unfortunately didn’t manage to catch one for a photo. Much to my surprise, I also found a small group of pseudoscorpions, the first that I’ve ever seen! I took a few specimens back to identify, and found that there were two different species from under the same stone. One was Chthonius ischnocheles (The Common Chthonid), and the other was Roncocreagris cambridgei (Cambridge’s Two-eyed Chelifer). Roncocreagris cambridgei will be covered in detail species of the week, but here’s a quick overview of pseudoscorpions: they’re usually 2-4mm long, and look like this! (Photo is of Roncocreagris cambridgei, phone-microscoped).

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Many logs and stones later, I managed to find a particularly special centipede: Stigmatogaster souletina. This species is one of Britain’s thirty or so Geophilomorphs, or ‘Earth Centipedes’, so called as they spend most of their time in the soil. S. souletina is a particularly interesting species, as it’s found only around the Falmouth area, and is Britain’s longest centipede, reaching an impressive 9cm in length! This specimen was around 7cm in length. Unfortunately the photo is slightly blurred in the low light.

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Under that very same log was another lovely species, from an even more unpopular group of organisms than centipedes! Arion owenii, which I know as the Irish Garden Slug, but the current vernacular name seems to be Tawny Soil Slug. I feel as if my view that a slug can be ‘lovely’ is a fairly unusual one, but in my opinion, the warm colour and prickly texture (given by raised tubercles on the back) of A. owenii make this a very nice species to find, and very distinctive. It has a distinctly Western distribution, but is not considered to be common even here. That said, it seemed numerous enough in places of Kennall Vale. Here’s the distribution map: 

https://data.nbn.org.uk/Taxa/NHMSYS0001701908/Grid_Map

And here is the wonderful slug itself!

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Other highlights during the day included the Chrysomelid beetle Oulema melanopus, another lovely Slug: almost certainly Ambigolimax nyctelius, and hundreds of the non-native Landhopper (Arcitalitrus dorrieni). The photographs are in order of mention. I had the pleasure of finding all these lovely invertebrates whilst surrounded by at least six species of Fern, in a beautiful woodland with Nuthatches and Ravens calling overhead. Kennall Vale is a gem of a reserve, and I can’t wait to visit again soon. What an amazing welcome to life in Cornwall!

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1 thought on “Kennall Vale”

  1. Great start to your Cornish myriapod studies… you’re already another centipede ahead of me! Wonderful looking beast, too. And it’s lovely to be in the local range of Arion owenii.. I’ve always been a visitor to it, though I did find my own local population a few miles from Durham when I was a student..

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