SARK – GOULIOT CAVES AND HEADLAND
Area: 4 hectares
Designation Date: 09.04.2007
Location: 49°26’N 02°23’W
Why was this area designated as a Ramsar site?
This site consists of the Gouliot Headland on the west coast of Sark, and La Moie de Gouliot, a large stack connected to the headland at low water. It also includes Gouliot Caves, which cross the Headland three times from north to south, with other openings to the west.
The cliffs and headland support many rare species of plants, insects and lichens, and are a breeding site for sea birds including gulls, oystercatchers and fulmars. The caves below are notable for the remarkable variety of invertebrate life, especially sponges, sea-anemones and sea squirts that can be found on their walls, which are accessible by foot at low spring tide or by diving.
This wealth of species is a consequence of the caves having several entrances with inter-connecting passageways, leading to strong currents developing through the caves at high water and bringing plenty of food to the mainly filter-feeding organisms on the cave walls.
Before the invention of the aqualung this was one of the few places where sub-marine life could be examined in situ and so it played an important part in the development of marine zoology. This is a result of the tide being able to flow through the Gouliot caves for around eight hours out of every twelve hour tidal cycle.
Code of Conduct:
- Access to the caves. The route down to the caves requires quite a clamber over rocks which may be lose and/or slippery, and a good knowledge of the tides is essential. The path goes close to the cliff edge, and it is recommended that someone with a good understanding of the tides goes with you. The tide needs to be very low in order to access the caves (under 1 metre; the lowest spring tides).
- The headland is grazed by livestock so visitors should be aware to close gates when walking in the area. For this reason, dogs must be kept on a lead.
- Drones are not permitted anywhere in Sark. This applies all year round.
- Wildflowers flourish on the Gouliot Headland throughout the year, from sand crocuses as early as March, followed by primroses and bluebells by May, to bright yellow gorse as summer approaches. Respect should be shown throughout the year to the local flora.
- Seabirds. All resident gull species – herring, lesser, and greater back-backed gulls – breed on the Gouliot Headland. It is also a heavily utilised site for other seabirds such as oystercatchers, pipits, and fulmars. Even predatory species such as kestrels, buzzards, and peregrine falcons can be seen in the area. Care should be taken not to disturb the natural activities of these birds, with particular care to be taken during nesting season (April – August).
- Marine Life. The caves are host to a great variety of marine life, from anemones, to sea squirts and sponges. Due to the nature of the caves much of this wildlife would normally only be found below the water, therefore extreme care must be taken not to damage the sensitive marine life found on the walls of the cave.
- No litter should be left behind.
- Diving. The caves are best dived on neap tides when there is slack water 2.5 hour after high. Enter on the north side through the Sponge Cave and arrange to have your boat meet you in Havre Gosselin where you will be pushed out as the tide starts to run. A torch is required.