Wildlife | Heath land

The Nature of heathland

Heathland Management
Heathland value



In ancient times, lowland heath would have existed within the open forests of sandy soil as a heathy shrub layer and in the forest glades, grazed by animals such as deer and wild boar. Man expanded this heathland from the Mesolithic period (8000 years ago) onwards.

Over the centuries, lowland heaths have been lost to agriculture, forestry, housing, mineral extraction and a host of other pressures. Once heathland was much more common in England, and Berkshire. Only one sixth of the total area of heathland existing in 1800 remains, mainly as small scattered fragments. In Berkshire, we have lost about 97% in the same period.

The nature of Heathland

Lowland heath is important for many rare species. On certain heaths lichens carpet the ground. Solitary bees and wasps, and sand lizards, need the sunny, sheltered patches of bare ground that are scattered over dry heaths. The dartford warbler is only found on heaths. In Berkshire heathland species include:

Plants Birds invertebratesOther Animals
Bilberry Woodlark Grayling butterfly Lizards, e.g. Sand
Heath spotted orchid Dartford warbler Silver studded blue & grayling butterflies Newts
Gorse Nightjar Emperor moth Toads
Heath grass & bedstraws Stonechat Tiger & minator beetle Slow worms
Insect eating sundews Green woodpecker Bog bush cricket Snakes, e.g. Adder
Bog asphodel Hobby Raft spider  

Pill sedge Tree pipit Solitary bees & wasps  

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