Wildlife | Heath land

The Nature of heathland

Heathland Management
Heathland value


Heathland management

Currently one of the major threats to heathland is lack of management. Heathland plants cannot survive in heavy shade, so invading trees, and bracken, need to be removed. These conditions can be recreated by winter burning or cutting, or grazing. Grazing is currently the method being used to restore Snelsmore Common, West Berkshire, this is done using flocks of sheep.

Restoration typically involves tree clearance and removal of the leaf litter so that the mineral is exposed. Heather seeds can survive for 50 years or more in the soil, and will germinate once the organic layer has been removed from above them. Sometimes it will be necessary to scatter heather seeds cut from a nearby heathland site to help develop heather regenerate

Many wet heaths are at risk from drying out. Sometimes this is because the water table has been lowered, e.g. due to water extractions. Where this has happened ditch damming is necessary to preserve the valuable wet heaths and valley mires.

Heathland projects now exist in all the major counties where heathland remains. These are supported by various bodies, including English Nature, the Countryside Agency, RSPB, local wildlife trusts and local authorities. English Nature has initiated the National Lowland Heathland Programme to highlight the importance of heathland and its associated plants and animals and ensure its continued survival. 

Aims of the programme:

  • Develop a national strategy for heathland, and to provide an framework for its conservation,
  • Produce county heathland maps with local species recovery programme,
  • Provide grants for practical heathland management.

Heathland Value

The wildlife value of lowland is internationally recognised and heathlands are protected under European law. In addition many of Berkshire's heathland plants and animals are protected under Britain's Wildlife and Countryside act 1981.

It is not just the wildlife that is special, they have great landscape, historical, educational and recreational value too. Heathland sites are relict landscapes which can inspire a feeling of wilderness so rare in Britain today and they make excellent places for us to visit, walk in and explore.

Greenham Common converted back into it former glory!
The areas cultural history, recent military occupation and the peace campaign make it an important part of the nation's heritage. The Commons are the largest single block of lowland heath in Berkshire and the Council's 1,200 acre site offers an outstanding opportunity for local people to enjoy a vast open area

In 1997 through a partnership of the Greenham Community Trust and the then Newbury District Council (new West Berkshire Council) the open area of the former Greenham airbase was acquired for public use and enjoyment. This area, owned by the Council, is part of Greenham and Crookham Commons and is a nationally important Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) containing rare and fragile heathland habitat. For further information

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