Planet Woking is passionate about the Great Outdoors.
In Woking borough, we are lucky to have a range of natural habitats including heathland sites such as Brookwood Heath, Prey Heath, Sheet’s Heath and Smart’s Heath.
What is heathland?
Lowland heathland is an open landscape generally covered in heathers, gorse and tree scrub. It can also include bracken, acid grassland, bogs, bare sandy or peaty ground, scattered trees and water.
Two hundred years ago heathland covered most of West Surrey but now less than a fifth of this original heathland remains. Lowland heathland is an internationally rare and unique habitat, supporting a variety of specialised plants and wildlife. In order for it to survive and for the rare flora and fauna to thrive, heathland needs specialist, targeted seasonal practical countryside management and maintenance work to be carried out.
Heathland Management at Brookwood Heath
Jessica Turley, a local third year undergraduate in Marine and Natural History Photography got in touch with Planet Woking to share her fantastic drone footage of heathland management at Brookwood Heath. Please note drone usage on public green spaces in the borough is allowed only with advance permission.
Brookwood Heath is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) within the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA). This status gives special, legal protection for the endangered heathland habitat that is found there along with a myriad of rare and vulnerable wildlife and plants that call this place home.
The heather mowing and turf cutting at Brookwood Heath featured above is carried out in partnership with Worplesdon Golf Club who neighbour onto Brookwood Heath. Using specialist machinery, they cut heather turves and collect heather seed providing optimal, and normally very costly management of the heath.
This work replicates historic and indeed ancient, traditional use of the heaths, allowing a few small remnants of them to persist to this day. The ongoing process seen here creates an important and varied age structure within the heather required by specialist ground nesting birds such as Nightjar and Woodlark. Turf cutting provides bare sand areas for burrowing and hunting insects, as well as basking areas for reptiles. Bare ground also supports the germination of vigorous new heather seedlings, allowing the ongoing regeneration of the heathland. It’s also an important stage required by many heathland insects.
The Golf Club in return, can improve their biodiversity and pursue a general wilding of many areas of the course, which as well as benefiting wildlife can make the course a more attractive course to play generally.
The Surrey Heathland Partnership
The Surrey Heathland Partnership has been looking after beautiful lowland heathland sites for over 30 years. Working with a wide range of partners, clients and parish councils, the Partnership manages the valuable heaths across the west of the county and into the southeast of England. The Partnership is funded by Surrey County Council, Woking Borough Council and Guildford Borough Council.
The project involves organised grazing and clearance of invasive scrub and bracken, as well as promoting an understanding of heathland and encouraging good management practice. This is essential to supporting the rare species that need heathland in order to survive.
To find out more about the important work of the Surrey Heathland Partnership visit their website.