Fantastic Heaths and where to find them…

May 5, 2017

You might associate the South Downs with rolling chalk downland but one of our most stunning and rarest habitats is our beautiful heathland.

With striking purple heather set against a backdrop of glorious yellow gorse these precious sites are a perfect spot for a walk or ride.

Ambitious work to restore and reunite these special areas of rare heathland in the South Downs began in 2016 as part of the Heritage Lottery Funded project, Heathlands Reunited.

With a focus on partner and community involvement, this project aims to protect and improve key heathland sites, not only for the rare plants and animals that call them home, but for walkers, birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike.

Less than 1 per cent of former heathland remains in the National Park and what’s left is fragmented, reducing the diversity of plants and animals that make heaths both interesting and scientifically important.

Led by the National Park Authority, with 10 partner organisations, the Heathlands Reunited Project aims to create and improve 41 heathland sites covering an area greater than 1,200 football pitches over the next five years.

Get Involved

To achieve this aspiring target we’re going to need some help! We have four main areas where we need volunteer support:

  • Dog ambassadors
  • Practical management
  • Wildlife monitoring

Volunteering in the South Downs National Park is a great way to get outside, meet people and discover new places. Find out what opportunities and training we can offer by visiting the Heathlands Reunited page.

We are also running a guided walk of the Serpent Trail, a 66 mile long-distance route which takes in many of the stunning heathland sites in the South Downs over six consecutive days (17–22 July).

Stunning Views from Black Down

With lots of different heathland sites in the National Park it can be tricky to choose which one to visit so how about starting your heathland adventure on one of our larger sites…

Black Down is owned by the National Trust and is the highest point in the National Park. This is a precious heathland site and a great place to witness the effects of active heathland management such as the herd of belted Galloway cattle which trudges the hillside. Among other things their main job is to eat their way across the reserve, suppressing scrub (gorse bushes and small birch saplings) to help maintain the open heathland habitat. Please remember to keep your dog on a lead around these curious cows and any other livestock or horse riders.

Easily accessible on foot, bike, by train and road visit nationaltrust.org.uk/black-down for full details of how to get there. Tennyson’s Lane, Haslemere, Surrey, GU27 3BJ.