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Secrets of the Heath returns amid action-packed season for heathlands

Secrets of the Heath returns amid action-packed season for heathlands

May 1, 2024

Discover the amazing wonders of a habitat rarer than rainforest this spring as a free family extravaganza, a new colourful guide and a series of walks take place to celebrate heathlands.

Lowland heaths are one of the unique wildlife havens of the South Downs and a national stronghold for the UK’s six native reptile species. They also have a fascinating history going back to Stone Age times.

An action-packed weekend, Secrets of the Heath, takes place at Hogmoor Inclosure, Whitehill & Bordon, on Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 June, from 11am to 4pm.

And, in the run-up to the festival, the heathlands team will be running a series of guided walks during National Walking Month in May, co-inciding with the release of a colourful new guide all about the incredible Wealden Heaths around Petersfield, Liphook, Liss, Grayshott and Whitehill & Bordon.

Olivia French, who leads public engagement around heathlands for the National Park, said: “Lowland heath is extremely rare, only found across parts of the UK and Scandinavia.

“It’s home to a whole host of rare reptile, amphibian, bird and insect species – including some very iconic ones such as the Natterjack toad and sand lizard. It’s a haven for some very special bird species that nest on the ground in spring and summer – the nightjar, woodlark and Dartford warbler. Much of the heathland in this part of Hampshire is so important for wildlife that it’s protected by law under a Special Protection Area (SPA).

“All these activities across the spring and summer aim to reconnect people to their local heathland habitat and inspire communities to learn more about their heathland, working together to look after them so they can be enjoyed for generations to come.”

Secrets of the Heath will be packed with free activities for all ages, including the opportunity to join a Saxon shield battle, come face-to-face with reptiles, and enjoy wildlife talks. With plenty of historical re-enactments and a medieval camp, it will be an opportunity to discover more about the people who have called heaths home for millennia.

As well as re-enactments and storytelling, visitors to the free annual festival can search for weird and wonderful insects on the heath with Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, and perfect their birding technique with the RSPB. On the Saturday night there is also the chance to join an expert-led bat walk (subject to weather).

There will be tasty treats and light bites to buy from a variety of food and drink providers across the site over the weekend and dogs on leads are welcome too

Olivia added: “Parking at Hogmoor Inclosure is limited, so you could always leave the car at home and travel by bike or on foot. We will have secure bike parking available on site.”

With Whitehill & Bordon’s rich military heritage, the National Park’s heathlands team have teamed up with Whitehill Town Council and their special event, on Saturday 8, June, which will be held nearby in the town centre to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day. Look out for military themed performances at The Shed, only a few minutes’ walk from Hogmoor Inclosure.

Parking will also be free of charge at the SHED in both Parade Square and Woodlands car parks GU35 0DJ, just a short walk from the Inclosure with clear signage on the day between the events.

The event will be an opportunity to pick up a free heathland scavenger trail for children and the free mini-guide about the Wealden Heaths, which include four inspiring walks of varying difficulties. The guide highlights several heathland sites in the Wealden Heath Special Protection Area, which sits on the northern boundary of the South Downs National Park. It also highlights some of the longer distance trails in the area such as the Shipwright’s Way and Serpent Trail. The guide includes a new circular rail to ramble route from Liphook station, and the Miles Without Stiles route around Hogmoor Inclosure, which offers the opportunity to hire an off-road mobility scooter from the cafe. You can download the guide here.

Some of the ranger-led walks in May are taking place as part of Alton Walking Festival and include wellbeing and nature walks. Find out and book on to a walk here.

People can find out more about Secrets of the Heath by visiting www.southdowns.gov.uk/event/secrets-of-the-heath/

  • The event is funded by East Hampshire District Council, Whitehill Town Council, South Downs National Park Authority, the Land Trust and the Whitehill and Bordon Community Trust.
  • The Secrets of the Heath festival is organised by the Heathlands Reunited: Wealden Heath SAMM (Strategic Access Management and Monitoring) project – a partnership of 10 like-minded organisations. The partners are: Deadwater Valley Trust, The Land Trust, National Trust, Ministry of Defence, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, Hampshire County Council, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Whitehill and Bordon community Trust, Whitehill and Bordon Regeneration Company and the National Park Authority.
  • Heathlands only exist today because of human intervention over thousands of years. This means that if heathlands aren’t actively managed by people – by local communities, conservation groups, the National Park Authority or others – they will be lost alongside the rare and endangered species that live there. Today heathland covers just 1% of the South Downs National Park, mostly separated into small ‘islands’ where isolated plants and animals are far more vulnerable to local extinction.
  • Find out how you can play your part today to save our heaths through the Heathlands Reunited project at www.southdowns.gov.uk/heathlands-reunited
  • The Wealden Heath SPA sites are heathland sites which border and/or are in the South Downs National Park.