Bramshot Heath

On Thursday we went on a Ranger-led wildlife walk on Bramshot Heath near Fleet. It was an event for children organised by Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, where the Trust have done a great deal of work over the last year or two to restore this scrub/woodland to heathland.

Up until a few hundred years ago, large swathes of Surrey, Hampshire and Dorset were heathland. Left to its own devices, heathland will fairly quickly revert to scrub. Silver birch is one of the ‘pioneer species’ which rapidly colonises open areas, particularly after fire. If it’s not managed, after a few years heathland heather will be crowded out by birch and gorse. Once that happens, the biodiversity of the heathland specialist plants and animals is lost.

Clearing the site caused a bit of controversy amongst some local residents, who objected to the barren look of the landscape after tree clearance and the fencing of the area to allow for cattle to be brought in. Change is always difficult, especially to a landscape you know and love, but this is the most sustainable and effective way of managing heathland and preventing reversion to scrub; the cattle graze the birch saplings and grasses which can overwhelm the heather and more delicate low-growing plants. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say: within a year of clearing Bramshot Heath, ground-nesting heathland birds like the nightjar and larks had returned, and reptile numbers had increased. The rare carnivorous plant sundew can also be found on the site, which traps insects in its sticky ‘dew-drop’ secretions and digests them. Like day of the triffids. But in Hampshire. 😉

My daughter was thrilled to get to hold a slow worm, even when it pooed on her in protest. Slow worms are commonly mistaken for snakes, but in fact they are legless lizards. A closer look reveals quite obvious differences; they have very ‘lizardy’ heads, with no clear differentiation between head and body. They have eyelids and external ears, too. Their colour is amazing to see – gold with a wonderful metallic sheen. They’re not particularly slow, although they’re fairly easy to catch if you find them under the protective cover they prefer. Try looking under a few logs when you’re out and about in the countryside. You might get a gloriously shimmery surprise.

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6 thoughts on “Bramshot Heath

  1. Hello,

    Adrian sent me a link to your blog as I was the officer responsible for the works that have taken place on Bramshot Heath over the past 2 years. People find it very easy to com[plain about this and raise concerns to teh powers that be, but comments like yours do not come natural to most people so I really appreciate them. I really wish more people went out of there way to say positive things about positive they see. It would make my job a lot easier!!!!

    Great sundew picture by the way. There are plenty of other sites in eth areas with much larger populations of this plant and many other amazingly odd looking species which are great for photographs so let me know if you would lkie some other ideas for photo opportunities.

    Once again thank you for your support and positive comments

    Elliott

    • Hi Elliot, it’s a pleasure to write something positive about Bramshot Heath – I was really impressed with the work you’ve done there and the way the wildlife is benefitting as a result. Sadly, I think sometimes people lack the vision to see how changes will be beneficial in the longer term. They just see trees being cut down and scrub cleared and think it looks ugly, and they are more concerned by that than the fact that we’ve lost so much valuable heathland habitat and all the wildlife that thrives there. Personally I feel that the people of Surrey and Hampshire would be better off campaigning against the amount of dog mess soiling our heaths and commons – that’s a thousand times uglier and more destructive than conservation work!

      Yes I would LOVE some more ideas for photo opportunities and to see some unusual species!
      Regards, Lucy

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