Our Heatherley Wood park comprises of three main habitat types: Woodland, Grassland and Heathland.
The main wooded part of the park is dominated by planted Corsican Pine, with pockets of broadleaf species including Silver Birch, Sweet Chestnut and Oak. Silver Birch regeneration is also present in the centre of the woodland and with herb species existing along the woodland edge including Foxglove, Ground Ivy and Fern species.
The grassland includes herb species including Germander Speedwell, Red Clover, Herb Robert, Black Medic, Bulbous Buttercup and Yellow Archangel. The presence of these species indicates that the grassland areas will respond positively to the management techniques that will be used to support the regeneration of the park.
Opposite the park sits Ludshott Common, one of the few remaining areas of lowland heath in Europe. This area contains some internationally protected species, with pockets of Heather present within the grassland areas.
Heatherley Wood is not predominantly a woodland habitat, but acid grassland and heathland. The site can be characterised by seeing it as these three fairly distinct habitats that merge into one another in places. Those being lowland acid grassland, heathland and mixed woodland.
Management techniques will be in the following areas:
Woodland: The woodland is in a poor state and will need a slow and gradual thinning of the Corsican pines, to be replaced by native broadleaves such as sweet chestnut, oak, field maple, and cherry. Bramble and holly will need to be monitored and controlled. The woodland floor is very wet and will naturally encourage rush and sedge species, mixed with willow herbs, foxgloves, buttercups, violets, and other native woodland species. Once the woodland floor has matured, then there’s little that needs doing beyond bramble and bracken control. Scots pine will be encouraged along with Silver birch, and a few Oak to merge in with the heathland area, and mirror Ludshott Commons’ most common tree species as woodland becomes heathland.
Heathland: Encouragement of heather development through removing competing grasses, and creating bare patches to encourage regeneration. Some of the older gorse can be cut and refreshed. There’s also the possibility of controlled burning to regenerate old heather stands.
Grassland: An annual cut of the grassland area to remove nutrient high grasses and allow nutrient poor loving wildflowers to spread and develop in bare areas. Removal of excess birch and scots pine on grassland to prevent habitat succession to woodland. Some bare patches can be encouraged throughout the year to allow for open soil loving invertebrates and basking holes for lizards. After the initial site opening, the grassland will most probably be cut in a mosaic of heights annually. This is to encourage different macro habitats for different fauna.
The following wildlife surveys will be undertaken by GreenAcres Chiltern staff and others, to guide any future change in management.
- Botanical survey of the grassland
- Bird surveys using line transect or point count method
- Butterfly surveys using line transect method
- Moth surveys using a moth trap with a UV light
- Possible small mammal surveys using small mammal traps
The aim of these surveys will be to determine on a deeper level, the species present on site, the habitat needs of species, and improvements that can be made to the sire to cater for those needs. Example: peacock and common butterfly caterpillars require common nettle as a foot plant. By matching species’ needs to the habitat, management techniques can be directed. Tied into this would be the possibility of mirroring the needs of the species that live on Ludshott Common, to encourage their spread into Heatherley Wood.
Access to burial circles on the grassland will be via mown paths. There will be a control of the gorse spreading over the grassland, and the removal of excessive regeneration of birch, scots pine, and other tree species.
It will be important to control alien and invasive species. So mahonia, rhodendron, and bamboo will need to be eliminated.
Conserving the integrity of the acid grassland and heathland by minimal management, will be the basic aim at Heaterley. The natural beauty of the wildflower rich grassland is the highlight. The mown grass paths should direct families to graveside whilst protecting the grassland habitat. Gravedigger and staff access will also be predominantly on mown grass paths.
There’s no such thing as a weed, just wild plants growing in a place that is suitable to the plant’s needs. So called ‘ugly’ plants are just as valuable as a ‘pretty’ rose bed. So nettles and brambles, although invasive if not controlled, should not be eliminated but valued as food plants, nectar sources, nesting area and cover areas. It’s important for the public to understand on an ecological level that these plants should be valued and not despised. “Blackberry jam-where does it come from?” Everyone likes to see a peacock butterfly fluttering over a wildflower meadow in the middle of July. They need stinging nettles! “Nettle tea is made from stinging nettle leaves and can be bought in shops today – is often drunk as a medicinal tea!”
NOTE: Ludshot Common is the National Trust Heathland site across the road from Heatherley Wood.