Wisley Common

You couldn't ask for better hacking country right on our doorstep.

These areas make up over 323 hectares (800 acres) of heathland and woodland. The lowland heathland area is a very scarce habitat and supports a specific and unusual range of wildlife.

The three areas have been designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest by English Nature in recognition of their importance for nature conservation. They are also part of a European Special Protection Area.

The M25 cuts through the northern area of these open spaces and Wisley airfield provides a southern border. They straddle the A3, with Boldermere lake supporting a wide range aquatic life on the eastern side of the road. Ockham & Wisley is a nationally important site for dragonflies and damselflies. Twenty species have been recorded here.

Many rare birds can been seen on this site. One is the hobby, which is one of the few creatures that can actually catch dragonflies.

 

Two species of trees grow so readily on this site, that if left uncontrolled, they would take over the open heathland. Birch colonises heathland very quickly, especially on burnt areas. Scots Pine was introduced to Surrey for timber and readily seeds itself in heathland. Without management, heathland quickly reverts to woodland, and the flora and fauna that depend on it disappear. Surrey has lost 85% of its heaths in the last 200 years. Those that remain are an internationally important habitat.

If it is possible, heathlands are grazed in order to maintain them. The rangers also cut invading shrubs and tree seedlings, and clear some of the woods that were once heathland. It initially looks harsh, but the bare soil is soon covered with purple heather.

This habitat restoration started in the early 1990's and is already showing results. As the heather grows back, the rare heathland wildlife returns.