Surrey Heathland Partnership

The Surrey Heathland Partnership has been looking after beautiful lowland heathland sites for over 30 years. We work with a wide range of partners, clients and parish councils to manage the valuable heaths principally across the west of the county and into the southeast of England.

What services does the Surrey Heathland Partnership offer?

The major role of the Surrey Heathland Partnership is contract management. The team's first hand extensive knowledge of heathland management helps to ensure work is delivered by contractors to the highest standard and at competitive prices for its partners/clients:

  • We work in partnership to raise awareness of the rare heathland habitat and to promote its importance for wildlife and people, to local communities and beyond (residents, community groups, companies)
  • We provide best practice and specialist guidance to heathland owners and managers
  • We assist with grant applications and preparing management plans
  • We organise and run practical land management work, working in close contact with approved countryside contractors
  • We oversee grazing programmes on some heathland sites for our partner authorities

What is heathland?

Lowland heathland is an open landscape generally covered in heathers, gorse and tree scrub. It can also include bracken, acid grassland, bogs, bare sandy or peaty ground, scattered trees and water.

In Surrey there are two main heathland types: the Thames Basin heaths in the north west of the county and the Wealden Greensand heaths in the south west and centre. Additionally there is some heathland overlying the chalk of the North Downs.

Map of heathland in SurreyMap of Heathland Project

To see the distribution of heathland areas across the county, click on the map, where heathland areas are marked in purple and major sites are named.

Why must we protect and maintain rare heathland habitat?

Two hundred years ago heathland covered most of West Surrey but now less than a fifth of this original heathland remains. Lowland heathland is an internationally rare and unique habitat, supporting a variety of specialised plants and wildlife. In order for it to survive and for the rare flora and fauna to thrive, heathland needs specialist, targeted seasonal practical countryside management and maintenance work to be carried out.

In Surrey 85% of the heathland has been lost in just 200 years, leading to a severe loss of biodiversity. In recent decades heathland has been recognised for its wildlife value and its historical and cultural interest, and much is now protected from development.

Surrey heathland is vitally important for biodiversity, wildlife and people

Birds

Although the number of characteristic heathland species is small, our heathland supports internationally important numbers of three ground-nesting bird species - the nightjar, woodlark and Dartford warbler.

Invertebrates

Lowland heathland in Surrey is extremely important for invertebrates, especially insects and spiders, and many rare and characteristic species occur.

Reptiles and amphibians

Surrey is one of only three counties in the British Isles which supports all of the native heathland reptiles and amphibians, including the rare and specially protected sand lizard, smooth snake and Natterjack toad.

Fire risk on rare heathlands

As with all open areas of the countryside, there is a risk of fire breaking out and there is a constant need to educate people in fire awareness and prevention. Firefighters from Surrey Fire and Rescue Service unfortunately attend large numbers of heath fires each year, especially when there has been long spells of hot dry summer weather, so everyone needs to please be careful and vigilant in this respect and should follow the rules and guidance of the Countryside Code.

Special heathland habitat helper sessions back on offer in Pirbright this winter

Last autumn and winter season, Surrey Countryside Partnerships started running monthly volunteer task days for our partner Guildford Borough Council on two of their key rare heathland sites. The tasks proved so successful and well received by the local community, that the team is going back again this year to do some more. Why not join in as well?

This winter the conservation crew will be at Bullswater Common North, Pirbright on Monday 5 December 2022, Monday 9 January 2023 and Monday 6 February 2023. All task sessions will involve cutting back young pine and birch, as well as clearing gorse.

Please let the Lower Mole Partnership know if you would like to join in on either of these special heathland helper sessions by emailing mole.project@surreycc.gov.uk.

Bespoke conservation volunteering sessions for corporate groups

The Surrey Heathland Partnership does not run a weekly volunteer task programme like the other two Surrey Countryside Partnerships, but can sometimes offer bespoke practical conservation volunteering sessions for larger corporate teams or community groups (10+) by special arrangement on key sites in the partnership area, principally during the autumn/winter scrub clearance season.

Please send any enquiries initially by email to: countrysidepartnershipsteam@surreycc.gov.uk. A copy of the Surrey Countryside Partnerships Corporate Employee Volunteering brochure, which fully outlines our team's corporate volunteering offer, can be emailed upon request.

Our partners

The Surrey Heathland Partnership countryside management service is core funded by Surrey County Council (host authority) and its two borough council partners: Guildford Borough Council and Woking Borough Council.

Woking Borough Council's website Planet Woking is dedicated to all things relating to climate change, sustainability and biodiversity in the Borough. We have an article on the website about our conservation work in the borough titled 'Surrey Heathland Partnership' and we feature in the special introductory video on the homepage too.


Contact us

  • Surrey Countryside Partnerships, Countryside Partnerships Operations Manager: Helen Cocker
  • Surrey Countryside Partnerships, Partnership Development Officer: Debbie Hescott (part time)

Please contact the team as follows:

Email: heathlandproject@surreycc.gov.uk or countrysidepartnershipsteam@surreycc.gov.uk.

Address: Surrey Heathland Partnership, Whitebeam Lodge, Surrey County Council Merrow Depot, Merrow Lane, Guildford, Surrey GU4 7BQ