The Surrey Heathland Partnership has been looking after beautiful lowland heathland sites since 1990. We work with our partners, clients, parish councils and local communities to help with the targeted management of valuable rare heaths, principally across the west of the county.
What is the main role of the Surrey Heathland Partnership?
Previously the main role of the Surrey Heathland Partnership was contract management, but from autumn 2023 our core work focus for our partners has changed and we are now running a regular practical conservation volunteering task programme on key heathland sites in the Guildford and Woking areas.
In addition, the team's knowledge of heathland management helps to ensure larger scale work that is delivered by countryside contractors is completed to the highest standard and at competitive prices for its partners.
- 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, local companies)
- We organise and run practical land management work, working in close contact with approved countryside contractors, as well as leading our own seasonal habitat management task sessions with volunteers
- We oversee grazing programmes on key heathland sites for our partner authorities
- We provide best practice and specialist guidance to heathland owners and managers
- We assist with grant applications and preparing management plans
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.
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
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.
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.
New conservation volunteering task programme on offer in Guildford and Woking areas
Since October 2023, we now run a weekly volunteer task programme for two of the Surrey Heathland Partnership partners on key rare heathland sites in the Guildford and Woking areas. These countryside volunteering task sessions are proving very successful and well received by the local communities.
From January 2024, Surrey Heathland Partnership task leader Tasha is running practical conservation volunteering task sessions on Wednesdays and Thursdays each week plus one Saturday per month (on the first Saturday), on various, rare heathland sites across our partnership area.
We are keen to welcome more heathland habitat helpers to join our great new local Surrey Heathland Partnership conservation crew, so please do come and join in and give it a try, the more the merrier. You can join in for the full session or just for the morning. Our tasks run from 10am to 3pm.
Corporate and community groups volunteering offer
We are pleased to welcome corporate and local community/school groups by arrangement. Please get in touch and we can further discuss the best available options for your specific group size together and to explain the booking arrangements for groups.
The winter season is a great time to join in as a group, especially for larger numbers, as we run lots of scrub clearing sessions and can often offer bespoke separate team volunteering days as well. Scrub clearance is the ideal countryside volunteering activity for staff team challenges.
Looking ahead, please kindly note that during April and May, once bird nesting season begins, we have very limited tasks on offer that are suitable for larger groups, so please aim for up to March or from June onwards where possible.
We have a separate Surrey Countryside Partnerships corporate employee volunteering brochure which fully explains our corporate offer, which you will receive when you make a group enquiry.
We look forward to hearing from you and to developing new corporate partnerships with local companies and with those from neighbouring counties and London as well.
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 a feature article on the website about our conservation work and our latest volunteering opportunities in the borough and we feature in the special introductory video on the homepage too.
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.
- Surrey Heathland Partnership, Countryside Project Officer: Tasha Feddery
- 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:
Address: Surrey Heathland Partnership, Whitebeam Lodge, Surrey County Council Merrow Depot, Merrow Lane, Guildford, Surrey GU4 7BQ