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 run/manage 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 Surrey
Why is it important to maintain the 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 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.
Fires on heathland
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 attend large numbers of heath fires each year, especially when there has been long spells of hot dry summer weather, so we all need to please be careful and vigilant in this respect, by following the rules of the Countryside Code.
Volunteering to support Surrey's heathland
The Surrey Heathland Partnership does not run a weekly volunteer task programme like the other two Surrey Countryside Partnerships, but can sometimes offer bespoke volunteering sessions for larger groups (10+) by special arrangement in the partnership area, principally during the autumn/winter scrub clearance season. Please send any enquiries initially by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our colleagues at the Lower Mole Partnership have recently started to run new monthly practical conservation volunteering task sessions on heathland sites in the Guildford Borough Council area. The next dates are Monday 15 November and Monday 13 December, taking place at Pirbright Common. Please contact the Lower Mole Partnership by email to find out more and to let them know in advance if you would like to join in: email@example.com.
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 has a great new website Planet Woking, dedicated to all things relating to climate change, sustainability and biodiversity in the Borough. The Surrey Heathland Partnership has an article in the Get Involved The Great Outdoors section of the website and features in the special introductory video on the website homepage too.
Senior Countryside Partnership Officer (Heathland): Marcus Turley
Surrey Countryside Partnerships - Countryside Partnerships Operations Manager: Helen Cocker
Surrey Countryside Partnerships - Partnership Development Officer: Debbie Hescott (part time)
Address: Surrey Heathland Partnership, Whitebeam Lodge, Surrey County Council Merrow Depot, Merrow Lane, Guildford, Surrey GU4 7BQ