The Heathlands are a very important habitat for dragonflies and damselflies, which can be found around the ponds and lowland wet heath areas between April and October. Each species has it’s own specific characteristics and behaviours. Here are some of the main species you may spot.

Dragonflies

Damselflies

Adders and Grass snakes are important species within the heathland habitat, during the warmer months they can often be found basking in sunny patches close to vegetation, they are extremely shy and will quickly disappear into the vegetation if disturbed. Please stick to the main paths and keep dogs out of the vegetation in order to avoid disturbance.

Both Adders and Grass snake are surveyed by HIWARG in order to monitor population numbers and to help with conservation management planning on our heathland sites. If you would like to find out more about the important work done by HIWARG visit: Hampshire And Isle of Wight Amphibian and Reptile Group (HIWARG) (arguk.org)

Contractors will be starting works on Yateley Common and Castle Bottom NNR in the coming weeks. These works are vital for the restoration and maintenance of the heathland habitat and to reduce the amount of material available for wildfires to spread.

The Contractors will be working on site in line with government guidelines and will be following Covid-19 secure practices. We ask that members of the public do not approach contractors at this time. Please maintain a safe distance and follow any signs and direction from the contractors.

Historically, heaths such as those found at Yateley Common, Castle Bottom NNR, were open landscapes with few trees and traditional uses of the land, such as gorse coppicing, grazing and birch cutting prevented trees and scrub from dominating the landscape. In the absence of these activities, tree removal and scrub control work is necessary, now carried out by HCC staff, contractors and volunteers alike, all working to preserve the open character of these important heathland sites.

The following scrub removal and mowing is taking place this winter in order to restore these areas to heathland and to reduce the amount of scrub across the Common which increase the risk of wildfires spreading during the hot summer months. Works are part of an on-going heathland management programme and are approved and funded through Natural England.

The maps below show the areas on which contractors will be working over the coming winter months. Our contractors are specialists in conservation management and work within carefully considered specifications to minimise disturbance to visitors, maximise the diversity for wildlife and reduce the thick scrub which can allow the spread and increase the intensity of wildfires.

We appreciate that these works can sometimes seem quite destructive and can initially be visually unappealing, however, after a relatively short period of time and with some targeted follow-up management the open heathland habitats begin to flourish and species typically associated with them start to utilise the additional habitat available to them. It is hoped that within 3-5 years heathland habitats within these areas will have re-established and in fact have begun to  flourish.

These works are important for several reasons:

  1. Lowland heathland – the type of habitat found on Yateley Common, Castle Bottom NNR, Shortheath Common and Broxhead Common – is highly threatened, with at least 80% of lowland heathland being lost over the last 200 years.
  2. To restore and preserve the open character of the landscape, which is of value to many users of these sites.
  3. Many special plants, birds, insects and reptiles rely on the heathland habitats found on the heaths; the species and habitat for which the site is protected and designated under UK and EU law.
  4. There have been a big increase in the number of wildfires destroying huge areas of British countryside in recent years.

If you have any queries about these works or our heaths in general, then please call the Rangers on 01252 870425 or e-mail us at northern.sites@hants.gov.uk.

Historically, heaths such as those found at Yateley Common, Castle Bottom NNR, Shortheath Common SAC and Broxhead Common LNR were open landscapes with few trees and traditional uses of the land, such as gorse coppicing, grazing and birch cutting prevented trees and scrub from dominating the landscape. In the absence of these activities, tree removal and scrub control work is necessary, now carried out by HCC staff, contractors and volunteers alike, all working to preserve the open character of these important heathland sites.

The following scrub removal and mowing is taking place this winter in order to restore these areas to heathland, recreating and reconnecting the open character and landscape of the Common. Works are part of an on-going heathland management programme and are approved and funded through Natural England.

The maps below show the areas on which contractors will be working over the coming winter months. Our contractors are specialists in conservation management and work within carefully considered specifications to minimise disturbance to visitors and maximise the diversity for wildlife.

Yateley Common:

Castle Bottom NNR:

Shortheath Common:

Broxhead Common:

We appreciate that these works can sometimes seem quite destructive and can initially be visually unappealing, however, after a relatively short period of time and with some targeted follow-up management the open heathland habitats begin to flourish and species typically associated with them start to utilise the additional habitat available to them. It is hoped that within 3-5 years heathland habitats within these areas will have re-stablished and in fact have begun to  flourish.

These works are important for several reasons:

  1. Lowland heathland – the type of habitat found on Yateley Common, Castle Bottom NNR, Shortheath Common and Broxhead Common – is highly threatened, with at least 80% of lowland heathland being lost over the last 200 years.
  2. To restore and preserve the open character of the landscape, which is of value to many users of these sites.
  3. Many special plants, birds, insects and reptiles rely on the heathland habitats found on the heaths; the species and habitat for which the site is protected and designated under UK and EU law.

If you have any queries about these works or our heaths in general, then please call the Rangers on 01252 870425 or e-mail us at northern.sites@hants.gov.uk.

As our winter season came to an end, our Thursday volunteers helped carry out one last and out of the ordinary winter task last week. Instead of the usual scrub clearance, our volunteers picked up their spades and mattocks to help create some new bee banks on Castle Bottom NNR.

Castle Bottom is a fantastic site for insects with 199 species of bee, wasp and ants recorded. Many of these species like to nest in bare soil, so the creation of bare banks of earth, by removing the vegetation and creating loose soil/sand banks on the south facing slopes, will have extended their habitat on the site.

 

Sunny banks like these provide vital nesting and basking sites for a range of pollinating insects. They are specifically important for solitary bees including Andrena flavipes Yellow-legged Mining bee  which is common across Southern England, Andrena praecox Early Mining Bee which will feed on the Willow found along the stream edge near to where the bee banks have been created, and Megachile willughbiella Leaf-cutter Bee. The bees will excavate holes and lay their eggs. The banks were created facing south, in order to benefit from the sun’s heat for the maximum period each day. This means that the bee’s nests remain at an optimum temperature for eggs to develop and hatch.

As well as the bees, these new banks could provide habitat for Ammophila sabulosa Sand Wasp, Mutilla europaea Velvet Ant and Anoplius viaticus Spider-hunting Wasp, all of which are found on the site.

The works carried out by our volunteers were very much a trial and involved us trying a variety of methods to see which would create suitable habitat.  We were conscious that we didn’t want to create large scars on the site, so the works were carried out by volunteers and hand dug to allow us to create shallow banks in the slope edge which would be less visually intrusive and more sympathetic of the natural slope.  In some areas we created small steps down the slope and in others we created larger terracing, we also took advantage of an area where a south facing cliff-like bank was already formed by removing the vegetation from the face of it.

   

Despite the cold wet weather the volunteers did an amazing job, far exceeding our expectations for the day.  Now we just have to hope the bees move in!

 

Despite a rather off-putting weather forecast, 164 volunteers came out and braved the weather on Saturday 29th February to help give Yateley Common a Big Spring Clean ahead of the bird nesting season.

The volunteers made up of individuals and groups such as beavers, cubs, brownies and scouts spent up to 3 hours each litter picking.  The aim was to cover as much of Yateley Common as possible with groups starting from Blackbushe Airport, Wyndham’s Pool Car Park and Stroud Pond Car Park.  In total the volunteers collectively spent 325 hours removing a variety of litter and fly tipped rubbish from the site.

Amongst the items removed were an oil drum, metal guttering, several hub caps, a fuel can, a road cone, fencing, a large gas cylinder, various metal, 1 tyre, car parts and wood, along with a total of 66 bags of rubbish being collected.

 

 We would like to thank everyone who came out to help make this years Big Spring Clean a success.  It is thanks to everyone’s hard word and support that we can ensure this rubbish is removed from Yateley Common before the start of spring.

Insect Investigators

Winchester City Mill have a new Insect Investigators trail which will be running every day this half-term. Pick up a trail booklet and learn about the different types of insects you might find in the Mill.

Suggested donation £1 plus normal admission.

Dates/Time

From:  15 Feb 2020 to 23 Feb 2020  
  Open 10:00am – 3:00pm daily

Location

Winchester City Mill, Bridge Street, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23 9BH

Further information

More details at https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/winchester-city-mill/features/february-half-term-at-winchester-city-mill

Why not investigate the rest of Winchester while you are there, visit the Cathedral and King Arthurs round table in the Great Hall at the top of the town.

 

Snowdrop Weekend

 Visit Selborne to see the pretty snowdrops covering the countryside a this time of the year.

Date/Time

Saturday 15 February to Sunday 16 February 2020

Open 10.30am until 4.00pm both days

Location

Gilbert White’s House, Selborne, Hampshire, GU34 3JH

Admission

Half price admission to house and garden tours running through the weekend.

Further information

More details are available from the website http://www.gilbertwhiteshouse.org.uk/

 

Elvetham Heath Ranger Ramble

Come and join the Elvetham Heath Rangers on a walk around the Nature Reserve.  They will talk to you about how they manage the reserve and the wildlife you might find there. This event is suitable for all ages.

Date/Time

Tuesday 18 February 2020

From 10.00am – 11.30 am

Admission

This is a free event but you need to book a space at http://www.hart.gov.uk/countryside-events-booking-form or email countryside@hart.gov.uk for details.

Crooksbury Hill

Crooksbury Hill is at the Sands, Farnham.  This is a nice walk for all the family and you can either scale the steep steps that lead straight to the summit or take the more gentle path following the side of the hill.

There is a mixture of heathland, birchwoods and pinewoods and the sandy soil makes for easy, mud-free walking.

Most of the trees are relatively young and the hill used to be part of Crooksbury Common once used by locals who collected wood and gorse for fuel, and grazed their animals.

While you are there, make sure you look out for a Scheduled Ancient Monument on the northern side of the hill.

Starting point

Park your car at the free Crooksbury Hill car park, Crooksbury Road, The Sands, GU10 1RF.

The walk starts with a climb of the hill which is the only serious gradient of the walk which is 3 miles long.  It is also dog friendly

The official footpath takes you up steep steps but if you go behind the car park past a noticeboard and benches, there’s a green arrow marked self-guided trail which avoids the steps.

When you reach the summit there is a pillar and some benches.

picture from Surrey Wildlife Trust website