Celebrate the importance of our heathland

NEXT week is the 2022 Heath Week, when activities are being organised to show the public how important it is to protect countryside that has been described as Britain’s equivalent to rain forest – heathland.

The free events have been organised by the Thames Basin Heaths Partnership (TBHP), a body that works to conserve a huge area of natural habitats across three counties.

NEXT GENERATION – Involving youngsters is a primary aim of Heath Week. Picture courtesy of TBHP

The week celebrates the rare wildlife and cultural history of heathland. TBHP is working with fire and rescue services to put on five Wildfire Roadshows and showcasing nature with nightjar walks, nature trails, scavenger hunts, history walks and opportunities to get hands-on with reptiles.

Sarah Bunce, communications officer for TBHP, explains more:

A stonechat perches on gorse. Picture by Michael Jones

“I don’t know if you already realise how rare heathland is? In the last 200 years, we’ve lost around 84% of what we once had and the remaining fragments are super-special. That’s places like Chobham Common, Horsell Common and Brentmoor Heath at West End.

“By shouting about heathland with a week of free events, we’re putting heathland on the agenda and getting everyone involved. Heathland is wonderful and precious and we all need to play our part in protecting it.

“If you were wondering what the Thames Basin Heaths Partnership is, we’re a partnership of local councils, land managers and nature conservation bodies working together to conserve the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area across Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire.

“We’re part of a ground-breaking strategy funded by a one-off levy on new housing. The levy funds the provision of Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspaces, or SANGs. That’s countryside with dog-friendly, family-friendly circular walks, away from the sensitive wildlife of the heaths.

SAFETY FIRST – Wildfire Roadshows explain the importance of preventing heathland fires. Picture courtesy of TBHP

“We’re extremely fortunate that the local planning authorities have set aside some exceptional SANGs. Not just a few, at the time of writing 77 have been set up, including Brookwood Country Park, Heather Farm, Woodham Common and Chobham Water Meadows.

“The levy also funds us, the Thames Basin Heaths Partnership warden team. We have 11 wardens, all focused on connecting you with nature, getting you talking about heathland and sharing our simple messages about sticking to main paths, spreading the word about SANGs and wildfire awareness.

“All with a view to protecting the rare heathland and its wildlife.

“Come and meet us during Heath Week, we’d love to see you. Heath Week 2022 – Monday 25 to Sunday 31 July. All our activities are free, so please do come along. Let’s inspire the next generation by getting them involved now.

EYE-CATCHING – The distinctive flowers of the bell heather. Picture courtesy of TBHP

Heath Week events:

Monday 25 July:  Butterfly walks at Chobham Common, Staple Hill.

Monday 25:  Wildfire Roadshow at Chobham Common, Roundabout Car Park.

Tuesday 26:  Heath Week Herbivores at Whitmoor Common.

Wednesday 27: Insect walk at Horsell Common (booking required).

Thursday 28: Sensory Scavenger Hunt at Horsell Common.

Friday 29: Reptile & Amphibian Roadshow at Ockham Common.

Saturday 30: Heathland Walk at Bisley Common (booking required).

Sunday 31: Chobham Common History Walk starting at Fishpool Car Park (booking required).

Sunday 31: Wildfire Roadshow at Horsell Common.

Details of these and more at: www.tbhpartnership.org.uk/heath-week/

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