Since 2001 some 340ha of heath has been re-created from former conifer plantations and looking ahead, a further 500ha of heath is scheduled for re-creation over the next 20-year period. The New Forest is home to the most extensive tract of heathland in Europe with a high diversity of wet and dry heaths, fens, acid grasslands, and carr woodland comprising over 13,800 hectares. Unique due to is long history of grazing by ponies, and cattle, and now designated as SSSI, SAP and SAC. An extensive programme of open heath management is in place. Important for species such as nightjar, woodlark, Dartford Warbler, marsh gentian, smooth snake and sand lizard.
35 hectares of heathland restoration at Cannock Chase. The heathlands on Cannock Chase are a very special and unusual mixture of upland and lowland heath species, some of these are unique including hybrids such as the Cannberry and Cankthorn. The work undertaken at Cannock Chase has transformed the area of former plantation landsite, and the area is being managed to allow for the most diverse mix of natural vegetation as possible.
The restored areas are also very strategic, carefully planned and implemented to get the maximum positive impact; they create important corridors which link together existing heath areas therefore allowing species to colonise or travel between them. The new area of heathland will bring in more ground-nesting birds, such as woodlarks and nightjars, as well as distinctive plants such as cowberry, bilberry and heathers. We are hoping over the next four years to begin work on another 30 hectares, to build on this work, and create more diverse habitats across the Chase.
Forest of Dean
The project has also seen approximately 50 hectares of heathland recreation within Gloucestershire. Work commenced in 1998, supported by local conservation bodies, clearing 12 hectares of conifers from former heathland in an outlying part of the forest at Tidenham near Chepstow. Free from the statutory restrictions regarding fencing that affect the main part of the forest, 9 hectares were fenced and grazed. Species such as Nightjar, Stonechat and Dartford Warbler have all subsequently returned to the area.
Building on this success, plans are in place to extend the heathland area at Tidenham to 30 hectares in the next year. In the main part of the forest, a rolling programme of heathland expansion is planned with the aim of creating large areas of lowland heathland by 2020 centred on three principal sites. At Haywood near Cinderford, 12 hectares of trees have already been cleared in the first stage of a restoration programme that will aim to achieve an extensive tract of open and wooded heathland by 2020.
North York Moors
In Yorkshire, the principle area of heathland is centred around the city of York on Strensall, Allerthorpe and Skipwith Commons. The Commission is involved in a partnership project funded by English Nature and the Heritage Lottery Fund, "Tomorrow's Heathland Heritage", alongside Defence Estates, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and the Escrick Park Estate.
At Allerthorpe Common, the heathland has been quintupled to a 34 hectare site, and further thinning work is planned to maintain the habitat. Ling heather is regenerating across the site. At Strensall Common, 17 hectares of conifer crop have been removed at World's End, and sheep introduced to graze and create a natural restoration of the heathland area. Both sites have seen the return of the nightjar.
To the North of York, in the Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a local partnership of government agencies, local authorities and parishes have come together in the CANDO project (Cultural and Natural Development Opportunities). Under these auspices work is planned to restore vanished lowland heathland at Yearsley and Grimston Moor, and in the North York Moors National Park at Wass and Sproxton Moors.
More than 300 hectares of heathland restoration across East Anglia
In Breckland, 300 hectares of heathland has been recreated, ranging from acidic sands to rich calcareous swards that are botanically unique in the UK. The area has been recently designated a Special Protection Area (SPA) for populations of woodlark and nightjar that thrive in the forest mosaic of young plantation, clearfell, and open heathland. Stone curlew are also now using the sites. There are further plans to recreate another 30 hectares of heathland in Kings Forest, in the South of Thetford Forest.
In the Suffolk Sandlings, extensive work has taken place throughout the SPA to recreate the heathland and acid grassland habitats that form such an important part of the coastal scenery. The heathlands are dry subcontinental heaths, dominated by heathers and western gorse, and support species such as the Dartford Warbler, woodlark, nightjar, adder and stonechat. Work has now also begun at Dunwich forest, where the Forestry Commission is working with the RSPB, English Nature and the Suffolk Wildlife Trust to open up 130 hectares of open heathland, alongside wet woodland and forest to provide a unique habitat for local wildlife.
In North Norfolk too, a new area of wet and dry heathland has been created at Horsford Woods, which will be naturally maintained by local grazing.
200 hectares of heathland recreation within Sherwood Forest and the Lincolnshire Cover-sands
The Forestry Commission have worked on 2 main projects, alongside partners in The Sherwood Trust, Nottinghamshire County Council, Bassetlaw District Council, Newark & Sherwood District Council, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, Country Landowners Association, English Nature and the NFU:
Heathland throughout Sherwood Forest, which was formerly extensive in some parts, has been restored to create a dry mosaic of Ling and Bell heather with acid grassland and native birch-oak woodland.
Birklands historic landscapes has seen the restoration of lowland wood pasture in part of an historic Sherwood Forest remnant containing birch-oak woodland with veteran trees and lowland heathland.
Other projects include:
The Birklands and Bilhaugh SSSI Cattle Grazing Partnership, which has re-established large grazing livestock (Longhorn cattle) in the Sherwood landscape to sustainably manage open-canopied wood pasture. The project has been achieved through an informal partnership between the landowners (Thoresby Estates Management) and major occupiers (FC, Nottinghamshire County Council, Defence Estates East and Severn Trent Water, co-ordinated by English Nature).
Coversands Tomorrows Heathland Heritage project has delivered a Biodiversity Action Plan for the Coversands heathland, restoring and recreating lowland heathland. The Coversands heath includes windblown sandy deposits over clay which gives rise to a mosaic of dry heath (including inland sand dunes) and wet heath with fen. The work has been funded by HLF and Defra, working in conjunction with English Nature, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, North Lincolnshire Council, West Lindsey District Council, and Lincolnshire County Council.
The Alport Project is working to convert conifer plantation to upland heath/moorland edge habitat, acid grassland and new native woodland. Funded by the National Trust and the Forestry Commission, and in conjunction with partners including the National Trust, Severn Trent Water Ltd, English Nature and the Peak District National Park. An advisory group includes Parish Councils, local farmers, CPRE and specialist interests.
Wharncliffe Heath Nature Reserve (South Yorkshire) aims to restore heathland with sustainable grazing to a historically important site which lies on the upland/lowland divide. The project has been funded by the Forestry Commission and various external sources through the Wharncliffe Heath Trust.
Cromford Moor is undergoing restoration to create a heathland/woodland mosaic in the White Peak area of Derbyshire on the upland/lowland divide.
In Goyt Valley and Dark Peak (including part SSSI), moorland edge habitat is being restored with new native woodland. Management is in association with United Utilities and Severn Trent Water respectively, and the Peak District National Park.
If you want to talk to anybody about the projects listed above - or want any images of the schemes - please contact the Press Office on 01223 346 027.