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Heath Week 2019 ran from Sunday 28th July until Saturday 3rd August. Whether you were looking for free activities to entertain the kids, or a chance to get out and try something new, we had lots on offer across the heaths of Surrey, Hampshire & Berkshire. The heaths of the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area are a fantastic resource for recreation and home to an amazing array of very special wildlife too. It was our pleasure during Heath Week to share these amazing places with you and to join you in discovering what makes them so very special.
For those that missed it, here’s the story of a fantastic Heath Week 2019…
A week of activities for all the family! Bringing you the very best of the heaths across Surrey, Hampshire & Berkshire, the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area and beyond.
The RSPB kicked off the week with their Big Wild Sleepout at Farnham Heath. What a great family get together!
The second event was a botany walk organised by Warden Flo. What better way to get Heath Week 2019 underway than a look at the heather creating a purple paradise across Surrey, Hampshire & Berkshire! This is common heather, or ling, seen at Sheets Heath on Sunday on a walk called ‘Brilliant Botany’. It’s this heather that creates the swathes of purple on the heaths.
This type of heather is called cross-leaved heath, you’ll find it in damper areas. Take a close look at the arrangement of leaves and you’ll see where it gets its name.
Warden Flo looked at three types of heather on her “Brilliant Botany” walk at Sheets Heath on Sunday. This one’s the most vivid pink, it’s called bell heather and is found in drier areas.
Did you know we have insect-eating plants on the heaths? This is a sundew, a carnivorous plant seen on Flo’s walk at Sheets Heath on Sunday.
Warden Jamie’s favourite smell is grass snake! He was very pleased to see, and probably smell, this one at Englemere Pond during his nature walk on Monday. Grass snakes are completely harmless, but best only handled by trained professionals like Jamie.
Next came “Butterflies & Other Things with Wings” with the wardens at Chobham Common. We were all set for butterfly-themed crafts and guided walks to look for grayling butterflies.
Heathlands are very special places and the grayling is a very special butterfly. It’s rare nowadays, but if you have eagle-eyes, you can spot them on sandy paths on the heaths.
You need eagle-eyes because they are so well camouflaged! But with your help, we were able to spot some. How many can you spot in this picture?
This grayling butterfly sat right on this little girl’s hat!
Yet another grayling! Who said they were hard to spot?
Warden Mike, who some of you may know from our social media feeds, is looking at bristle bent grass, the food plant of the grayling butterfly caterpillar.
Taking a closer look at a butterfly at “Butterflies & Other Things with Wings” at Chobham Common.
Taking a closer look at a butterfly at “Butterflies & Other Things with Wings” at Chobham Common with Education Officer Michael.
Badge making was a great hit at “Butterflies & Other Things with Wings” at Chobham Common on Monday.
With lots of beautiful badges made!
Come to one of our craft days and you could make one too 🙂
Such spectacular weather on Monday to go with the spectacular artwork!
What happened to summer!? We weren’t so lucky with the weather on Tuesday! Here’s Warden Rupert checking on the cattle ready for ‘Herd on the Heath’. Unfortunately we had to cancel three events, including one of our ever popular nightjar walks. Look out for more of these next year. June is the best month to see this elusive, but absolutely fascinating bird, that comes all the way from Africa to nest on the heaths.
Fortunately the K9 Fire Patrol weren’t the only ones braving the weather at Horsell Common on Tuesday.
K9 Fire Patrol dog Nellie at the site of a recent fire on Horsell Common. Why not join our squad and help us prevent fires? To find out more, email us at email@example.com.
Thank you to everyone who came to talk to us about the patrol. It’s great that so many people are interested in helping prevent fires. Regular dog walkers can help just by doing their normal walks. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Entomologist Andrew Halstead entertained on Tuesday evening with tales of wonderfully named heathland insects such as the pantaloon bee, the box-headed blood bee and the hieroglyphic ladybird!
35 species of moth came to the light trap we set at Heather Farm after Andrew’s talk on Tuesday evening…and that wasn’t even the best weather for attracting moths. Moths are amazingly diverse!
On Wednesday, Andrew Halstead, entomologist extraordinaire took us to see the wolves of Horsell Common! The famous sandpit, notorious as the site of a Martian invasion in H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds, is now home to 1000s of wolves! The shallow bowl of the sandpit makes it a very special habitat for these and other amazing creatures.
Here’s one of them! A bee wolf! A fascinating solitary wasp that preys on bees. Heathlands are home to 100s of species of incredible insects, each with its own story!
On Wednesday we also teamed up with ARC, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, to bring you a reptile roadshow with live animals, free crafts and even a local vet to allay your fears about adders.
Everyone enjoyed meeting the reptiles and amphibians. What a great opportunity to see and even handle such interesting creatures!
Including this silky slow worm.
What a whopper!
There were more colourful specimens observed too!
The reptiles made by Warden Jo’s craft team were just as impressive. Did you make this one yourself Warden Jamie?
Our crafty visitors took many beautiful reptile creations home as souvenirs of a great visit to Ockham Common.
As many of the lovely people our wardens speak to are dog owners, we thought…wouldn’t it be great to do something for them during Heath Week! So Heathland Hounds were down at Caesar’s Camp on Thursday with doggy goodies to give away and doggy chat. And for anyone interested in free advice, we had professional dog behaviourist Natalie Light with us.
Natalie, looking very colourful, a keen conservationist, has a wealth of practical training tips and ideas for keeping walks interesting.
Spot the conehead cricket! Jut one of the great finds at Esher Common with Elmbridge Borough Council on Thursday afternoon.
Thursday evening with Surrey Wildlife Trust at Ockham Common was a treat. Our Education Officer Michael led a twilight walk to introduce some of you to his favourite bird, the nightjar. These mythical creatures nest on the heaths of Surrey, Hampshire & Berkshire.
Nightjars in flight are always a crowd-pleaser!
If you’ve never seen a nightjar while out on the heaths, it’s not surprising! They are beautifully camouflaged, sit motionless during the day, and are only active when it’s dark!
Early birds on Friday at Wildmoor Heath were rewarded. The overnight light trap had attracted moths of all shapes and sizes!
Thank you to BBOWT, the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust for organising this super event.
On Friday we were with the Hampshire Countryside team at Yateley Common with a bee, butterfly and bug-themed nature day!
Our butterfly craft activities went down a storm!
With loads of you making these fantastic winged creatures to take home with you! Thanks for coming!
The creations were terrific!
Saturday brought an opportunity to get up close to a fire engine!
Also an opportunity to hear about the work of the Ministry of Defence. Around 50% of the Special Protection Area is used for military training, and lots of you had questions about access, parking, dog walking and training.
We work very closely with the DIO, Defence Infrastructure Organisation, who coordinate military training across the area. Many thanks to the DIO for accompanying us on two guided walks at Caesar’s Camp on Saturday.
We’re very lucky to have rare birds like the nightjar, that come all the way from Africa to nest on the heaths. The children who came to see us at Lightwater on Saturday could colour one in!
Stone-painting, as well as colouring, is always popular at our free craft pitstops. We run them all year too. Visit our ‘What’s On’ page for all the latest!
So that was that! A fantastic week of fun across the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area and beyond. We’d like to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who came! Hope to see you next year!