Plants & animals

Flowering plants


Sweet smelling yellow gorse © Philipp Heckmann-Umhau

Ling, bell heather and yellow gorse dominate the heathland. In the spring the air is filled with the sweet, coconut scent of the gorse.

Chalk downland

Orchids thrive on the chalk downland © Rob Hewer

More than 20 different plant species can grow in a square metre on the downland. You can find potentillas, rock rose, wild thyme, and orchids such as the common-spotted orchid.


Hallucinogenic with nasty side-effects fungi

Autumn is the time to see our fungi and more than 60 species have been found at Headley. Remember that some fungi are poisonous and it’s best to look and not touch.


White admirals drift near our woodland © Matthew Oates (NT)

White admirals drift near our woodland

From big to small you can spot over 25 different butterfly species here - white admiral, purple emperor and purple hairstreak in our woodland; small copper and gatekeeper on our heathland; silver-spotted skipper, brown argus and green hairstreak on our downland and many, many more...

More insects...

Dragonflies hover over our ponds in the summer © National Trust

Dragonflies hover over our ponds in the summer

Dragonflies and damselflies hover over our ponds and on the heath there are bees in the warmer weather. Visit on a summer’s evening in late June and you can see our spectacular glow worms below the Pyramids.


Bank voles live secretly on Headley © Sarah Bradford

Many mammals live secretly on Headley and at quieter times you may be able to spot roe deer and badgers near the wooded slopes. There are also small mammals like shrews, voles and wood mice.

Reptiles and amphibians

Lizards bask in the warm sunshine on the heath © NTPL/Ross Hoddinott

Reptiles and amphibians live on the heath and in and around our ponds. Adders, grass snakes, slow-worms, lizards, frogs, toads and smooth, palmate and great-crested newts.

A meadow pipit, one of our tuneful birds © NTPL/Ross Hoddinott

A meadow pipit, one of our tuneful birds


Throughout the spring and summer, the heathland is alive with the songs of birds like stonechats, linnets, meadow pipits and woodlarks. Nightjars have been seen or heard too.

Our woods are also home to many well known British woodland birds.