Heathland in mid and south east Wales

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What is heathland?

Often we conjure up the idea of a heather covered moorland, glowing purple in August and September. You might imagine it buzzing with bees, butterflies and dragonflies, skylarks calling as they rise and fall, Peregrines and Merlin darting….and you’d be right. It’s the archetypal dry heath of many of our uplands in the UK.

Heathlands are wide open landscapes dominated by plants such as Heathers, Gorse and grasses. There are several types of heathland:

•    Montane which are the highest and most exposed
•    Upland and lowland dry heath
•    Upland and lowland wet heath
•    Heathland on bog

What they all have in common is their community of plants where heather is part of or the most dominant plant – growing on poor soils. There are two types of heather, Calluna vulgaris and Erica tetralix.

There are many other plants that you'll find in heathlands:

•    Dry heath typically will have bilberry (fantastic berries), gorse, lichens, and mosses.
•    Wet heath has cotton grass – beautiful swathes in summer - bobbing heads of white and bog moss – sphagnum in wetter patches.
•    Montane heaths include dwarf willow.

Blanket Bog isn't strictly heathland – it's classed as mire – but it does have a heather component in some localities. This depends on how the land's been managed.

Where do you find it?

The western side of the UK from Cornwall to the Outer Hebrides has heathland.  All the uplands in the UK have some component of heathland.  Much coastal and low lying ground with poor soil will also has it.  The UK holds the largest amount of heathland in Western Europe and the world.

You can find the different types of heathland at many National Trust places:

Dry Heath

  • Sugar Loaf
  • Skirrid
  • Central Beacons
  • Blaenglyn Farm
  • Abergwesyn Common

Wet Heath

  • Central Beacons
  • Blaenglyn Farm
  • Berthlwyd Farm

Blanket Bog

  • Abergwesyn Commons
  • Brecon Beacons

What’s special about Heathland

It's very much a habitat created and maintained by human activity. In the past, it was often burnt, grazed and cut. Gorse was used historically for winter fodder for stock, and fuel for bread ovens.

Heathland is still managed for Red Grouse – for shooting.  Many sites are changing, however, through reduced grazing, repeated wildfires, and the encroachment of trees and bracken.