Much of England's lowland heathland has disappeared over the past century. However, the greensand soils in the Surrey Hills are excellent examples of heathland. The thin soils may be low in nutrients, but it warms up quickly and it supports heather and gorse which are important food plants for many bees and butterflies.
How to identify the habitat. This is the classic landscape of the Greensand hills in Surrey. Look for dry sandy or wet peaty soils covered with grasses and low-growing shrubs such as heather, gorse and bilberries plus trees such as birch and willow. There may be bare patches and areas of moss. Nowadays this habitat is rare and under constant threat of colonisation by birch and bracken. Indeed much of England’s heathland has disappeared in the last century. Apart from butterflies, bees and other insects and reptiles, this habitat is also important for migrant birds such as Dartford warbler and the nightjar. The sight of slopes covered with flowering heather in late summer is stunning.
What sort of butterflies can you discover? The warm dry soil and heather attracts butterflies such green hairstreak, small copper, silver-studded blue, grayling and small heath. The silver-studded blue and the small heath are very much heathland specialists.