Wildlife to wonder at on Leith Hill

Leith Hill is home to some spectacular wildlife and diverse habitats. No matter what time of year you are here, there is always plenty to see.

Spring flowers and summer butterflies

The woodland at Leith Hill is awash with primroses and bluebells every spring. We coppice the hazel trees here which allows the herbaceous plant layer to thrive once the wood is cut, allowing spring flowers to flourish in increased sunlight.

In wooded glades we often see an abundance of butterflies, from commas to silver-washed fritillaries. Look out for their bright orange colours in the summer months.

Purple Emperors and white Admirals also make their home in our woodland. For the best chance to see these butterflies, visit Etherley Copse in the height of summer and keep an eye on the tree canopy for these beautiful gliding butterflies.

Hazel coppicing on the Leith Hill Estate

The woods around Leith Hill Place, which once formed part of the historic estate, are worked by a local hurdle maker. He uses hazel coppice to make the most beautiful and sustainable hazel hurdles.

Managing the woodland in this way also creates homes for one of our rarest small mammals, the hazel dormouse. On Leith Hill we have a good population of dormice because of good woodland management and connectivity. Dormice are arboreal and nocturnal, meaning that they live their lives in the tree canopy in the dark. The only time they come to the ground is usually in the winter months to hibernate.

Birds of prey soaring high

Wherever you are on Leith Hill, look out for birds of prey. Buzzards and red kites are often seen high in the sky. Goshawks are also thought to breed in the woods on the hill, but they are very secretive birds so spotting one is particularly difficult.

Read more about the bird watching highlights of 2019 at Leith Hill

Heathland habitats to support ground-nesting birds

The heathland on Duke’s Warren is home to some very special wildlife. The open, scrubby habitat is perfect for ground-nesting birds such as the nightjar and woodlark. Nightjars make a distinctive churring sound and their flight is like no other bird, with irregular wing beats and a long gliding flight. They arrive on the heath, usually in April and normally leave us in August once they have reared their young.

In order to continue to manage our heathland for these special birds we work hard to keep the heathland open; removing birch and Scots pine which would eventually cause the area to revert to woodland. We also create scrapes or areas of bare ground, which provide good habitat for a number of invertebrates as well as the woodlark which can often be seen foraging for insects on these scrapes. 

Winter on the hill

Winter is a great time for tracking mammals. Roe deer and badgers have made Leith Hill their home: look out for their distinctive tracks in muddy sections on footpaths. It’s also a wonderful time to admire the spectacular views on the hill; one of the most fantastic views is along the orange trail walk, just in front of Leith Hill Place. In the winter months, when the trees are bare, the view is more expansive than usual. On a clear day you can see all the way over the Weald to the South Downs.

How you can help us to look after Leith Hill

Leith Hill is a spectacular place to visit and a wonderful place to stop and appreciate our native wildlife. Please use the site in a way that respects nature; take your litter home and please don’t light fires. When out walking please try to stick to our way-marked routes and paths. Please keep your dog on a lead on Duke’s Warren in the summer months and always pick up their mess. There are signs on all of the gates to indicate the area in question and you can also pick up a dog walkers guide from one of our noticeboards.