New Forest lowland heathland

Horses grazing on the heathland in the New Forest

Lowland heathland is an internationally rare habitat, for which the New Forest is one of the main strongholds in Britain.

These habitats are in man-made landscapes, first opened up by ancient pastoral practices. They've been developed by local commoners throughout history and continue to require constant management.

Lowland heathland includes a wide range of habitats found within the New Forest, from bogs and mires to wet heath through to humid and dry heath. This undulating and varied landscape provides habitat for a vast array of rare and diverse wildlife.

The wildlife across the lowland heathlands of the New Forest is a stunning mix of flora and fauna, changing throughout the seasons, including an array of birds, reptiles, insects and plants, and there’s always something to see.

Heathland flora in the New Forest
Heathland flora in the New Forest, Hampshire
Heathland flora in the New Forest

The beautiful purple of the heather is best viewed in late August, and throughout the summer flowers such as orchids, bog asphodels and an array of heathland and acid grassland species flourish.

In the spring and summer our commons are home to rare ground nesting birds, such as woodlark, nightjar, curlew and lapwing. Our dartford warblers rely on our well managed gorse stands throughout the year, for breeding in the spring and shelter during the winter.

Nightjars migrate to the New Forest in summer
A nightjar perches on a branch in the New Forest, Hampshire
Nightjars migrate to the New Forest in summer

In April the heathlands are full of the sounds of calling woodlark in the day, and later on in the summer the churrs of nightjar at dusk.

In the colder months, birds of prey head south from their breeding grounds in the north of Britain to over-winter on lowland heaths. Hen harriers and merlin can be seen hunting across the plateaux, as well as peregrine falcons and migrant great grey shrikes.

Our heathlands are home to five of Britain's six native reptiles. Adders are a common sight across the spring and summer, basking under gorse bushes in the morning sunshine.

The heathlands are awash with butterflies, with green hairstreaks flittering about on the gorse bushes in May and silver studded blues on the heather in July.

Our bogs and pools sustain vast populations of breeding damselflies and dragonflies.