Lowland heath is an ancient, wild and fragile landscape. It was first created when early man cleared the forests around 5000 years ago, creating large open expanses of land. Heathland plants then started to grow on the exposed sandy soils, whilst the wetter areas became the shallow peaty soils of a wet heath habitat. Heathers, gorse and lichens are the most commonly found plants, interspersed with taller birch trees and bilberry bushes.
Reptiles such as the common lizard and adders thrive here. The common lizard can often be seen basking in sunny spots, and is a wonderful sight on a warm day's walk. Adders are easy to spot thanks to the dark or black zigzag stripe along its back. The adder is the only venomous snake native to Britain, but they are not aggressive animals and prefer to slip away quietly if disturbed.
Nightjars hunt for food at dusk and dawn. The best way of spotting them is to listen out for the male's churring song. Stonechats, which can often be seen sitting on lookout posts of tall scrub, get their name from their sharp loud call that sound like two stones being tapped together. Other birds to look out for are the parrot-like yellowhammer, and the tiny brown-streaked tree pipit.
In the sandy tracks you may see the tiny burrows of solitary wasps or green tiger beetles. In July and August you will hear and see a variety of bees feeding of the heather nectar, including the heather bee (Bombus jonellus) - entirely reliant on this habitat.
If you spot unusual spider webs amongst the gorse and heather they probably belong to some of the orb weaving and funnel web spiders found across the heath.
Tranquil river valley
The river Rother valley runs through the southern end of the estate. A wonderful mix of lush riverside greenery and ancient woodland, it twists and loops its way through ancient pasture, punctuated by old oaks.
Footpaths can be followed along the river either side of Woolbeding Bridge, or there are plenty of paths through this beautiful landscape that can be followed and explored.
Grazing is key to maintaining open and species rich landscapes. It creates a rich diversity of wildlife with its mosaic of habitats, supporting everything in the web of life, both common and rare.
We use traditional native breeds that have been unchanged by the demands of modern agriculture. They graze back spreading scrub and thrive on poor ground where the only fertiliser is dung.
This beautiful breed, black with a white belt, is very hardy, with a thick undercoat and long wavy overcoat which helps shed rain. They are gentle and placid, and their extensive grazing helps reduce invasive scrub and bracken.
This breed, native to the Lake District, is happy to live outdoors all year round. Their distinctive grey fleece is extra waterproof and protects them from extreme cold. Their grazing helps maintain the beautiful open habitats.
This handsome rich chestnut-coloured breed was formerly used as a draft animal. It does well on rough grazing but only lightly grazes scrub. It is a very docile breed which makes it ideal for well-visited spots.
The pigs weaken the invasive bracken found on heathland sites by digging and rooting down into it. The pigs graze different areas of the heath throughout the year, are very friendly and enjoy a good scratch.