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Surrey Wildlife Trust and BBC TV’s Countryfile Celebrate County’s Heathland

Published on: 27 Jul, 2020
Updated on: 28 Jul, 2020

BBC TV’s Countryfile presenters Matt Baker and Margherita Taylor are this week joining Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) in celebrating the county’s rare and precious heathlands.

BBC TV’s Countryside presenter Matt Baker, with Surrey Wildlife Trust’s Jo Saunders and some of its team. Picture: Surrey Wildlife Trust.

Virtual guided walks, talks and heathland inspired activities will also take place on the SWT’s social media channels all this week (July 27 to August 2), to celebrate Heath Week 2020.

And on Sunday, August 2, Countryfile on BBC 1 at 7pm will present a heathland special featuring Wisley and Ockham Common.

Sand lizard. Picture by Mike Waite, courtesy of Surrey Wildlife Trust.

Surrey Wildlife Trust reports that filming took place a week ago at Wisley, with TV presenter Margherita Taylor making an early start with Ralph Connolly, from the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, to discover the UK’s rarest reptile, the elusive sand lizard.

She also had a sneak preview of the newly refurbished Semaphore Tower at Chatley Heath.

Nightjar with chick. Picture: Surrey Wildlife Trust.

Presenter Matt Baker experienced the excitement of a night photographic shoot with Ben Habgood, conservation manager at SWT, glimpsing the nocturnal nightjar and listening to its beguiling churring.

Charlotte Magowan, marketing and communications manager at SWT, said: ‘We are so incredibly lucky in Surrey to have rare fragments of lowland heath, which is teeming with wildlife at this time of year.

“We couldn’t run our usual Heath Week this year, so we have gone all out to show people the wildlife treasures of this globally rare habitat online: the ravishing pink and purple heather, carnivorous sundew, rare reptiles and the amazing ground nesting birds.

“We were absolutely buzzing to be able to share our conservation work and the weird and wonderful heathland wildlife with Countryfile.

“We are so blessed as the nightjar migrates an incredible 6,000 miles annually from sub-Saharan Africa to reach its breeding grounds right here on our Surrey heaths.

“Both online and TV audiences are in for such a treat, and we hope they will be inspired to visit Chobham, Whitmoor, Wisley and Ockham Commons, Brentmoor or any other Surrey heaths after their sneak preview!”

Belted Galloway cattle. Picture Surrey Wildlife Trust.

Jo Saunders, conservation grazing manager at SWT spent an afternoon with Matt Baker at Wisley Common and the herd of belted Galloway cattle.

Jo explained the important heathland conservation work carried out by the herd and how the SWT locates the cows using GPS technology, while Matt did a health check on the cattle and learned about the insect ecosystem of a cow pat.

The heathlands in July and August are a truly sensory experience, with the lovely sweet smell of heather and pine warmed by the sun.

SWT has teamed up with Natural England’s Thames Basin Heaths Partnership to provide a virtual Heath Week schedule which will include guided tours of many of Surrey’s heathlands and its flora and fauna, as the blue skies bring out the vibrancy of the pink and purple heather and beautiful sundews.

Heathlands are abundant with insects at this time, so there will be also be spider and dragonfly guides as well as spotlights on species such as nightjars and adders.

SWT’s annual Heath Week event is designed to encourage local people to explore and appreciate the county’s vast wilderness of heathland, which spans areas between Farnham and Godalming in the south of the county to Woking and Camberley, Chobham and Cobham in the north.  One of the most ancient and characteristic British landscapes, it has special conservation protection internationally, is home to an incredible diversity of wildlife and provides a living link to our stone age past.

For further information about Virtual Heath Week 2020 visit, and   social media@surreywt #heathweek

Story based on a press release from Surrey Wildlife Trust.

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Responses to Surrey Wildlife Trust and BBC TV’s Countryfile Celebrate County’s Heathland

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    July 27, 2020 at 2:40 pm

    Given the presence of these rare and endangered species, it is more than unfortunate that our council is determined to destroy them with their inclusion of Wisley in their blighted Local Plan. 3,000 homes on this site will surely wipe them out. They could fix this if they were to honour the Lib Dem’s promised review of the plan.

    But then I guess they are too busy “decolonising” museums.

  2. Gordon Bridger Reply

    July 29, 2020 at 10:11 am

    I am delighted to hear about this success story that BBC will be publicising and which SWT trust is encouraging people to visit the commons it manages.

    However, they will be stunned to know that Guildford Borough Council is taxing almost all new housing some £6k to provide Special Alternative Green Spaces (SANGs) to attract visitors away from these two commons as they claim that “local visitors’ recreational habits” are a danger to wildlife”. Admittedly the most recent NE survey(2019) of the three endangered species showed there were only 10 Dartford Warbler nests – 10 nightjar nests and no woodlark nests. These very low numbers have been due, according to GBC staff, to a very cold spell some years ago.

    Nevertheless, for the next 125 years, almost all new houses will be taxed to encourage visitors not to go to these commons and anything between £56 million and £83 million will have been raised by 2035 if the borough council housing target of 14,600 houses is met.

    I have not made up this Lewis Carroll story. Plenty of people will watch this programme and ask themselves why so much money is being used for this purpose, money which could be used for affordable housing.

    We should all ask our councillors why they are supporting such a crazy policy.

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