Fringe Box



Whitmoor Common Recognised For Highest Standard Of Heathland Management

Published on: 2 Feb, 2019
Updated on: 6 Feb, 2019

Surrey Wildlife Trust’s (SWT) management of Whitmoor Common in Worplesdon, the largest area of open heathland in the Guildford area, has been awarded the highest standard for heathland management by Natural England.

Dartford warbler on Whitmoor Common. Picture by The Guildford Dragon NEWS’ wildlife correspondent Malcolm Fincham.

The Dartford warbler, an indicator species for biodiversity, and the window-winged caddis fly, are just two species to benefit from the rare lowland heathland which is now in favourable condition.

SWT reports that its management at Whitmoor Common has improved the ecology of three quarters of the 183 hectare reserve. Landscape scale scrub clearance by contractors in winter, cattle grazing, the trust’s volunteer work, specialist conservation work and support from the Whitmoor Common Association have all contributed to the ecological improvements.

Katy Fielding, Surrey Wildlife Trust liaison officer at Whitmoor Common, said: “Lowland heathland is rarer than rainforest and Britain holds 20% of this resource in Europe, so we have a real responsibility to look after it.

“Our hard work building up the mosaic of habitats and micro habitats, together with the diversity in age and structure of gorse, heather and woodlands is creating the optimum conditions for wildlife.”

SWT says that the Dartford warbler needs different age heather and gorse for survival in winter for overnighting, nesting, sheltering and feeding. For example, the canopy of cobwebs over gorse filled with spiders provides food. The younger, bushier, dome-shaped gorse is vital for shelter if it snows, as the difference in temperature could be as much as 10 degrees under the snow topped covering. This can be the difference between life and death for these birds.

Whitmoor Common, Worplesdon, is one of the open spaces managed by Surrey Wildlife Trust on behalf of Surrey County Council.

Katy added: “The quality of the habitat will determine survival rates. The Dartford warbler got hit hard last winter and many would have perished because it was so wet and cold, followed by a sustained snowy period.

“The bird is a UK resident; it doesn’t migrate, so it’s very vulnerable to the cold. Places such as Whitmoor with well managed habitat will help increase their survival rate and hopefully the breeding pairs here will increase numbers too”

The Species Protection Trust also confirmed last year was a good year for the rare window-winged caddis fly, which was breeding in small pools across Whitmoor. The hydrology is important to the site as there is a gentle flow of water to the common, which is fed by the topography of the area from the Hog’s Back.

The Whitmoor Common Association includes residents who live on and around the common. SWT says the do a lot of scrub clearance and fundraising and recently raised £3,000 towards resurfacing and raising the summer ride bridleway, a well-used path linking the Jolly Farmer pub and Salt Box Road.

Popular with dog walkers, horse riders and families, Whitmoor Common needs constant management, especially for scrub clearance. However, SWT says the reserve is improving every year helped by the belted Galloway cattle grazing in the spring.

View of Whitmoor Common. Picture: Surrey Wildlife Trust.

It adds that cattle grazing is important for structural diversity in the grasses on Whitmoor, such as molinia, a deciduous grass that is green in the summer and goes brown in the winter. If it is not grazed it becomes thatch and suppresses opportunities for other plants and invertebrates. Grazing cattle when the grasses are growing and flushing provides ecological opportunities for invertebrates and plants which may otherwise be outcompeted.

For further information about Whitmoor Common and other reserves visit

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