Thames Basin Heaths IPA

Location: Borders of Berkshire, Surrey and Hampshire, surrounding Camberley (Surrey) and Farnborough (Hampshire).

Grid Reference: SU 913 543

Open heathland has been part of the landscape of this area for thousands of years, during which time traditional grazing and gathering of brushwood and bracken maintained its wonderful patchwork of mini-habitats. The expanses of heather are broken up by deep valley bogs, isolated pines and patches of grassland, gorse and silver birch. Some areas are dotted with ponds, often fringed by mixed broad-leaved and pine woodlands.

Drainage and development for intensive agriculture, forestry, housing and roads have severely reduced the extent of the heathland, and many remnants have become invaded by scrub, so surviving examples of open heathland are important.

Plants you could see

In summer, sweeps of purple flowering heather and sweet scented gorse dominate the heathland. Several species of native orchids, such as the common and heath spotted, can be found around its verges. Other heathland plants you might see are broom, lousewort, common cow-wheat and cowberry.

The wet heaths are dominated by cross-leaved heath and bog moss with areas of bog myrtle. Still wetter areas contain typical bog plants including bog asphodel, round-leaved sundew, and deer grass. Areas of open water are often dominated by bog pondweed and some have large populations of the nationally scarce pillwort. The shallow, often exposed margins have a rich flora dominated by soft rush, compact rush, lesser spearwort and reedmace.

Nationally scarce plants occur here, including the needle spike rush, six stamened waterwort and small water-pepper. Springs and ditches, and valleys where drainage is impeded, support valley mire communities. Here, cross-leaved heath and bog mosses dominate, with other typical bog plants occurring, including common cottongrass, round-leaved sundew and the nationally scarce marsh clubmoss. The nationally scarce pale dog-violet is also found here.

Springtime: cuckooflower, coltsfoot, primrose, marsh-marigold

Summer: bog asphodel, lousewort, common spotted orchid, bell heather,

Autumn and winter: gorse, red dead-nettle

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