Off the Beaten Track – Headley Heath
Headley Heath is 500 acres of woodland and moorland set in the Surrey Hills, a range of hills that form part of the North Downs. Given its proximity to London and Sutton, it is quite a surprise that this part of the North Downs retains its open countryside nature and its unspoilt charm.
It’s an area that I know well and somewhere I used to visit a lot when I lived in nearby Sutton. My wife and I used to come here a lot with the children to see the beautiful beech woods and to wander across the heath looking at all the amazing wildlife that Headley Heath has to offer.
When I was at school in Dulwich (the comprehensive not the College), we use to travel from Dulwich to Ewell on a coach to get to the municipal playing fields and once, when the bus broke down, we got to sit on the side of the Dorking Road not far from Headley Heath and I was amazed to find that the grassland alongside the main road was full of wild orchids and lizards and grass snakes. For me as boy who loved nature it was a touch of paradise. They have all long gone unfortunately, a victim of the “tidiness” that local councils adopted in the 20th century and housing developments on what was once open heathland. However wild orchids, lizards and snakes can still be found in good numbers on Headley Heath.
The Heath is now owned and protected from development by the National Trust and is home to a very large range of rare and unusual animals and plants.The whole area has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is an amazing place to visit.
Originally grazed by sheep and an area of extensive heather moorland, this area of the Downs was allowed to revert back to scrub and woodland when the sheep grazing ended in the 1940’s. Fortunately, enough remained to preserve its wildlife and it is now carefully managed to preserve the best of the woodland and to allow the heather to flourish.
For more information about Headly Heath click here