16th European Heathlands Workshop 2019 EXCURSIONS

You can now download the full Excursion Guide booklet. Please note, this is a large file of around 58mb and will take some time to download:


Map showing the Dorset Heaths, The New Forest, and teh East Devon Pebblebed Heaths excursions areas featured in the 16th European Heathlands Workshop 2019

The conference will include visits to a range of heathland sites in southern England, including the New Forest, the Dorset Heaths and the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths. All are part of the Natura 2000 network. The full programme and itineraries are is yet to be finalised. Delegates will be provided with an excursion guide setting out the background and context to each of the sites visited as part of the conference pack.

New Forest

An image of a New Forest pony illustrating one of the excursions in the 16th European Heathlands Workshop 2019

The New Forest is the largest area of lowland heathland in the UK and is unusual for the long history of grazing in a traditional fashion by ponies and cattle. This has been retained, largely undisturbed by agriculture, because of its designation as a medieval royal hunting forest, the survival of grazing as part of a pastoral tradition, ancient Forest Law and more recent conservation policies. It is unique in scale and for the mixtures of habitats present.

Spanning a total of 30,000ha, the New Forest Natura 2000 site encompasses heathland, grassland, woodland, wetland and aquatic habitats with a range of transitions between them. The outstanding wildlife interest includes a number of species which occur no-where else in the UK, such as Wild Gladiolus. The New Forest is a national park with over 13 million annual visits.

Themes for discussion at the site visits will include: habitat restoration and management, land use change from forestry to open habitats, management of public access within the National Park, including conflict between traffic and livestock. We will learn about the unique governance of the common rights by the Verderers, an organisation with medieval roots still loyal to its traditions.

Dorset Heaths

An image from the Dorset Heaths illustrating one of the excursions in the 16th European Heathlands Workshop 2019

The Dorset Heaths span around 6000ha, fragmented into around 40 individual sites, most of which include transitions between dry and wet heathland, mires and other habitats such as woodland, grassland and saltmarsh. Site visits will focus around the Poole Basin, visiting the iconic Purbeck Heaths as well as the more urban fragments within the conurbation of Poole and Bournemouth.

Historically there were extensive blocks of heathland (the Egdon Heath of Thomas Hardy’s novels) separated by river valleys and also by the two natural harbours of Poole and Christchurch. Today the area contains some of the best lowland heath left in England, much of it managed as nature reserves by a variety of organisations. Specialised species include ladybird spider, Purbeck mason wasp and Dorset heath.

The larger tracts, along with the often adjacent conifer plantations, can still provide a real sense of wilderness and tranquillity, despite the close proximity of a major conurbation. In recent decades substantial work has been undertaken to both improve the condition of the habitat on these sites and to extend some of them back onto former heathland sites that had temporarily seen other uses. This work continues with the objective of physically connecting some of the bigger heathland blocks.

The conservation of such fragmented and threatened heathland sites includes dealing with increasing public access, wildfires and the protection of many threaten species in suboptimal conditions.


An image of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths illustrating an optional excursion on the 16th European Heathlands Workshop 2019

The East Devon Pebblebed Heaths area the largest block of heathland in Devon, lying just to the south-east of Exeter and above the Exe Estuary. They are on infertile, acidic soils and are significant for the range of heathland communities including valley mires.

They support important populations of birds and dragonflies include the Southern Damselfly. The area also has a rich archaeological interest, and is nationally important for relict prehistoric landscapes and features. The heaths comprise a number of adjacent Commons (over 1000ha in total) the core area of which is owned by a single landowner, the Clinton Devon Estates.

The Pebblebeds extension to the conference will provide the opportunity for site visits to heaths with a very different topography and a range of management issues.

This excursion is an extension to the main workshop and will cost an additional approximate £150 depending on number of attendees. Please click here by 15th Dec to register a provisional interest


To find out when these excursions will be taking place, see the programme page.