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To the north of the village is Hazeley Heath. It’s a 175ha area of partially wooded heathland, two thirds in Mattingley parish and one third in our parish - where it is owned by Hart DC.
Our section of Heath has seen many changes. It is common-land with usage ranging from a race course in the early 1800s, through gravel-digging in the late 1800s, municipal rubbish dump in the 1920s-60s, army training in World War II, to its leisure enjoyment today.
Heathland is special; the UK (and Hampshire in particular) holds much of the world’s lowland heath. Since 1979 Hazeley Heath has had statutory protection for its specialist vegetation as a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). In 2005 it also became part of the Thames Basin Heaths SPA (Special Protection Area) as a place receiving EU protection for its specialist birds – Nightjar, Woodlark and Dartford Warbler.
“The Heath” is worth visiting at any time of year. Winter gives a visitor a special atmosphere rather than wildlife interest (except for deer); one wonders how it is that such wilderness can still exist so close to the bustle of the rest of SE England. Spring and early summer brings the return of the breeding birds and some superb specialist flowers; one can look for Petty Whin, Sundew, Bog Asphodel and Heath Spotted Orchid as well as see Stonechats, Tree Pipits and try for the three SPA speciality birds. It’s in high summer through to autumn that butterflies are most obvious (look for Silver-studded Blues), and the areas of heather can be magnificent.
Go onto Hazeley Heath, and enjoy a unique part of the Parish.
Editorial and pictures courtesy of John Collman.