Lightwater Country Park has achieved the highest rating from Natural England for the condition of its ecologically important habitat.
The area of heathland within the Country Park has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The Country Park is therefore an area of high nature conservation value, protected by law.
In the most recent assessment by public body Natural England (NE), the habitat management of Lightwater Country Park by Surrey Heath Borough Council has been praised.
The report, following NE’s visit in August 2017, said: “The diversity and quality of habitat management actions being undertaken is excellent, and is maintaining and enhancing the heath land habitat.
“It is a result of this diligent stewardship of the Country Park/SSSI site that habitat conditions have improved to bring the site into favourable condition and this is to the credit of Surrey Heath Borough Council.”
The ‘strategic and sensitive signage”, active visitor management, use of goats to control invasive trees and scrub, and abundance of heathland birds such as the Dartford warbler are all commended in the report.
Lightwater Country Park is situated on the edge of Lightwater Village and extends to 59 hectares. Its new rating is an improvement on its previous condition of ‘Unfavourable recovering’ when last assessed in 2010.
NE also recently assessed nearby Turf Hill in Lightwater, another SSSI area of open heathland and pine woodland.
The efforts of SHBC Greenspace teams were again praised in the report, which noted: “The habitats at Turf Hill remain of very high nature conservation value, largely due to the ongoing management and stewardship of the site by Surrey Heath Borough Council.
“The diversity of habitat management actions currently being undertaken is appropriate, and if effort is maintained (and in some cases increased) will move the unit towards favourable condition.”
Its condition remains as ‘Unfavourable recovering’, as in its previous assessment in 2010, partly due to the ongoing presence of the non-native species Gaultheria in the area.
Under the NE system, both of these sites are part of the ‘Colony Bog and Bagshot Heath SSSI’ area.
Surrey Heath Portfolio Holder for Business Cllr Craig Fennell said: “We are committed to proactively managing our beautiful greenspaces in Surrey Heath, and are pleased to see that this work has been noted by Natural England.
“I’d like to thank all our Greenspace rangers for their hard work. It is ongoing, and we will continue to help protect these ecologically important sites for future generations.”
Lightwater Country Park extends to 59 hectares, and is predominately heathland habitat, but also features ponds, woodland, meadows and areas of scrub.
These habitats offer the opportunity to observe a wide variety of wildlife, birds, mammals, plants and insects.
The period from October to February is conservation season. During this time our Greenspace Rangers run weekly conservation tasks, usually on Thursdays.
The priority for these task days will be clearance of invading scrub and pine from the heathland areas, along with additional one-off projects.
If you are interested in wildlife or just enjoy fresh air and exercise and have some spare time, why not come along and help this vital conservation work?
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01276 707100 for more information.