Lowland Heathland

Habitat Description

Lowland heath occurs below 300m altitude on nutrient poor, free draining acid soils where rainfall is below average. Vegetation is characterised by heather, dwarf gorses and cross-leaved heath, and often occurs in a mosaic with acid grassland, wet bogs and scrub. In Northamptonshire it includes the following NVC communities:

H1 Calluna vulgaris - Festuca ovina (heather sheep's fescue) heath.

  NVC community H1 is currently found only at Harlestone Firs/Darlaston Firs. There may be limited opportunities for some lowland heathland creation alongside acid grassland sites in the Daventry area but suitable soils in Northamptonshire are extremely limited in extent. Heather (Calluna vulgaris) occurs on Church Brampton golf course (part LWS), Charwelton disused railway (LWS), Borough Hill Field (LWS/Country Park), Coleready Plantation (LWS), Bedford Purlieus (SSSI), Lings (NNR).

In order to be sustainable heathland patches need to be at least 30 ha. This should be the ultimate target for the only remaining area of heathland in Northamptonshire at Harlestone Firs.

Current UK Status and Trends

In England only one sixth of the heathland present in 1800 now remains. The UK has some 58,000 ha of lowland heathland of which 55% is found in England.

Estimated Current Northants Resource

3 ha at Harlestone Firs, and small patches of heather at approximately 6 other locations.

Progress Towards BAP Targets 2002-2007

Maintenance of Harlestone Firs Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve.

Lead Partner

The Wildlife Trust

Main Issues and Threats

  • Encroachment of trees and scrub and the simplification of vegetation structure due to a lack of conservation management such as light grazing, controlled burning and cutting.
  • Nutrient enrichment, particularly deposition of nitrogen compounds emitted from intensive livestock farming, or from other sources.
  • Fragmentation developments such as housing and road constructions.
  • Disturbance and predation on ground nesting birds, reptiles and other fauna from human activity and cats and dogs.
  • Over-frequent burning by arsonists.

General Strategy

  • Remnant heathland in Northamptonshire is limited to the Harlestone/Dallington Heaths, NW of Northampton. Some areas of heathland have not been planted over on the Northamptonshire County Golf Course, and patches of heathland survive among the conifer plantation of Harlestone Firs, both on the rides and emerging after blocks have been clear-felled. The strategy is to extend and link these remnant patches of habitat.
  • Promote heathland formation adjacent to small patches of heather on Local Wildlife Sites and Nature Reserves.

 Associated National Priority Species

  • European nightjar
  • Heath rustic (moth)
  • Neglected rustic (moth)
  • Pale eggar (moth)
  • Small heath (butterfly)

Specific Management Required for Associated Species


Northamptonshire Status

Management Prescriptions

Key Sites

European nightjar


Heathland and clear fell plantation.

Salcey Forest


Target Code

Target Type

Target Description

Target Units

Northants Baseline Resource



Unit Cost £

Total Cost £


Maintain Extent

Maintain the current extent of at least LWS-standard Lowland Heathland.



No Loss






Increase the extent of Lowland Heathland by creating 10 ha of LWS standard adjacent to existing heathland by 2015.





350/ha + 450/ha/yr

3,500 initial + 4,500/yr


Action Code

Action Description

Lead Partner

Support Partner(s)

Related Target


Maintain the condition of Harlestone Heath Nature Reserve by scrub clearance and grazing.

The Wildlife Trust



Establish a minimum of 10 ha of heathland at Harlestone Firs by ride widening and tree felling by 2015.

The Wildlife Trust

Natural England



Create 5 ha of heathland by 2015 by encouraging landowners to manage existing patches of land with heathland indicators to promote expansion of heathland.

Northamptonshire Biodiversity Partnership

Northants County Council (Borough Hill), The Wildlife Trust (Lings)