H1: Dry Heath

Habitat Class: 

Dry heath typically occurs on higher levels of fertile acid sands and gravels that drain freely with the falling rain water passing quickly through the soil to the peat layer below and down towards wet heath and eventually valley mire and bog. Being such difficult conditions for plants to grow dry heathland is dominated by specialist plants such as heather and gorse. Open dry heath is dependant on some form of intervention management in the form of grazing, burning or clearing to stop regeneration by scrub and eventually tree species such as birch and Scots pine.  

There are various types of dry heath but analysis of these is rather for the experts and I choose to pit them all into one heading but as you visit various areas of heath you start to notice that, contrary to popular belief, heathland habitat is, indeed, quite variable in subtle ways. For example, north of Poole the dominant heather is ling whereas south of Poole it is the deeper purple of bell heather than is dominant. Again, to the north of Poole there is quite a lot of western gorse whereas to the south European gorse  is more common. The dwarf gorse is more widespread to the north of Poole although is frequent to the south.

Within any dry heath areas there are going to be variations as well where, for example, worn paths expose the sand below. his is where some of reptiles thrive along with ground nesting bees, wasps and beetles. Gorse scrub can establish in some areas, a home for Dartford warblers, and elsewhere scattered birch and Scots pine may become established which are beneficial to woodlark, tree pipit and nightjar.

Lowland dry heath is an internationally endangered habitat but, thankfully, although much has been lost in the last fifty years or so, there is still a good amount left in Dorset.

 Under the Phase 1 habitat survey classification system dry dwarf shrub heath is coded as D1 and is described as follow:

"Vegetation with greater than 25% cover of encoids or small gorse species in relatively dry situations. Calluna vulgaris (ling). Vaccinium myrtillus (bilberry), Erica cineraria (bell heather), Ulex minor (dwarf gorse) and Ulex galli (western gorse) are typical of lowland dry dwarf shrub heath. Acid heaths usually occur on deep podsols developed on base-deficient sands, gravels and clays. Basic heaths are much more restricted in extent and may be recognised by the presence of herbs characteristic of chalk grassland and open habitats. "

Under the National Vegetation Classification system dry heath is classified primarily as H1-4, H6, H8-10 and H12-22.


Occurs at: 
Displaying 1 - 50 of 52
Site Extent
Affpuddle Forest Foundation
Alder Hills Nature Reserve Partial
Arne Nature Reserve Significant
Avon Heath Country Park Foundation
Black Hill and Turnerspuddle Significant
Bourne Valley Local Nature Reserve (Talbot Heath) Significant
Brands Bay Significant
Canford Heath Local Nature Reserve Significant
Carey Significant
Coombe Heath Nature Reserve Significant
Creech Heath National Nature Reserve Foundation
Dewlands Common Local Nature Reserve Foundation
Dunyeats Hill Nature Reserve Foundation
Ferndown Common Foundation
Furzebrook Heath Partial
Godlingston Heath National Nature Reserve Significant
Ham Common Local Nature Reserve Foundation
Hartland Moor National Nature Reserve Partial
Hengistbury Head Local Nature Reserve Partial
Hethfelton Wood Foundation
Higher Hyde Heath Nature Reserve Partial
Holt Heath National Nature Reserve Significant
Holton Lee Foundation
Jubilee Trail - Redbridge Foundation
Kinson Common Local Nature Reserve Partial
Moors Valley Country Park Foundation
Morden Bog National Nature Reserve Partial
Moreton Heath Foundation
Norden Heath and the Green Pool Significant
Parley Common Nature Reserve Significant
Puddletown Forest Foundation
Purbeck Ridge (Whiteways Hill and Flowers Barrow) Partial
Rempstone Heath Significant
Sandford Heath National Nature Reserve Significant
Slepe Heath Foundation
Sopley Common Nature Reserve Significant
Stephens Castle Local Nature Reserve Significant
Stoborough Heath National Nature Reserve Partial
Studland Heath National Nature Reserve Significant
Tadnoll Nature Reserve Partial
Thorncombe Wood and Duddle Heath Foundation
Turbary Common Local Nature Reserve Foundation
Turnerspuddle Heath Nature Reserve Foundation
Upton Heath Nature Reserve Significant
Wareham Forest (Carey Heath) Foundation
Wareham Forest (Gore Heath) Foundation
Wareham Forest (Great Ovens) Foundation
Wareham Forest (Northport Heath) Significant
Wareham Forest (Woolsbarrow) Significant
Winfrith Heath Nature Reserve Partial


Indicator species: 
Displaying 1 - 50 of 50
Species Scientific Name Relationship
Bell Heather Erica cinerea Indicator
Bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus Indicator
Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta Occasional
Bracken Pteridium aquilinum Associated
Bristle Bent Agrostis curtisii Indicator
Broom Cytisus scoparius Indicator
Burnet Rose Rosa pimpinellifolia Associated
Common Dodder Cuscuta epithymum Associated
Common Storksbill Erodium cicutarium Associated
Creeping Bent Agrostis stolonifera Associated
Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata Indicator
Dense-headed Heath Woodrush Luzula multiflora ssp congesta Associated
Dwarf Gorse Ulex minor Indicator
Early Hair-grass Aira praecox Associated
Emperor Moth Pavonia pavonia Indicator
Fox Moth Macrothylacia rubi Indicator
Gorse Ulex europaeus Associated
Green Tiger Beetle Cicindela campestris Indicator
Hairy Birdsfoot Trefoil Lotus subbiflorus Occasional
Harebell Campanula rotundifolia Occasional
Heath Bedstraw Galium saxatile Associated
Heath Dog Violet Viola canina Associated
Heath Milkwort Polygala serpyllifolia Associated
Heath Speedwell Veronica officinalis Associated
Heath Wood-rush Luzula multiflora Indicator
Lichen (C floerkeana) Cladonia floerkeana Indicator
Lichen (C portentosa) Cladonia portentosa Indicator
Ling Calluna vulgaris Indicator
Moss (C purpureus) Ceratodon purpureus Associated
Moss (P juniperinum) Polytrichum juniperinum Associated
Narrow-leaved Hawkweed Hieracium umbellatum Associated
Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus Indicator
Purple Moor Grass Molinia caerulea Associated
Red-banded Sand wasp Ammophila sabulosa Indicator
Sand Lizard Lacerta agilis Indicator
Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris Associated
Sheeps-fescue Festuca ovina Associated
Silver Birch Betula pendula Associated
Silver Hair-grass Aira caryophyllea Associated
Small Cudweed Filago minima Associated
Smooth Cats-ear Hypochaeris glabra Associated
Smooth Snake Coronella austriaca Indicator
Stonechat Saxicola torquatus Associated
Tormentil Potentilla erecta Associated
Trailing St Johns-wort Hypericum humifusum Associated
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis Indicator
Western Gorse Ulex gallii Indicator
Wood Sage Teucrium scorodonia Associated
Woodlark Lullula arborea Indicator
Yellow Centaury Cicendia filiformis Associated

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