© Sophie Mariner
Hankley & Elstead Group of Commons represent some of the finest remaining heathland in Southern England and are nationally important for their bird, reptile and invertebrate populations. Elstead, Ockley and Royal Commons are part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Protection Area and Special Area of Conservation.
Hankley Common is an MoD site managed by Surrey Wildlife Trust. A great site to see heathland birds and reptiles.
Royal, Elstead & Ockley Commons
Royal, Elstead and part of Ockley Commons are owned by the MoD and managed by the Trust.
Royal Common is predominantly open acid grassland heath, interspersed with specimen trees such as pedunculate oak and crabapple. Management now includes conservation grazing (rather than mowing) with SWT’s Belted Galloway cattle, which help limit the growth of tree saplings and reduce the dominance of tussocky purple moor-grass.
Standing deadwood trees and fallen trees are deliberately left as valuable deadwood habitats for invertebrates and fungi. Royal Common is an extremely important site in Surrey for saproxylic invertebrates (those that are dependent on decaying wood). One such notable species is the tanner beetle (Prionus coriarus) - a large black beetle, similar in size to a stag beetle.
A series of ponds and scrapes were created on the Commons in 2011 as part of a joint project with Plantlife to encourage rare plants like marsh clubmoss and sundews. Aquatic invertebrates and amphibians will also benefit from this work and the site is a stronghold for breeding toads, supporting an estimated 1,000 individuals! ‘Sedge’ pond (one of the largest on the site) contains sphagnum moss, floating pennywort and the scarce white sedge (Carex curta). It’s a great place to spot dragonflies and, if you are very lucky, kingfishers darting into the water.
Species and habitats