Lowland heathland only occurs in north and west Europe. Historically it developed on sandy, nutrient poor, acidic soil mainly as a result of man clearing woodland for animal grazing. Subsequent increases in agriculture, commercial tree planting and urban development have reduced the amount of lowland heathland.
It is now a rare and threatened habitat, yet supports a rich and diverse variety of wildlife. Here on the Chase, the heathland includes a mosaic of heather, bell heather, crowberry, cowberry and the rare “Cannock Chase berry” as well as grasses, scrub, such as gorse and bracken, and scattered silver birch trees. Our heathland habitat supports birds like the endangered nightjar and skylark as well as four of the six British reptiles – slow worm, grass snake, adder and common lizard.
Look out for:
Cannock Chase berry – a rare hybrid between bilberry and cowberry. Leaves are finely toothed, they are more ‘waxy’ and slightly thicker than bilberry, but less so than cowberry.
Nightjar – visits Europe in summer from Africa to breed. Only becomes active at dusk, hunts insects on the wing catching them with its open beak. Has a “churring” song which sounds like a motorbike!