Banstead Commons and Banstead Commons Conservators
Image result for facebook logo

Banstead Heath
Return to Home page
Where is Banstead Heath and how to get there?
(OS Landranger, sheet 187.  OS Explorer, sheet 146  Grid ref.: TQ235545), BCC map.
The largest and most southerly of the four commons with a
total area of ~310 hectares (~760 acres), Banstead Heath stretches from the M25 in the south,  to Tadworth roundabout on the A217 to the north with a southern border with Waltion Heath Golf Course. 
Bus routes:
Metrobus 460 Crawley - Kingston via Walton on Hill, Tadworth and Lower Kingswood.
Metrobus 420 Crawley to Sutton via Tadworth and Lower Kingswood.
Rail:
Tadworth Station on the London to Tattenham Corner line is a short walk from the Heath.
Car:
There are no car parks on the Heath but plenty of parking on roads adjacent to the Heath
General Interest
The Heath is very popular with walkers and dog walkers and many paths criss cross the area.  Horse riding is popular, with a number of stables adjoining or close by, there are more than 8 miles of bridle paths and permissive rides on the Heath for riders to explore.  

In 2011, Sutton and East Surrey Water Company proposed to construct a pipeline across the Heath from Mogador to Tadworth. As well as disrupting access to the Heath for a year or more their proposals would have caused severe medium to long-term damage to the Heath.  Thankfully this was prevented and the Heath survives intact

There are three clearly visible quadrangular earthworks on the western side of the Mill Field just south of the mill, probably medieval stock-holding pens.
Natural History
Banstead Heath consists of a mosaic of habitats including woodland composed of Oak and Birch, areas of mixed gorse heath that have been re-established over the past ten years and open meadow.

For such a large area, the fauna and flora of Banstead Heath is under recorded. This is partly because compared to many of the adjacent areas especially the Downs to the south, the area has a relatively poor variety of variety of species and hence of less interest. This is predominantly the result of the Heath having a long history as a working heath with all the disturbance and management that entails. One of the main aims of the current management policy of the BCC is to restore and enhance a range of habitats on the Heath especially with regard to the reestablishment of mixed lowland heath habitat that might be expected to occur on this type of soil, a habitat that has dramatically declined in recent times. All that said, the Heath is home to a wide range of breeding birds and mammals.  
 
Fly AgaricFlora of Banstead Heath
As far as we are aware there has only ever been one formal survey of the plant life of the Heath, conducted by the Surrey Wildlife Trust in July 1994.   This resulted in the identification of almost 200 species of flowering plant. Typical plants of the Heath are the various species of Hawkweed (Hieracium species) that flower prolifically amongst the meadow grasses in high summer with dandelion-like flowers ranging from pale lemon yellow to deep orange. At the southern end of the Heath there are large areas of mixed heather that provide a colourful display in late summer.  In the autumn many species of fungi can be found.

Although Bracken is a dominant species in many areas of the Heath, active measures are being taken to reduce the area covered by this resilient species and in many areas we are encouraging the growth of Ling (Calluna vulgaris) and Gorse (Ulex europaea) heath in its place.

Fauna of Banstead Heath
Perhaps the most obvious birds of the Heath are skylarks (left, photo Penel Maltby) that breed in large numbers in the grassy meadows especially Mill Field, in view of the national decline of this species it is gratifying that the numbers appear to be increasing on the Heath.    

The London Natural History Society carried out two surveys (1970 and 1990) of breeding birds in the tetrad that includes both Walton and Banstead Heath.  The results suggested a significant decline in the number of species present.  Over the past few years we have conducted our own survey on Banstead Heath  and the evidence suggests that the diversity of species is once again increasing presumably as a result of the more varied habitat produced by our management.   There is a range of heathland birds breeding such as Linnet, Yellowhammers, Redpoll, Reed Bunting and until recently Dartford Warblers had established themselves. Unfortunately, the recent hard winters resulted in the disppearnce of the Dartford Warbler but the good news is that they have been seen this autumn (2014) and so hopefully they may stay around and breed next year.  Other noticeable species include Green Woodpeckers often seen hunting for insects on the ground and during May and June, Woodcock are frequently seen at dusk and the past few years have seen the return of Woodlark as a breeding species.

Various mammal species are well represented on the Heath including foxes, roe deer and badgers.  Perhaps surprisingly, evidence for the presence of dormice has been found.
  
Banstead Heath is notable for large numbers of butterflies in high summer. The Browns and Skippers are the dominant species but as with other wildlife on the heath no definitive information is available as to the exact species and their relative abundance. One notable insect that was found on Banstead Heath is the Bog Bush Cricket.    

One reptile species to look out for in the summer is the Adder (left) which is relatively common on the Heath. This is a shy animal and is most likely to been seen basking in sunny clearings in the scrub or bracken.