plants to reptiles...
Heathlands are good places for wildlife watchers because
they are ideal habitats for reptiles and rare plants.
Calendar looks at some of the activities you can get involved in during the summer.
pavements are great for ferns. Photo - Paul Glendell/Natural England. |
Here are two great nature activities which
you can take part in around heathland habitats:
Plant and flower spotting on limestone pavements.
* Adder stalking.
pavements are rocky outcrops which have been created where the surface of the
rock has been dissolved by water over millions of years.
This results in
limestone paving blocks called clints and fissures called grikes.
are relatively few limestone pavements found in the world, and the British Isles
has a high proportion of this rare habitat.
Limestone pavements are great
places to look for plant life but you'll need to be clever to get the most from
First of, check out suitable limestone habitats featured on
the TV series including:
Other good examples of limestone pavements
in the British Isles include the following:
* Grange-over-Sands, near Morecambe Bay.
* Gait Barrows
National Nature Reserve, North Lancashire.
* Great Orme, North Wales
Asby Scar National Nature Reserve, Cumbria.
for plants that are attracted to limestone habitats including specialist flora
such as Rigid Buckler Fern, Dog's Mercury, Herb Robert, Maidenhair Spleenwort,
Harts-Tongue fern and Dog Violet.
Ferns are especially keen on limestone
pavement habitats because they like the shady, humid conditions offered by the
The deepest grikes also provide a habitat for species that can
withstand depth and shade, such as ferns, and those which are
grazing such as Bloody Crane's-Bill.
Some plants found on limestone pavements
are hardly seen anywhere else at all.
For example, 85% of the UK population
of Rigid Buckler Fern is found purely on limestone.
* Many plants hide in the cracks
of the limestone pavement.
* Some of the grikes are so deep it's hard
to see what's in them, but a torch will reveal a secret plant world!
Look for ferns in the very deepest, shadiest grikes.
* Don't forget to
take a plant identification book or guide with you so you can differentiate between
* Use your sense of smell to sniff
out strawberries and juniper which love the limestone landscape.
Adders in the wild requires considerable stealth because they are secretive creatures.
again, choose heathland locations where there are known to be Adders present.
locations include the following from the Nature's Calendar TV series:
Thorne Moors, South Yorkshire
Other recommended locations include:
* Cudmore Grove, Essex
are our top Adder spotting tips:
Adders are most easily spotted at the start of the warmer Spring weather which
tempts them out from their winter slumber.
* Tread carefully - not only
are Adders poisonous, they are sensitive to the vibrations of you footsteps.
Look for the distinctive diamond-shaped pattern on the Adder's skin.
Adders are mainly diurnal, but these cold-blooded creatures can sometimes be seen
basking in the sun not far from cover.
for the snakes on south facing paths being warmed by the sun - and once their
bodies have reached working temperature - they'll be off... so, its a real game
* If you're lucky, you might witness
the Adders' "dance" which happens when two males rear up and twist around
in defence of their territories
* Do not disturb
or threaten an Adder it if you get close to it.
is a really great habitat for insects and reptiles, so here are some top tips
on how to get the best from your visit:
Most of the wildlife found in a heathland habitat will be seen close to the ground
or hidden in the undergrowth.
* Take a small
magnifying glass to get up-close views of small insects and other creatures hidden
in the sand, but be careful if it's a sunny day - a beam of sunlight refracted
through a magnifying glass can be deadly to a passing insect!
Try gently shaking a piece of heather onto a plain white sheet of paper laid on
the ground underneath, then use a good identification guide to examine your finds.
Horticulture fans will also enjoy the different types of flowering heather and
the sweet smells they give off at the height of summer - but don't pick any as
you don't know what could be hiding underneath!
Images courtesy and copyright of
Natural England, Paul Glendell and Peter Wakely.