Size: 14ha

Ownership: Waverley Borough Council

Designation: SSSI

Restrictions: Open access land. Please keep dogs on a lead.

Access: Blackheath Carpark

Grid ref: TQ 03646 46197

Blackheath SSSI is an important site for reptiles, and several rare heathland specialist invertebrate species also occur here. ARC have also been successfully reintroducing rare sand lizards onto this important site for over 25 years, and if you are lucky you might be able to spot them basking.

The reserve

Blackheath is located just to the southeast of Guildford, and is a good example of the dry lowland heathland and acidic grassland habitat which extend throughout the area, but is now much diminished and fragmented.

The floral community of Blackheath is typical of dry lowland heathland, dominated by ling or common heather, with bell heather, cross leaved heath and dwarf gorse. There are pockets of acid grassland towards the east of the site, where the vegetative structure changes, and wavy hair-grass, pill sedge and lady’s bedstraw can be found.

The site supports the four more widely distributed species of native reptile: adder, grass snake, slow worm and viviparous lizard, whilst the rarer species, which had been lost from the site, were reintroduced. Sand lizards were subject to a reintroduction programme on the site, with the first hatchlings being sighted in the summer of 1991. Smooth Snakes were reintroduced subsequently in 2006.

Important heathland invertebrates

As well as providing habitat for important native reptile species, Blackheath supports good populations of nationally scarce invertebrate species. These include the silver-studded blue butterfly, the vulnerable lynx spider (Oxyopes heterophthalmus), and a rare beetle, Lomechusa strumosa. This beetle dwells in the nests of the aptly named blood-red robber-ant (Formica sanguinea), our largest native ant, which are also found on these heathlands. In a ‘myrmecophilic’ relationship, the beetle tricks the ant into feeding it, and the beetle larvae over winter in the ants’ nests, returning in the spring to mate and lay their eggs, whilst appeasing the normally aggressive ants with a special calming secretion.

What to see

  • Viviparous lizards basking in open patches on the heathland, and on logs, stones and other surfaces which warm up quickly in the spring and summer sun. A shy animal, if they spot you first, you might be lucky to see a tail disappearing into the heather, or hear them scurrying off to hide.
  • Silver-studded blue butterflies flitting around between June and August. Their name comes from the light-reflective scales on the underside of most adults.
  • As summer approaches, nightjar return to breed, and the males can be heard ‘churring’ at night to attract females. Watch out for woodcock, which can also be seen flying in the evenings.

Photo copyright Gillian Pullinger