Size: 3ha      

Ownership: Surrey County Council

Designation: SPA, SSSI

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

Access: Ockham Bites car park

Gred ref: TQ 07885 58635

Nestled within the Thames Basin Heaths SPA, Chatley Heath is an internationally important area for birds, and provides a haven for our native reptiles, which can also now expand into the newly restored adjacent heathland at Ockham Common.

The reserve

Amphibian and Reptile Conservation has been managing Chatley Heath for over 30 years. Forming part of the Thames Basin Heaths SPA and Ockham and Wisley Common SSSI, the sandy substrate of the underlying Bagshot beds gives rise to a typical lowland heath plant community of common heather and bell heather, interspersed with dwarf gorse, petty whin and shepherd’s cress. Rotationally managed birch scrub provides additional habitat structure, important for the rare heathland birds supported by this reserve.

Chatley Heath supports five species of native reptile: adder, grass snake, viviparous lizard, slow worm and sand lizard. Whilst all other species are indigenous, sand lizards were released onto the site in 1991 as part of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation’s reintroduction programme.

Working together

Chatley Heath is contiguous with Ockham Common, which is managed by the Surrey Wildlife Trust. A large  part of Ockham Common has been restored to its original heathland, by removing some of the more recently planted coniferous Scots pine, which does not support the same diversity of native lowland heathland flora and fauna. This habitat extension will allow the native species inhabiting our Chatley Heath reserve to spread and multiply into the newly restored area.

What to see

  • Adders emerging from hibernation in the early spring sunshine. Males emerge first, often around the beginning of March, and often bask in groups.
  • Groups of crossbills (locally known as a ‘warp’ or a ‘crookedness’) flitting between the pine trees. They are specialist feeders, with a characteristic overlapping bill which enables them to pry open the cones of coniferous trees to eat the seeds.
  • An array of grasshoppers and cricket species can be found out on the heath. Their calls and chirping patterns (known as ‘stridulating’) are specific to each species, and can be used to identify them.