Size: 17ha

Ownership: Foley Estate

Designation: SPA SSSI

Restrictions: Open access land, please keep dogs on a lead.

Access: Along track past Deers Hut Pub

Grid ref: SU 82187 31358

With its mosaic of heathland, acid grassland and woodland edge habitat, East Weavers Down forms a key part of the Woolmer Forest SSSI in Hampshire and lies within the South Downs National Park.

The reserve

East Weavers Down is located to the southeast of the Woolmer Forest SSSI. The site consists of two main habitat types: lowland dry heathland, dominated by common heather, or ling, with bell heather and dwarf gorse; and acid grassland, supporting species such as wavy hair-grass and sheep’s fescue. Areas of bare earth also support a rich lichen flora, particularly within the dry heathland.

Five reptile species can be found at East Weavers Down: adder, grass snake, viviparous lizard, slow worm and sand lizard. The sand lizard population is the result of a successful reintroduction project carried out by Amphibian and Reptile Conservation in 1990. Designated as an SSSI, East Weavers Down is also a Site of Special Protection recognising the important bird species it supports, including heathland specialists such as Dartford warbler, woodlark and nightjar.

East Weaver's Down features several scrapes on areas formerly dominated by bracken where the bracken litter and topsoil have been removed to expose the bare sand underneath. Removing nutrients like this means the hardier, acid-loving heathland vegetation can restablish and in time will allow the area to revert back to heathland.

Habitat connectivity

Over the past 100 years, lowland heathland habitats have become extremely fragmented, which means they are less able to support the rich diversity of species that were formerly present. As a result, one of the biggest opportunities for heathland management is to identify sites where the remaining heathlands can be linked up and reconnected. Several sites in the Woolmer Forest area, including East Weavers Down, have the potential to be reconnected to other sites, which will facilitate species movements between the two areas, and allow bigger, more robust populations of our native flora and fauna to thrive.

What to see

  • Sand lizards basking in open areas of the heath, particularly on the sandy traces and banks. In April, the males develop green flanks to attract females.
  • Listen out for the beautiful descending song of woodlarks on sunny days. This is often coupled with a characteristic display flight.
  • Explore the fascinating micro flora of heathland lichens. Several species of the genus Cladonia have intricate branching structures and striking red colouration.