Size: 5ha

Ownership: ARC and private owners

Designation: SSSI

Restrictions: Private no access

Access: Layby off Old Frensham Road

Grid ref: SU 85302 43393

Gong Hill is a small, but very important lowland heathland reserve, supporting one of Surrey’s few original native sand lizard populations

The reserve

Gong Hill is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, because it supports one of the last native populations of sand lizards in Surrey.  Although present at other sites in the county, these are often the result of reintroductions after the original populations became extinct.

Gong Hill typifies dry lowland heathland, dominated by common heather, the vegetation is interspersed with bell heather and wavy hair-grass with occasional stands of gorse and dwarf gorse. Common dodder – a curious plant, parasitic to other plants, can also be found here. Areas of scrub fringe the site creating a transitional zone between heath and woodland that benefits a wide range of species.

An area to the south-west of the main site has been cleared as part of a heathland restoration plan after becoming overgrown with pine regrowth. With the heavy shade removed, the heather is in the process of recovering.

A sand lizard sanctuary

Sand lizards have very specific habitat requirements. As well as dense dwarf shrub at ground-level, sand lizards require areas of exposed sand for egg-laying. Eggs are laid into sandy burrows of between 4 and 10cm deep, which are dug by the females, and are then covered over to leave no trace for potential predators.

At Gong Hill, areas of vegetation are cut on regular cycles to maintain these bare, sandy areas and ensure this rare species can continue to thrive.

What to see

  • Native Surrey sand lizards. During the breeding season, males sporting their dark-green flanks look particularly handsome. Adders, grass snakes, slow worms and viviparous lizards can also be seen basking in sunny areas.
  • Groups of crossbills flitting between the pine trees. A specialist feeder on conifers, crossbills have a distinctive overlapping bill, so they are able to pry open cones and eat the nutritious seeds.
  • Gong Hill suffered from an intense wildfire in 2015 and the heathland vegetation is still only just recovering, held back by several hot, dry summers but the heather is now making a foothold and you can see the path of the fire by the trail of young heather plants growing up in its wake.