Size: 400ha

Ownership: Ministry of Defence

Designations: SSSI, SPA, SAC

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

Access: Drop Zone Car Park

Grid ref: SU 89091 41083

Described as some of the finest remaining lowland heathland on the Lower Greensands of Southern England, Hankley Common is an internationally important site for native reptiles.

The reserve

Hankley Common has the most extensive tracts of dry heath on the joint Thursley, Hankley and Frensham Commons SSSI. These are characterised by a dwarf shrubby plant community, dominated by common heather (or ‘ling’) but containing also cross-leaved heath, bell heather, petty whin, and dwarf gorse. Some areas of scrubby vegetation also exist, made up primarily of common gorse and birch. To the North-East of the site, conditions get damper and a number of wet scrapes and ditches can be found, supporting a host of Dragonfly species in the summer. Mature Scots pine woodland surrounds the heathland areas.

Hankley Common supports native populations of all six British reptile species, and is therefore a preeminent site for their conservation. Moreover, all of the reptile species present at Hankley are indigenous to the site, and have not been reintroduced.

Military history

Owned by the Ministry Defence, Hankley Common remains an important area for military training. During the Second World War, a replica of the sea defences used in occupied Europe was created to practice breaching techniques prior to the D-Day landings. Known as the ‘Atlantic Wall’, remnants can still be seen on Hankley today. Interestingly, the concrete used in the construction of the walls has created an alkaline-based substrate in some areas which has been colonised by alkaline-loving plants, mosses and lichens, which are rarely found on acidic heathland.

More recently the amphitheatre-like bowl of the Dropzone (once used for practise parachute drops) has been become a shooting location for films such as Macbeth, Skyfall and most recently 1917.

What to see

  • Indigenous populations of all six native reptile species.
  • Heathland birds such as woodlark, nightjar and Dartford warbler.
  • A diverse invertebrate fauna, including rare species of dragonfly and grasshopper.