Size: 100ha

Ownership: Sunningdale Golf Club

Designation: SAC, SPA, SSSI

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

Access: Via golf course

Grid ref: SU 95057 65257

Sunningdale is a large area of open land adjoining Chobham Common. The reserve, which is adjacent to a major golf course, features a range of habitats from lowland dry heath to acid bog and valley mire. All six native reptile species can be seen on this stunning site.

The reserve

Amphibian and Reptile Conservation have been managing the heathland to the south of the Sunningdale Golf Course since 1987. The site hosts a wealth of heathland habitats from lowland dry heathland, characterised by ling, bell heather, dwarf gorse and birch, to wet valley mires and acid bog land, with marsh-loving species such as purple moor grass, cross-leaved heath and bog asphodel. The topography varies across the site, with Longdown providing a large south/south-eastern aspect, which is important for reptile basking.

Sunningdale supports indigenous populations of the four widespread reptile species: adder, grass snake, common lizard and slow worm, and with the reintroduction of sand lizards and smooth snakes, it is now home to the full complement of our native reptile species. The site is also well known for its bird life, particularly heathland specialists such as Dartford warbler, stonechat and nightjar.


Sand lizards and smooth snakes, the UK’s two rarest native reptile species, have both been successfully reintroduced to Sunningdale; sand lizards first, in 1988, followed by smooth snakes in 2004. The site is now actively managed to enable them to thrive. Sand lizards require open areas of bare sand in which they lay eggs, whilst smooth snakes inhabit mature heather stands with a mossy base.

 What to see

  • Sunningdale supports all six species of native UK reptiles. As spring approaches and the days begin to warm, these can be seen basking in open areas of the heath.
  • Nightjars return to the UK from Africa between late-April and mid-May. Males can be seen flying in courtship displays at dusk and ‘chirring’ – a characteristic call used to attract females.
  • From the top of Longdown, stunning views extend out across the east of Berkshire and Surrey.