Size: 144ha

Ownership: Ministry of Defence

Designation: SPA, SSSI

Restrictions: Access only permissible when red flags are not flying. Please keep dogs on a lead.

Access: various gates along perimeter track

Grid ref: SU 78542 31926

Woolmer Forest is one of the largest and most diverse areas of lowland heathland in Hampshire, outside of the New Forest, and considered to be the most important area of heathland in the Weald. It is home to 12 of our native species of amphibian and reptile.

The reserve

Woolmer Forest straddles the Hampshire, West Sussex boarder and comprises a diverse mix of lowland dry heathland and acid grassland. The heathland is characterised by a dominance of ling or common heather, mixed with bell heather and dwarf gorse, with gorse and small birch trees providing areas of scrub, whilst more mature birch trees and Scots pine trees pepper the landscape. The areas of acid grassland comprise purple moor grass, wavy hair grass and sheep’s fescue.

Queen’s Bank, to the north of the site, provides some varied topography and is named after the location where Queen Anne stopped to rest and inspect her herd of red deer in 1710 whilst travelling from London to Southampton. Today this area provides important south-facing banks where reptiles can bask in the early morning sun.

Amphibian and Reptile assemblages

Woolmer is unique in Britain for supporting all 12 of our native UK amphibian and reptile species. Of particular importance is the natterjack toad population, which is the last of the original inland heathland populations of this rare toad in the UK. It is therefore essential that Woolmer forest continues to be managed in a sympathetic way for natterjack toads to ensure their persistence at this important site.

What to see

  • All twelve amphibian and reptile species native to the UK can be found on Woolmer. Listen for the distinctive chorus of adult male natterjack toads hoping to attract females in the evenings during April and May.
  • From March onwards, watch out for male Dartford warblers singing their scratchy song from the top of gorse bushes.
  • Stunning views over Woolmer forest from the top of Queen’s Bank.