The once extensive and wild heathland landscape of the Suffolk coast was created by early farmers and grazing sheep following the clearance of the original ancient woodland thousands of years ago. It is a landscape rich in history and an important part of both our natural and cultural heritage.
A typical Sandlings heath on sandy, free-draining, acidic and relatively infertile soil is dominated by heather and grass with scattered gorse bushes and trees. This mosaic of different vegetation types provides ideal breeding habitat for woodlarks, nightjars and Dartford warblers, as well as supporting a wide range of invertebrates. The latter includes the larval stage of the rare ant-lion (Myrmeleontidae) which until very recently, were only known from the Suffolk coast, at places like Minsmere, North Warren and Walberswick. The larvae are amazing predators that live below ground (so are rarely seen) creating pits to trap their prey.
Today’s remaining, fragmented Sandlings' heathland sites are important for wildlife on a national and European scale with their significant populations of rare birds, plants, insects and reptiles. These heaths are one of the natural areas that are key to the survival of our planet's biodiversity. They are home to some spectacular species including the tiny silver-studded blue butterfly (pictured below), a heathland specialist and one of the UK's rarest butterflies.
These beautiful heathlands on the Suffolk coast are great places to relax and get that 'wilderness feel'. Please appreciate them without harming their vulnerable vegetation and sensitive inhabitants. Many organisations work in partnership to keep, manage and re-create the Sandlings' heaths for you and future generations to enjoy. We want everyone to be able to enjoy the experience of the sight of rare butterflies, the churr of the nightjar and a sea of purple heather flowers in late summer.
Huge thanks to Monika Koch, Community Engagement Officer - Suffolk Coast Futurescape, RSPB for contributing this information.