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Mare Hill Common

Mare Hill Common, Witley covers 40 hectares of heathland, woodland and scrub. As well as offering the opportunity for people to enjoy and walk in peaceful natural surroundings, Mare Hill Common supports a wealth of wildlife. You can access the site from the surround area via access point or by car park off Roke Lane, Witley, GU8 5NZ.

A network of paths allow visitors to experience the wildlife and varied landscapes of Mare Hill Common; from quiet secluded woodland, to the windswept heathland with its open views. Dogs are welcome, but visitors are expected to clear up after their dog and keep them under close control. In order to protect sensitive ground nesting birds, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 requires all dogs to be kept on a short fixed lead on Mare Hill between 1 March and the 31 July.


The heathland communities at Mare Hill are of particular importance as they support a number rare and specialist species of birds, reptiles, invertebrates and plants, and the site is thus protected under both UK and EU law.

Mare Hill is a prime site for invertebrates such as bees, solitary wasps, and the delicate silver studded blue butterfly. Three birds on the European list of threatened species; woodlark, nightjar, and Dartford warbler can be found nesting amongst the heather and grasses. Five reptile species, including the threatened sand lizard, take advantage of the cover and relative warmth in amongst the heathland shrubs.

Site management

Traditionally heathland was maintained through livestock grazing and the harvesting of various plants and trees. Today, heathland is no longer used for these purposes, and trees and scrub readily grow and shade out the heathers and the grasses. Without intervention, the open shrubby heathland landscape is lost and the specialised wildlife communities which rely on this habitat are no longer able to survive. We are duty bound to conserve the protected heathland at Mare Hill, and we do this by periodically removing scrub and young trees, and carrying out bracken control to create more space and light for the specialist heathland species.

We manage the woodland to maintain a balance between mature trees, understory, and light levels. We achieve this through thinning trees which are growing too densely, thus allowing the remaining trees more space to develop a better structure. We are working to clear thickets of dense holly from some of the woodland to open up space for flowers and saplings to germinate. We also intend to coppice some of the areas dominated by sweet chestnut. This traditional practice benefits wildlife through increasing the variety of habitats and allowing more light to the woodland floor.

Mare Hill Common is managed under a Countryside Stewardship (CS) agreement with Natural England. This agreement provides funding to carry out management works to maintain and improve the site for the benefit of the rare and specialised wildlife it supports. These works include:

  •     Management of the heathland through periodically removing scrub and small trees.
  •     Restoration of heathland where an absence of past management has allowed trees to colonise.
  •     Cutting strips of vegetation to form fire breaks.
  •     Bracken control.
  •     Creating areas of bare sand for invertebrates and reptiles.

If you would like to know more about Mare Hill Common's site management, this site has a management plan, which you can obtain by contacting us on the contact details below. 

For more information phone 01483 523394 or email parks&