Ludshott Common is the principal part of a 735 acre block of land lying close to Headley Down and Grayshott. The very poor, acid, free-draining sands of the Hythe Beds (part of the Weald's Lower Greensand) on which this property stands, has been the main factor affecting this area's historical ecology and landscape. Until the twentieth century, these impoverished soils and the marginal nature of the landscape dictated pastoral land-use and prevented more intensive agricultural activity.
In Medieval times, the common was part of the Royal Forest of Woolmer, a large area of heath and wood pasture grazed by commoners’ animals, similar to the New Forest today.
In the 1940’s, the eastern edge of the common was requisitioned as an encampment for Canadian troops. Known as Superior Camp (one of several military camps in the immediate area, named after the Great Lakes which form part of the boundary between Canada and the USA), it comprised over 100 buildings, streets, a parade ground and a shooting range. The buildings were demolished in the 1960’s, but you can still see concrete remains, and garden plants like apple trees and rose bushes.
During World War II, the common was used for tank training, which crushed and destroyed most of the vegetation. After the military moved out, scrub invaded and spread fast because the common was no longer grazed. Photos from the 1970’s show the site completely covered in gorse, up to 20ft high. In 1980 there was a major fire which cleared the common of the scrubby woodland and gorse giving the opportunity of restoring the site to heathland.
Heather soon recolonised the bare earth, but it is a constant battle to prevent the gorse and scrub from taking over once again. As commoners no longer graze their animals here, the heathland is kept open by using saws and tractor mounted machinery. This is expensive and time-consuming but critical for conserving this ancient landscape and its wildlife. Recently, consultations have been held with local residents and users of the common about the way forward and soon an application will be made to allow some grazing back on the common, thus reverting to a traditional sustainable management regime.
The main type of heather is ling but you can also find bell heather and cross-leaved heath. Over 40 bird species have been recorded across Ludshott, but the heathland is especially important for the rare Dartford warbler, woodlark, and nightjar. The reptile population was destroyed by the fire in 1980, but sand lizards were re-introduced to a small area in 1993 and are now thriving. Some woodland is retained to provide a habitat for birds like the restart, wood warbler and goshawk. Other pages show events, maps and news.