Email Print

Norton Heath


Volunteer Day Norton Heath
16.01.2014 10.00 h
Countrycare Events


Norton Heath.

It’s Birch, Bramble, Brash and Bonfire today.  We are continuing with the work of slowly removing the birch and bramble from the site. There is a massive amount of brash to be burnt left over from the previous task here. Weather permitting we may also work on getting some of the weed out of the ponds.
Meet: 10.00am, Lay-by next to Norton Heath, off old cut off for A414. Grid Reference: TL 602 042

*Don’t forget we pick up from Loughton Tube Station every Thursday at 9.30 am*. All volunteer days start at 10am on site unless otherwise stated.  The Countrycare Office telephone is 01992 788203.


Norton Heath
Norton Heath


Size: 4.3 Hectares 

Grid reference: TL 601 042 {phocamaps view=link|id=23|text=Map}

Owners: The Common is managed by Epping Forest District Council under The Commons Act 1899. 

Bylaws: There are a number of bylaws on the Common made in 1909.

Access: There is unrestricted public access across the whole site. One improved footpath crosses the site in an East/ West direction. The footpath is part of the Blackmore and Norton Mandeville circular walk. A road runs across the wood dividing the northern and southern parts of the site.

Parking: Street parking available around the common

Description: Norton Heath Common is a former heath, which like many other, due to lack of management, has largely reverted to secondary woodland. Today, the site has a largely closed canopy of mainly oak and birch, overlying very acid gravel soils. The only exception is a glade which has been created in the centre of the site.

The common is surrounded on all sides but one by minor roads, but despite this it remains undisturbed. The canopy beneath the oak is very sparse with only the occasional hawthorn, holly, blackthorn or hazel surviving beneath the heavy shade. The ground flora is almost non-existent with bramble dominating and self-seeding birch beginning to colonise. There are a few sycamores of varying ages in the northern section of the site.

There are numerous ponds across the common as a result of gravel extraction undertaken in the first part of the 20th century.  Ten species of dragonfly and damselfly have been recorded, comparing favourably with ponds within the wet heathland of Epping Forest.  The total of nine Orthopterans (grasshoppers and allied insects) is also notable for an Essex heathland site.  The 19 Species of butterfly recorded so far includes the Small Copper and Purple Hairstreak.

In 2010 it was designated as a Local Wildlife Site (Ep 213).  The Essex Ecological Service recommended it on this basis:  “Whilst the woodland and heathland components are both UK BAP habitats, there is a clear case for the restoration of the wet heathland habitat that formerly occurred here at the expense of some of the woodland cover, so that this site is selected under the heathland criterion alone.  A thinner and much-reduced tree canopy still has something to offer the wildlife of this site, providing habitat for some of the many significant insects recorded here.”

Countrycare’s involvement with the common.  Since 1988, Countrycare has undertaken small scale works on the common involving pond works, tree felling and tree planting. In 2002, access improvement works were undertaken that saw the construction of board walks and revetments to give easier access across the common from east to west.

It is Countrycare’s desire to see the common declared as the District’s 10th Local Nature Reserve. Consultation with Natural England began in 2007 and in 2010 they recommended the Common to be designated as such.  Due to on-going difficulties in designating a Common that is not in EFDC’s ownership, the designation has not yet been confirmed.  It is hoped this will be resolved over the next year.

The aim of LNR status influenced management of the woodland covering the common. Thinning of oak trees has been undertaken in the centre of the common over the last  few years and this is now being monitored.

Since 2007 annual summer ground flora surveys have been undertaken to determine if a heathland community could be restored within the woodland glades. The signs are very encouraging with gorse plants and a number of other rare plants reappearing where the light is reaching the woodland floor.

Finds in Norton Heath 

July 2010: In a recent survey both Ling Heather and Marsh Pennywort were found on the site. These are both heathland plants and therefore a promising sign for the heathland restoration work that has been carried out so far.

{phocadownload view=file|id=1672|text=Read about the restoration of Norton Heath|target=s}

{phocadownload view=category|id=318|text=Surveys from 2008. 2009, 2011 and 2012|target=s}

{phocadownload view=file|id=1673|text=Read the Norton Heath Management Plan 2011 - 2015|target=s}

{phocadownload view=category|id=319|text=Articles about Norton Heath in Essex Naturalist|target=s}

Read itCountrycare Documents

Read itRead it

Get involvedCountrycare events


Get involvedGet involved

Find out how to volunteer with Countrycare: The Countrycare Volunteer Group

Find out about The Tree Warden Scheme and how to become one