Heathlands are so much more than simply purple carpets of heather. They are ancient landscapes found throughout Britain that support a complex of inter-related species and an immense diversity of habitats. They also possess a unique human history defined by the struggle between pastoralism and the competing demands of those who seek exclusive use of the land.
In this latest addition to the British Wildlife Collection, Clive Chatters introduces us to Britain's heathlands and their anatomy. He then takes the reader on a geographical heathland tour – from the maritime sub-arctic of the Shetlands to the mild wetness of the Atlantic coast – with an in memoriam nod to those heaths that have been erased from common memory and understanding. He concludes with a review of how people have perceived and used heathland wildlife over the ages, and sets out a future vision for this iconic landscape, its unique habitats and the species that live there.
Most of our heaths are pale shadows of their former selves. However, Chatters argues, it is not inevitable that the catastrophic losses of the recent past are the destiny of our remaining heaths. Should we wish, their place in the countryside as an integral part of British culture can be secured.
Part One: An introduction to heathland
1. British Heathlands 15
2. Some commonplace heaths 35
3. The anatomy of heathland 47
Part Two: A selection of British heaths
4. Northern Isles 115
5. Upland margins 135
6. Western limits 165
7. Southern heaths 211
8. Heaths of the eastern shore 267
9. The East of England 297
10. In memoriam 341
Part Three: Perceptions
11. Changing perceptions 359
12. A vision for heathland 389
References and further reading 411
Illustration credits 418
Clive Chatters is a naturalist who has worked for over 35 years as a nature conservationist in the counties adjoining the Solent. He has held positions in both the statutory and voluntary conservation sectors, taking time off to assist in establishing the New Forest National Park. Author of a variety of publications from scientific reports to magazine articles, he has also written several books including Saltmarsh, also in the British Wildlife Collection, Flowers of the Forest, an exploration of the botany of the New Forest through its history and rural economy, and Wild Hampshire and Isle of Wight, to commemorate the golden jubilee of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.
"[...] Heathland is highly readable, and especially enjoyable if you know some of these places. [...] He has written an ecological masterpiece, generous in its sympathies, awe-inspiring in its breadth of knowledge, and genuinely enticing in its journey around heathland Britain. This is a book that ought to influence policy. As always in this series, the illustrations and design are top class."
– Peter Marren, British Wildlife 32(6), May 2021