What to see
At Langford Heathfield nature reserve you can see the Shetland ponies that are used to keep the scrub and coarse grasses under control. These ponies thrive on the rough grass land diet and their 24-hour-a-day munching helps the spring and summer flowers burst through.
Keep your eyes peeled and ears tuned for the sights and sounds of many birds including marsh tits, lesser spotted woodpecker, wood warbler, and pied flycatcher that have bred in the woodland and nightingale just might be heard calling for mates in the early summer. Nuthatches should be found easily if you stand quietly under groups of large oak trees. Try the farthest south point of the reserve, known as The Dips, where children have a bike track. The nuthatches don't seem to mind.
Butterflies, including the Small Pearl-bordered fritillary and Comma along with many moths, thrive on the reserve. A good spot for the Small Pearl-bordereds at Langford is the clearing between the stretches of boardwalk as you go north from the main car park. Try from mid-May but be warned that they have been in decline for several years. Later in the season, Silver-washed fritillaries can be seen dashing about or resting on bramble flowers.
Threatened dormice have a safe refuge in the woodland, where badger setts can also be seen. And roe deer increase in numbers in the winter as they come down from the hills.
At dusk you may catch a glimpse of the bats including common pipistrelle, serotine and the rare lesser horseshoe.
Adders and common lizards can also be seen in the grassland and heath, the latter often sunning themselves on the boardwalks..
Click here to download our nature walk guide to Langford Heathfield.
And here to see a list of all bird species seen on the reserve since about 1970.
And here to see a list of birds seen by Benjamin Bond from 2014-2019.
Much of Langford Heathfield nature reserve is common land where local people still have the ancient rights of pasturage (grazing), turbary (turf cutting) and estovers (woodcutting for fencing and firewood.)
Because the reserve is common land, and very damp, it has not been used for agriculture meaning many important wildlife species have survived here.
Langford is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) with heathland scrub, secondary and ancient oak and ash woodland. It is because of the reserve’s varied habitat, which includes wet and dry unimproved neutral grassland, heath, ancient woodland, ponds, bracken and scrub that such a variety of wildlife can be found at Langford Heathfiled.
Most of the reserve was purchased by the Trust in 1982 with Coram’s Wood and Lucas’s Copse added in 1985.
Brimstone © Caroline Briggs