Purple haze as Lesnes woods conservationists brave persistent rain

Six members of Lesnes Abbey Woods Conservation Volunteers turned out on Sunday morning (August 23rd) for the last heathland task of the year, despite the threat of persistent rain, which soon became a reality. There was some cover from the scattered trees, but we all got rather wet.

Lesnes Abbey Wood heathland back in late June 2010, before the Heather flowering season. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Lesnes Abbey Wood heathland back in late June 2010, before the Heather flowering season. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Heathland is historically the result of woodland clearance on poor, thin soils. Heather is seen as a benchmark plant species, though in reality there is a gradation from heathy grassland through to ‘pure’ heath, which in turn grades into increasingly dense and scrubby Birch and/or Pine forest, eventually returning to Oak and other broadleaves if not grazed or otherwise managed. The only area of heather in Bexley is to be found on the heathland towards the south-east corner of Lesnes Abbey Woods. Whilst a long way off reaching the species-richness of the UK’s best heathland sites, it is nevertheless a small remnant of a very rare habitat in London, and well worth preserving.

Thus the volunteers spend a few afternoons each year ‘weeding’ out Bracken, Rowan, Birch, Holly and Oak seedlings, and evidence can still be seen of the scrapes in which additional heather patches have been established in the past.

The heathland area is well worth a visit at this time of year as the small Heather flowers are out en masse, creating a ‘purple haze’. You can also expect to see Dragonflies hawking over the heathland – even when the sun isn’t out. The quickest access is off The View, a close running off Woolwich Road. Otherwise take the furthest main path up through the east side of the woods, starting adjacent to the playground, and follow the signposts.

To get involved in maintaining the heathland for the future, see LACV’s page under ‘Groups’.

Chris Rose 

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