By Katy Sherman
Have you ever babysat a Sand Lizard? Secrets of the Heath returns for 2020 with sizzling line-up of free family fun.
A live wildlife cam of baby Sand Lizards, the grand unveiling of a new arts trail, and interactive sessions with rangers will be among the highlights of an action-packed weekend to celebrate the amazing heathlands of the South Downs.
Secrets of the Heath returns for 2020 with a virtual event with something for all ages and interests.
The bumper line-up over the weekend of 5 and 6 September includes a chance to watch one of Britain’s rarest native reptiles – the beautiful and mysterious Sand Lizard – as babies that hatched last month have their feeding times and gulp down little critters.
Over the weekend people will be able to watch virtual tours of heathlands – known for their radiant purple and pink heathers that blossom in the late summer and their abundance of rare wildlife. Storytelling sessions, live Q&A sessions with reptile experts, live arts classes, and a video revealing how to dress like a Saxon warrior will be among the highlights (full programme here)
To kickstart the weekend, there will be the unveiling of a new educational trail that tells the story of the history, wildlife and people of heathlands. Inspired by stories from local communities and drawing upon sources as diverse as the poet Tennyson and a 395-year-old local map, award-winning sculptor Graeme Mitcheson has created seven bespoke stone carvings for the new Heathlands Sculpture Trail.
There will be a whistlestop tour of all the new sculptures on Friday, 4 September in a series of short 'Facebook Lives'.
The virtual Secrets of the Heath builds on the success of the popular event that has been held at Petersfield Heath for the past six years.
Katy Sherman, Events and Engagement Officer for Heathlands Reunited, said: “Secrets of the Heath is always one of the highlights of the calendar year for the National Park as it’s so much fun and people get really inspired by the weird and wonderful wildlife of heathlands. The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously had an impact on our plans, but we were determined that the ‘show must go on’. We’ve put together an online package of events that we think will appeal to both children and adults alike.
“We hope the event will inspire people to watch to find out more about heaths and how to care for them. A habitat rarer than the rainforest, heathlands are a precious haven for biodiversity, including all 12 of Britain’s native reptiles and amphibians. But they are under threat and would disappear completely without active management. This virtual event is a great opportunity for people to find out how they can play their part in saving our heaths through the Heathlands Reunited project.”
The heaths of the South Downs stretch across a 31-mile area from Bordon in the west to Storrington in the east. The Heathlands Reunited project is a partnership of 11 like-minded organisations, led by the South Downs National Park Authority, working to protect the heaths for future generations and increase their connectivity as they have become increasingly fragmented over the centuries.
The Heathlands Reunited team have been working with the RSPB, National Trust, Hampshire County Council and Sussex Wildlife Trust on the new trail to help link up heaths at Wiggonholt, Stedham Common, Lavington Plantation, Shortheath Common, Graffham Common, Black Down and Woolbeding.
The sculpture trail is accompanied by a downloadable leaflet that families and walkers will be able to use to navigate the walks.
For more information and to download the event programme, visit www.southdowns.gov.uk/events/v...
The event is able to run thanks to a generous National Lottery Heritage Fund Grant.