Thurstaston Common Heathland Management
The National Trust and Karl Tatler Estate Agents & Lettings are teaming up to help protect one of Wirral’s most iconic wild places. Local people will be encouraged to raise funds to protect Thurstaston Common by making a donation in return for a Karl Tatler Bag for Life.
This guide by the National Trust explains the role of conservation, the species dependent on the habitat and how you can help.
Why is Thurstaston Common so important?
1. It’s a nationally rare and disappearing habitat
Thurstaston Common is a lowland heathland habitat. This was originally a man-made habitat, created through the grazing of animals and regular cutting of birch for fuel and bracken for animal bedding. Historically, these activities maintained the open nature of heathlands and prevented them from developing into woodland.
Lowland heathland has sadly become extremely rare in the UK. It's estimated that 80% of Britain’s lowland heathland has been lost since 1800. Lack of grazing or poor management has resulted in shrubs and trees returning and turning them back into woodland. Heathlands have also been cleared for farming, lost to house building or damaged by over-use or inappropriate use. Thurstaston Common is therefore nationally important.
2. Many species depend upon this habitat
Many insects, birds and animals depend on heathland, and rely on its unique plants as a food source. Lowland heathland is an important habitat for insects and spiders, which in turn supports a number of bird species, including some that are rare and endangered, such as the nightjar. (NB: nightjar is not currently recorded at Thurstaston.) It is one of the only habitats in Britain that can support all six native reptile species (3 snakes and 3 lizards.)
Many species are recorded at Thurstaston Common. There are three types of heather - ling or common, bell heather and cross-leaved heath. These are attractive to bees as well as a number of types of butterfly. Locally rare plants such as bog asphodel are found on the common. Animals recorded include common lizard and birds such as yellowhammer and meadow pipit nest here.
3. It’s well loved, and important green space for people to enjoy
Thurstaston Common is special place for many local people who use it regularly for recreation. It's still possible to get the feeling of a wild and remote place on parts of the common, and to imagine how Wirral once was in the time before major development, when most of the uncultivated land would have been heath.
What is the threat?
Much like gardens, habitats have to be managed. Heathland in particular requires a lot of work, as its quality can drop very quickly. If left uncut, birch, gorse and bracken would take over the heath so that is why we continue to cut them today. It costs the National Trust around £2,500 every month to keep on top of unwanted birch tree growth, to remove bracken and overgrown vegetation shrubs, to monitor the hardy cattle who act as additional land managers, and track the condition of the heathland. Without this management, it would begin to revert to woodland in as little as 5-10 years.
Therefore, if we want to protect this rare and special habitat, and the many species of animal, birds and insects that depend upon it, doing nothing is not an option! The National Trust is committed to managing Thurstaston Common forever but sustaining this management is costly.
We have limited money available to us to carry out the work. Unlike other National Trust properties, we don’t have a shop or café to help us to generate more funds to put back into Thurstaston Common, so we depend on donations.
Quite simply, the more money we have, the more we could do to make Thurstaston Common a better place for wildlife and for visitors. With a relatively small amount of additional work, we could see the return of a number of key heathland plants and the species that depend on them.
How can local people help?
As a registered charity the National Trust relies on the financial support of our members and donors, as well as the time of our many volunteers, to look after the areas of Thurstaston Common that we manage.
By donating a £1 for your Karl Tatler bag for life, you will be directly helping to protect one of Wirral’s most precious open spaces, a nationally important habitat, home to many special plants, birds and animals. And by carrying your bag with pride you can help to spread the message about Wirral’s precious wild places and how important they are.
Thurstaston Common is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Local Nature Reserve. (LNR) The site is jointly owned and managed by the National Trust and Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council.
All money raised through the Karl Tatler Bag for Life scheme will be used at the National Trust-managed areas of Thurstaston Common to support the ongoing management and care of the heathland habitat.
The National Trust is a registered charity (no. 205846). We are completely independent of Government. We rely on membership fees, donations and legacies, and money raised from our commercial operations to fund our key purpose – our conservation work.
Our purpose is to look after special places, for ever, for everyone and this includes coastlines, forests, woods, fens, beaches, farmland, moorland, islands, archaeological remains, nature reserves, villages, historic houses, gardens, mills and pubs.
Where to find the National Trust’s Wirral properties online:
Facebook: National Trust – Cheshire & Wirral Countryside