The name Headley comes from the old English ‘Hallega’, meaning a clearing with heather; an apt name for Headley Heath, Surrey. The origins of the village of Headley can be traced back to Saxon times when the heath and surrounding area was part of the Copthorne Hundred (an administrative area, devised by the Saxons).
Headley Heath, Surrey
Headley is listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 as being held by Ralph of Felgeres, while previously the manor was held by King Harold’s mother, Countess Goda. During this period, the heath was used for grazing animals, as it still is today, collecting bracken, firewood, and furze by local villagers.
Headley Heath is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSI) and as such provides a habitat for many different species of flora and fauna. A unique mix of alkaline (chalk-loving plants such as cowslips) and acidic (chalk-hating plants such as heather) plants growing in the same area is unusual, thanks to this quirk of geology, Headley Heath has a diverse ecosystem.
The heathland at Headley may look natural but it is actually man-made, over the years the land has been cleared for farming and heather grew in the poor, sandy soil. Local people used the heather for fuel and thatching, while also utilising the area for grazing livestock.
Much of Surrey’s heathland has been lost but the National Trust at Headley Heath is dedicated to protecting this unique landscape.
The woodland is a beautiful mix of silver birch,beech, willow, oak, and rowan. And it was in the woods where I spent most of my time. The mist hung close to the open land and the edges of the woods, creating a lovely soft light.
Headley Heath, Surrey: Morning light hits the dense mist, creating an eerie Sunday morning on Headley Heath.