The main habitat found on the reserve is sand blown heath, which is one of the rarest habitats in the county. The nearest equivalent being in the Brecks of Suffolk & Norfolk. Most of the area was planted with Corsican pines and there is some oak regeneration. The poor soil, derived from aeolian or wind-blown sand is material deposited after the last Ice Age and gives rise to an unusual plant community for an inland site.
In addition to patches of heather, gorse and broom, more specialised sand-land plants can be found, including slender trefoil, field mouse-ear and shepherd’s cress. The dominant ground cover is wavy hair grass and sand sedge. The fauna includes solitary bees, sand wasps and common lizards. Common blue and small heath are amongst the butterflies to be seen, and Grizzled and Essex Skippers have been recorded in recent years.
Its name suggests that in medieval times the area must have been used to raise rabbits, an important source of meat and fur. The fact that the right of way through the area from north to south is known as Rabbit Hill Lane offers further confirmation.
In the Second World War it was used as a munitions dump to supply the many local airfields and from 1965 onwards the Forestry Commission planted conifers. Fortunately for this rare habitat, many of the transplants did not take. Some patches of grass-heath have survived though many interesting plants have been lost due to rigorous forestry management.
Aims include a phased removal of the conifers and the control of broad-leaved trees in most areas to encourage the regeneration of the grass-heath habitat. The small area of mixed woodland at the northern tip of the reserve will be managed to favour deciduous trees, especially oak.
Removal of the Corsican Pines is to take place over a ten year period and commenced in February 2003 with the removal of the first "third" to the north of the reserve. The second "third", on the eastern side, was removed in November 2006 and the final "third" was removed in Nov/Dec 2011, the job completed early 2012.
The area marked 03 is the area cleared in February 2003.
The area marked 06 is the second phase, cleared in November 2006, and is shown half completed. The northern half of this area has yet to be felled in this photo.
The green area in the South West is the final 'third' of the opperation, and is shown covered in Corsican Pines. This area was felled towards the end of 2011 and, for the benefit of this website now becomes area 11.