The Difference between Lowland Heath and Moorland

To the untrained eye Moorland and Lowland heath looks much the same and indeed they are very similar habitats. The significant different is in altitude; moorland is found on higher altitudes than lowland heath. For example Moorland can be found in Scotland, the higher peaks of England and elsewhere in Europe.

The main characteristics are the same of both Moorland and Heath. Both Moor and Heath are manmade and not a naturally occurring habitat. Grazing and cutting down of trees over many centuries has cause Moor and Heath to develop into a unique ecosystem one sees today. Both Moor and Heath are distinctive by the absence of trees and a rich carpet of heather, broom and Gorse. Moor and heath have acidic soils and areas that are waterlogged and boggy. Both ecosystems have bogs where specialist plants live like the carnivorous Sundew. Both Moor and Heath have snakes like the grass snake and adder. Smooth snakes are usually found on Lowland Heath. Both are rich in bird and insect life.

Lowland Heath over two century ago covered much of Southern England.  Now there are only tiny pockets of Heathland left and most are protected in law. The biggest pocket of Lowland Heath is in The New Forest, Hampshire. The New Forest is 36 square miles of heath and woodland. Here can be found the Dartford Warbler, hobby and other rare birds like the Nightjar.

Dorset Heathland has a unique heather (Bell Heather (Erica cinerea)) not found on other heaths outside of Dorset.  

Heath and Moorland needs to be managed as both ecosystems will if left unattended revert to woodland. New tree growth needs to be removed or thinned annually to prevent dense woodland forming. Both Heath and Moorland support rare bird and insect life. Moors need less protection as they are on higher land and in many instances and the wind prevents trees getting a hold. Much of the Moor in Scotland doesn’t need the same intensive management that Lowland Heath does in parts of Southern England.

Due to increasing population in the United Kingdom both Moor and Heath is under constant threat of development despite legal protection. These unique ecosystems are rapidly disappearing over the whole of Europe and there is a growing demand to protect what is left from development. Moorland is mentioned in the novel Jane Eire. Jane had to walk two miles across a Yorkshire moor to get to church. Thomas Hardy mentions Lowland Heath in many of his novels and in his day would have stretched two hundred miles from Dorset right over to Dover in Kent. Now sadly there is barely more than a few square miles of heathland left.