Netley Common Local Nature Reserve

Open heathland and woodland on the outskirts of Southampton


About the site

Netley Common is an important lowland heath. It has open heath and grassland with islands of scrub and gorse, surrounded by a mixed woodland fringe.

Three native heathers grow on Netley Common. Ling, bell heather and cross-leaved heath grow beside associated scrub species like dwarf and common gorse. Reptiles such as common lizards and adders like to bask in the sunshine, but will slither away to the cover of a bush when disturbed. These creatures are protected by law and should not be taken away from their natural habitat. The heath is also important for its elegant butterflies and dragonflies.

In the past grazing animals would maintain Netley Common and other heathlands, such as those in the New Forest. Commoners' cattle, sheep and horses, as well as wild deer, would keep woodland and scrub encroachment to a minimum. This enabled fresh heather growth, as would natural fires on hot summer days. Because the heath is so small and so close to residential areas, we do not practice heather burning. All fires, natural or otherwise, must be put out as quickly as possible.

Netley Common is alive with history. A bronze-age round barrow or tumulus is located in the east corner. This is the last remaining one of four and dates back 3,500 years. Its original use might have been as a burial mound.

A Roman road crosses the site. It ran from Southampton, then called Clausentum, to Portchester, crossing the River Hamble at Botley. Its surface was tightly packed pebbles and flints and it had a drainage gully on one side.

Used by the military from at least 1794 to 1800 for training and transit camps, the common boasts an important past military use. Canadian soldiers camped on Netley Common during the Second World War in the run up to D-Day. Evidence of concrete foundations and brick holes are still seen today amongst the brambles.

Contact us

South Area Office, Ranger Depot, Pylands Lane, Southampton SO31 1BH

Phone 023 8040 2534