The New forest is looking stunning right now with the heather in bloom.
Here in the forest we have 3 types of heather.
The Ling heather is a pale pink with very delicate flowers growing right up the stem. Because of it's tough, woody stem in times gone by it was used for thatching, ropes and brooms.
Bell heather has a deeper purple/pink bell-shaped flower that sits amongst a whorl of 3 dark green leaves along the stem. It loves acidic, well drained soil hence why it thrives on some of our heaths and coastlines.
Cross-leaved heather looks a little like bell heather but the flower is slightly smaller and a paler shade of pink and only flowering in a small bunch at the top of the plant. The leaves are a whorl of 4 leaves creating a cross effect, hence the name. This type of heather can mostly be found amongst heath bogs and damper ground.
Like gorse, heather gets burnt to help control and promote new growth. But whereas gorse is burnt in rotation every 12-15 years heather is burnt every 20-25 years. In between burns the heather can be cut and baled which can often be seen used to dam the new forest streams to control the flow and prevent all the sediment being washed away as well as creating shallow pools as habitats.
Besides this it is simply stunning to look at and enticing to the deer who expose themselves on the heath to come and have a nibble!