Update 21st July 2020
All 3 heathers are in bloom together at the moment and make a lovely sight.
The bell heather – Erica cinerea – is the spicy pink one; the cross leaved heath- Erica tetralix – has pale pink (bell shaped also) petals and is starting to fade, and the common ling – Calluna vulgaris – has spiky stems of much smaller lilac coloured flowers.
The bell heather thrives in drier soil; the cross leaved heath likes wet conditions, and the ling can cope with both.
Most heathland sites only have two of the three types, because they are either wet or dry heaths. Tiptree Heath is unusual – we say, special! – because it is sandy, gravelly soil overlaying London Clay, and in patches where the clay is nearer to the surface the soil will retain its moisture for longer. The heath is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and this is one of the reasons why.
The not so good news recently is that we have had to resort to closing the car park overnight, following increasingly frequent noisy and disruptive incidents involving young people and vehicles. A derelict caravan was also dumped there, but Colchester Borough Council wardens were very quick to get it removed. The police have supported us where they can and are carrying out regular patrols along the road and around the area.
I hope in the next Blog to have news of the imminent arrival of the Exmoor ponies.