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Reserve Management

Wharncliffe Heath is owned by Forestry England and managed by a partnership between FE and Wharncliffe Heathlands Trust. It is managed primarily to improve the condition of the existing heathland, create wood pasture (a traditional farming method that provides a variety of distinct habitats)  and to expand the areas of heath over time. 

The primary approach to management is to graze the heath with traditional native breeds of sheep and cattle that are thrifty, hardy and well suited to this site. Breeds used include Shetland cattle and Shetland sheep, with the number of animals altered throughout the year. These animals help control the encroachment of scrub including birch saplings and bramble, as well as damaging bracken rhizomes through trampling, introducing variation in vegetation structure and providing a source of dung for invertebrates. Different types of animal vary in their grazing or browsing method hence the use of both cows and sheep on the reserve. Due to the presence of stock on the heath it is critical that visitors keep all dogs  on leads.

The stock are helped in their scrub control job by regular volunteer events, with volunteer groups, notably including Sheffield University Conservation Volunteers, performing a number of management tasks. These tasks include birch cutting, bracken bashing and control and hopefully future eradication of the invasive species rhododendron. We would love to see you along on one of our management events!

The selective felling of birch but not oak along the northwest boundary between the heath and woodland has allowed the creation of a wood pasture habitat. This area in particular is maintained through targeted grazing, with stock attracted to both the grazing pond and supplementary feed which is often provided in this location. It is intended that the management towards wood pasture will be extended to the  area  below the northern end of Wharncliffe Crags in order to diversify the ground flora and improve the area for a number of target species.

The woodland on the eastern and northern fringe of the reserve is not actively managed at this time, other than the maintenance of paths by Sheffield Council and the erection and monitoring of bird and bat boxes.  Dead wood is left where it stands or has fallen, whenever possible. Thinning of trees in this area by Forestry England is likely to happen in the future.

The original 1996-2001 Management Plan can be found here, with the 2014-2020 update available here

Courtesy of Robert Bell 

Courtesy of Robert Bell 

Wharncliffe Heathlands Trust


The Trust helps in the management of Wharncliffe Heath Local Nature Reserve and the surrounding area. The aims of the Trust are:

  • To create, enhance and conserve areas of traditional open landscape in an area centred on Wharncliffe Wood (SK310955) to the North-west of Sheffield

  • To manage Wharncliffe Heath Local Nature Reserve for the benefit of wildlife and the neighbouring community

  • Undertake research and data collection relating to managing such landscapes, and disseminate our findings

  • Involve the local community in conservation and management, and undertake training and educational events

  • To achieve these objectives through partnership with relevant bodies such as local authorities and other wildlife and conservation groups


Wharncliffe Heathlands Trust is run entirely for and by volunteers. Our trustees include 2 ecological consultants, 2 scientists, 1 ecologist, a countryside management officer, a ranger, an environmental campaigner and a forester/livestock farmer. The Trustees comprise: Julie Westfold (Chairman), Dave Buttle (Secretary), Pete Riley (Treasurer), Andrew Hill (Biological Recorder), David Dulieu, Matt North, Albin Smith, Tom Newman and Robert Bell.

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