Mole Gap to Reigate Escarpment
|Surrey, East and West Sussex
|SAC EU Code
|Designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
|* This is the approximate central point of the SAC. In the case of large, linear or composite sites, this may not represent the location where a feature occurs within the SAC.
General site character
Heath, Scrub, Maquis and Garrigue, Phygrana (15%)
Dry grassland, Steppes (25%)
Broad-leaved deciduous woodland (60%)
Download the Standard Data Form for this site as submitted to Europe (PDF <100kb)
Note When undertaking an appropriate assessment of impacts at a site, all features of European importance (both primary and non-primary) need to be considered.
Annex I habitats that are a primary reason for selection of this site
Mole Gap in south-east England supports the only area of stable box scrub in the UK, on steep chalk slopes where the River Mole has cut into the North Downs Escarpment, creating the Mole Gap. Here natural erosion maintains the open conditions required for the survival of this habitat type. The site therefore supports a stable formation and has good conservation of habitat structure and function.
6210 Semi-natural dry grasslands and scrubland facies on calcareous substrates (Festuco-Brometalia) (* important orchid sites)
This site hosts the priority habitat type "orchid rich sites". This large but fragmented site on the North Downs escarpment supports a wide range of calcareous grassland types on steep slopes, including CG2 Festuca ovina – Avenula pratensis, CG3 Bromus erectus, CG4 Brachypodium pinnatum, CG5 Brachypodium pinnatum – Bromus erectus and CG6 Avenula pubescens grasslands. It exhibits a wide range of structural conditions ranging from short turf through to scrub margins, and is particularly important for rare vascular plants, including orchids. It is also significant in exhibiting transitions to scarce scrub, woodland and dry heath types, notably 5110 Stable xerothermophilous formations with Buxus sempervirens on rock slopes, 91J0 yew Taxus baccata woods, and chalk heath (4030 European dry heaths).
91J0 Taxus baccata woods of the British Isles * Priority feature
At Mole Gap to Reigate Escarpment yew Taxus baccata woodland has been formed both by invasion of chalk grassland and from development within beech Fagus sylvatica woodland following destruction of the beech overstorey. Yew occurs here in extensive stands, with, in places, an understorey of box Buxus sempervirens at one of its few native locations.
Annex I habitats present as a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for selection of this site
4030 European dry heaths
Annex II species that are a primary reason for selection of this site
- Not Applicable
Annex II species present as a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for site selection
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