Heather Farm wetland begins to take shape
Work has recently commenced on the creation of our new wetland habitat on the site of a former mushroom farm in Chobham Road, Horsell. The 17 acre site, which belongs to the Horsell Common Preservation Society (HCPS), is being transformed from an industrial eyesore into a haven for aquatic wildlife. HCPS has commissioned the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (WWT) from Slimbridge in Gloucestershire to design the exciting new scheme, and engaged landscape experts, Land & Water Ltd as the main contractor.
Once completed, the site will be open to the public and accessed from a free car park, which will also include bike racks and a rain shelter. Visitors will be able to walk the wetland area to view the wildlife from hide screens overlooking the main water body, via specially created raised grass pathways meandering through areas of woodland. Boardwalks are being constructed in the wetter areas, allowing access to a number of smaller ponds located around the site. Wet fen habitat around the main water body will increase ecological diversity, whilst it is hoped wet ditch corridors will attract water voles, and the reed beds will become a haven for birds, dragonflies and other aquatic species.
HCPS chairman, David Robbins, said: ‘Whilst Heather Farm is designed to attract wildlife, our management team are very keen for it to be an area for the public to enjoy. A grassed picnic area will be created for visitors to relax by the River Bourne on hot summer days, and a new footbridge across the river will open up a further 50 acres of water meadows and pasture for people to explore. A plan to ensure this land is made open to the public in perpetuity is being negotiated between HCPS and Woking Borough Council, and we hope the site will be partially open to the public by the autumn of this year, or early in 2014”.
HCPS Project Manager, Ron Neale, added: “The cost of the wetland scheme to HCPS will be approximately £300,000 which will be taken from our charitable reserves, but we consider this to be money well spent in providing the residents of Woking with a fabulous natural place to explore and enjoy. In these times of urban expansion, we feel it is quite exciting to return an industrial site to nature. The next phase of the project at Heather Farm will be to renovate a retained warehouse building as a headquarters for HCPS and the Surrey Wildlife Trust. Our vision for the building is to create an Ecology Centre at Heather Farm, which will include a permanent education facility, nature trails through woodland, and dipping platforms on some of the ponds for school children to discover wildlife”
HCPS acquired the site over 3 years ago in a commercial trade-off with McLaren, when the trustees of Horsell Common released a restrictive covenant in exchange for the former mushroom farm site. In doing so, HCPS successfully removed the threat of the site becoming a waste plant, and at the same time permitted McLaren to build their new car factory in Chertsey Road.
We are appealing to members and local residents for help in completing the wetland scheme as once the hard landscaping has been completed, we will need volunteers to help us in planting the water margins with over 20,000 plants such as Reed, Marsh Marigold and Water Plantain. We cannot afford to do a complete planting scheme across the entire site, so we are looking for assistance to plant in sections which will help natural regeneration to occur. We expect planting to commence sometime towards the end of April, so if you would like to get involved, then please send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 07860 712503.