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DSC_0007DSC_0016DSC_0014DSC_0018The people of Woking – and indeed, nearby Chobham – can enjoy a fabulous new amenity as from this weekend. Heather Farm riverside meadows and wetland, a former mushroom farm transformed into a public open space, is open to the public, thanks to the hard work of Horsell Common Preservation Society, which only two months ago opened its peace garden at the restored Muslim Burial Ground, plus the help of Woking borough council.

In the terminology of land use, Heather  Farm is officially a Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG). To this end, dog walkers are being encouraged to come and use its riverside walks, as well as the splendid Waters Edge café, although they are prohibited from the wetland area, for fear of disturbing the wildlife. HCPS hope that some dog owners will thus will be lured away from using nearby Horsell common, where the dogs can disrupt the heathland habitat of Dartford warblers, nightjars and woodlarks.

Heather Farm’s lake and ponds are intended to provide a haven for waterfowl. Although Wokingmatters only spotted a couple of coots on opening day – a grey, damp Saturday in January –  12 wetland species have been spied there already, including kingfishers, herons, teal, tufted ducks, little grebes, and green sandpipers. Reeds and other water-loving species, including marsh marigold, purple loosestrife, water forget-me-not, branched bur-reed, reedmace, and water plantain were planted on the banks of the lake and ponds in 2013.

There are walks and bridges, and a small hide to observe birds from. There was a constant stream of visitors on opening day, with car park and cafe often packed, even though HCPS had kept the publicity razzamatazz fairly low-key. The Waters Edge cafe has a warm, inviting and relaxed feel, and looks like becoming a popular haven and meeting place.

When I arrived I could still hear the roar of traffic from the main road. After walking around the lake I couldn’t hear it any longer. Funny that. First the beautiful and peaceful garden at the Muslim Burial Ground. Now this wonderful wetlands habitat, truly a place to get away from it all. Horsell Common Preservation Society, you are spoiling us!

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One Comment

  1. On a return visit two weeks later, on another Saturday, the cafe was chokka but that didn’t matter. We saw impressive flocks of canada geese and greylag geese on the lake, and witnessed the greylags come in to land on the water. An identification display board would be a good idea. I’m sure it’s on the HCPS to-do list.


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