Surrey is England's most wooded county, with woodland covering over a fifth of the county! Many woods are rich in wildlife and make a great place to visit. Some have been part of the landscape for centuries and are designated ancient woodland. Surrey’s woodland is home to a vast array of wildlife including up to 43 species of butterflies and 623 types of moths.
Wonderful wildlife, breathtaking views and top picnic spots are just some of the gems on offer at the county’s countryside sites. Surrey has many places to visit where you can experience local wildlife and get up close to the natural environment. Three national nature reserves, 42 local nature reserves and many other open spaces managed by a variety of conservation organisations.
Surrey Wildlife Trust manage over 80 sites across the county for the benefit of people and wildlife.
Farnham Heath RSPB Reserve is home to an array of wonderful wildlife including the rare Dartford warbler, nightjar, woodlark and tree pipit. Wooded areas of the Reserve have wonderful displays of bluebells in spring and an amazing variety of fungi in the autumn.
Newlands Corner, near Guildford, offers breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. In spring and summer, the chalk grassland is carpeted with stunning wild flowers and the woodland has some ancient yew trees which are over 100 years old!
The mix of open grassland, wide rides and woodland makes Sheepleas, near East and West Horsley, an excellent site for watching butterflies. Over 30 species have been recorded including common blue, green hairstreak, silver-washed fritillary, ringlets and migrants such as the clouded yellow and painted lady.
Norbury Park, near Leatherhead, is made up of a mixture of woodland, grassland and farmland. The range of habitats encourage a diverse mixture of wildlife, including roe deer, badgers and foxes in the woodland, together with all three British woodpeckers (green, great spotted and the much smaller lesser spotted).
Just off the A3 and junction 10 of the M25 lies Wisley & Ockham Common, an internationally important site for dragonflies and many rare bird species. The combination of wet heath and valley mire support interesting grasses and forbes such as Surrey’s largest colony of rare bog hair grass and important sphagnum moss beds.
A great place to escape from it all is Chinthurst Hill near Guildford. A quiet and peaceful site where you’ll find a stone folly built in the 1930s and a fine display of bluebells during the spring.
West End Commons, near Woking, have a mixture of woodland, open glades and heathland. The sandy soil suits a range of special plants, including heather and bilberry. This sand also makes for easy, mud-free walking.
Staffhurst Wood, in the east of the county, has a fine mix of oak, ash and beech with areas of hornbeam and hazel coppice. The wood is a fragment of the old 'Wildwood' that once covered much of southern England.
All of these sites have self-guided trails to wander around by following the waymark signs or see Surrey Wildlife Trust’s information on these reserves.
European Nightjar, copyright Pete Morris