The last of the unsightly metal power pylons, which have towered over Thursley National Nature Reserve (NNR) since the 1960’s, has been removed – marking the end of a two year-long project involving Natural England, Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Southern Electric Power Distribution (SEPD), to restore the stunning scenic views across this Surrey reserve.
Andy Smith, Area Manager for Natural England in the Thames Valley said: “This is a great example of partnership working which has led to a winning solution for people who enjoy experiencing Thursley’s unique beauty and for the wildlife that live there.”
Work to dismantle 11 pylons carrying thirty three thousand volt overhead power lines, plus 22 wooden electricity poles carrying eleven thousand volts across the NNR, began in 2013. More than three kilometres of overhead power lines have now been replaced by underground circuits, restoring and enhancing Surrey’s rare, historic heathland landscape and re-creating a sense of partial wilderness rarely found in South East England.
Contractors worked closely with Natural England to protect the site’s rare and varied habitats and ensure that the operations avoided areas used by rare nesting birds, such as woodlark and Dartford warblers. The pylons were finally removed this autumn when the nesting season was over.
James Giles, Natural England Reserve Manager at Thursley NNR, said: “Keeping the power lines which were formerly visible across the reserve out of sight hugely enhances one of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes in Surrey. It is the culmination of a 10 year vision – something truly remarkable.”
Rob Fairbanks, Director of Surrey Hills AONB said: “Thursley is already an incredibly special site, but this project has allowed us to revitalise the reserve by restoring the sense of wilderness and the traditional heathland landscape once so familiar in the Surrey Hills.”
Greg Moore, Project Planner with Southern Electric Power Distribution, said: “This was one of the most complex and challenging undergrounding projects we had ever undertaken. We have an ongoing programme where our customers can nominate officially designated areas of natural beauty which could benefit from overhead lines being moved underground. Hopefully the Thursley project will serve as an example of what can be done with the cooperation of everyone involved.
James added: “Seeing this project completed is hugely rewarding for everyone who’s been involved, including our network of Natural England volunteers who were able to assist in the removal of the final pylon – a fitting epitaph to the project!”