The restoration of Thursley National Nature Reserve (NNR’s) historic lowland heathland landscape was celebrated on Friday 9 September with the launch of the Reserve’s new Dragonfly Nature Trail. Star of the launch was the unveiling of its centrepiece, a stunning dragonfly sculpture – symbolically alighting a former pylon – by local Fire and Iron sculptors, Lucy Quinnell and Adam Boydell.
Speaking about the sculpture Lucy Quinnell said: “It has been a privilege to work on a commission of this kind which brings together two great passions of ours: art and ecology. Almost 100% of the sculpture is recycled, to suit the theme of the overarching project. The dragonfly is made from motor parts, a lamppost, ladles, a saucepan handle and the stainless steel ‘sky’ from a Royal Horticultural Society gold medal-winning show garden. It celebrates nature re-colonising landscapes utilised by man.”
The opening of the trail with its eye-catching 1.2 x 1.6m sculpture marks the culmination of a massive infrastructure project involving Natural England, Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks that has seen 11 pylons removed from Thursley NNR and 33 thousand volt power power-lines replaced by new underground circuits.
The project has led to the restoration and enhancement of Surrey’s rare historic heathland landscape, acid mire and the incredible wildlife that it supports, including 26 species of dragonflies and damselflies, some being specialised species.
Rob Fairbanks, Director of the Surrey Hills AONB said: “Thursley NNR is a special site in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), a real jewel in the Surrey Hills. The removal of power lines by Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks has restored the sense of wilderness and the traditional heathland landscape so familiar in the Surrey Hills. The Dragonfly Nature Trail and sculpture helps to engage and inspire young and old and we encourage everyone to come and experience this beautiful area”.
The boardwalk trail, made with the help of Thursley’s loyal band of volunteers, gives unprecedented access to this unique wetland site. Viewing areas allow visitors to take in the restored landscape and understand what they are seeing through vibrant new interpretation, including 3D etched panels for the visually impaired, and watercolours by Mike Langman which capture Thursley’s landscape and the ever-changing nature of dragonflies.
Andy Smith, Area Manager for Natural England in London and the Thames Valley said: “I am delighted and grateful for the support of our partners which has enabled us to celebrate the return of Thursley’s historic landscape and the improved habitat for its wildlife. This fabulous Dragonfly Nature Trail with its stunning sculpture not only inspires all generations to look, learn, and discover, it shows us what we can achieve when we work together in partnership”.
Greg Moore, Project Planner with Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks, said: “We are committed to being a good neighbour in the areas where we distribute the electricity, and as part of this commitment we are aiming to underground 90km of overhead lines in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty over the next eight years. We hope that the work which we have carried out at Thursley Common, where we have put over 3km of lines underground, will serve as a great example of how we can work together with communities to enhance the local visual landscape.”