Just under a year ago in the Spring of 2015, fire devastated over seven hectares of prime heathland on Farnham Heath Nature Reserve in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Many important wildlife species including sand lizards have been affected as well and the conservation work undertaken to restore the heathland has been set back.
To help with the ongoing restoration of Farnham Heath, the Surrey Hills Trust Fund, established in partnership with the Community Foundation for Surrey has provided a grant to aid the RSPB with safeguarding the heath from fire damage in the future.
Mike Coates, RSPB Ranger, Farnham Heath comments;
“Last April, a fire swept through our Farnham Heath nature reserve. The fire covered an area the size of 10 football pitches and devastated an area of prime mature heathland. To make it worse the heath was home to one of the few native populations of sand lizards in the South East. This extremely rare reptile is dependent on well-managed heathland, but since 1800 the UK has lost over 80% of its Lowland heathland and what is left is often fragmented and vulnerable to scrub encroachment and arson. The fire was therefore a major setback not only to our heathland restoration work, but also to the conservation status of the very rare sand lizard. We are really grateful for the generous donation from the Community Foundation for Surrey which has enabled us to buy and plant native, deciduous trees. These will help to slow any future fires spreading from the surrounding land as well as provide excellent homes for our local wildlife on site.“
Over 1000 native trees including beech, rowan and oak have been planted. These types of tree are much slower and harder to burn than the conifer trees currently on site and so will act as a natural firebreak. The RSPB are also hoping to create a new track to improve access to the site for Fire Service vehicles, install bollards to prevent unauthorised parking, and manage the habitat to reduce vulnerability to fire by creating areas of bare sand.
Councillor Mike Band, Mayor of Waverley comments;
“The fire on Farnham Heath Nature Reserve in 2015 was devastating not only to those in the Borough but also anyone concerned about conservation. As a member on the Surrey Hills Trust Fund Panel I am delighted we could award this grant to such a worthwhile cause, which will help to safeguard the future of this nationally important reserve”.
The Surrey Hills Trust Fund will help to conserve and maintain the fragile environment of the Surrey Hills by awarding grants to support a wide-range of local projects from landscape conservation to community enterprise schemes.
Wendy Varcoe, Executive Director of the Community Foundation for Surrey comments;
“This is about local people giving to protect and conserve the stunning natural landscape. We are delighted to work in partnership with the Surrey Hills AONB to encourage local philanthropic giving and help communities to access and enjoy the Surrey Hills for generations to come. ”
To donate to the Surrey Hills Trust Fund, apply for a grant or for further information visit https://www.surreyhills.org/trust-fund/