Blindley Heath Common
Blindley Heath Common is situated in the southern part of Godstone Parish, approximately 26 hectares (63 acres) of grassland, scrub, woodland and ponds. Lying just south Ray Lane at Blindley Heath the common is open to the public at any time with access from public footpaths in the area. The site is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is important for wildlife and plant life being an area of damp grassland, scrub and woodland lying on Weald Clay. It is home to a number of plants and invertebrates which are rare in Surrey as well as protected species of reptiles and amphibians. The grassland supports a variety of acid soil loving plants typically found on the Weald. There are several ponds around the site and together with the Ray Brook, these provide additional wildlife habitat. The Common is owned by Godstone Parish Council and was designated a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) by Tandridge District Council in 1991. A Management Committee, made up of representatives of the Parish Council, the District Council, local residents, Natural England and Surrey Wildlife Trust was made responsible for the management the site. Over time the trees and scrub began to encroach on the grassland and the site needed managing by grazing if its importance was not to be lost. To allow the site to be properly managed it was fenced in 1998 and since then cattle belonging to a local farmer have grazed there, while volunteers have carried out occasional scrub clearance. A number of the ponds have been restored with grants from various organisations and companies.
In recent years it became apparent that a more active management strategy would be needed if a more dramatic improvement in the condition of the site was to be achieved, and that it would benefit from the management skills of a specialist conservation organisation. We are very pleased therefore to have succeeded in engaging the Surrey Wildlife Trust to manage the site on our behalf with a 25 year agreement having been signed in January 2012. The former Management Committee has become a Liaison Group, still involving the Parish Council, Surrey Wildlife Trust, Natural England, Tandridge District Council, a local farmer and residents living around the common.
At the first meeting of the Liaison Group the Trust put forward a ten year Management Plan, part of which is summarised below. Grassland, ponds and ditches, as well as access and recreation are key features of high priority. Habitat management on the site will be aimed at creating a balance between grassland, scrub and woodland habitats. The need to comply with relevant legislation and maximise outside funding opportunities are also key components of the plan.
Grassland has been highlighted as the priority on the site and the extent of this habitat will be extended by tree and scrub clearance to link areas of existing habitat and begin to restore the site to past conditions. Key to the management of the grassland will be the continuation of livestock grazing on the site. Young scrub re-growth will be cleared on a regular basis.