- Other Woodland reserves
Milford Green & Coxhill Green
Milton Heath & The Nower
Broadstreet & Backside Commons (inc. Rydes Hill Common)
Burners Heath & Swallows Pond
Fir Tree Copse
Graeme Hendrey Wood
Hill Park Estate
Vann Lake including Candy's Copse
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The 300 acres of Sheepleas lie on the chalk slopes of the North Downs within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The site is a mosaic of woodlands (both ancient and recent) and grassland. This mixture of habitats supports a huge diversity of wildlife, and as a result has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Some of the woods have probably been here for at least 400 years. These ancient woodlands are carpeted with bluebells in Spring.
Elsewhere we are gradually removing the larch, and planting trees that are more appropriate for this area, like beech, oak, field maple and wild cherry. Wild service and whitebeam are berry-bearing trees to look out for.
Trees in some parts of Sheepleas are coppiced (the stems are cut close to ground level every few years). This traditional form of management provides poles for a variety of uses, including fencing and charcoal production. You may see charcoal being produced on-site.
During the great storm of 1987 many old beech trees blew down. Although the storm seemed catastrophic at the time, it opened up new areas for meadow flowers to grow. We have left many tree stumps to rot. This returns nutrients to the soil and provides a habitat for insects and fungi.
The grasslands are rich in plants that thrive on chalky soil like majoram, eyebright, milkwort, wild thyme and wild orchids. The mix of open grassland, wide rides and woodland makes Sheepleas an excellent site for watching butterflies. There are over 30 butterfly species here, including common blue, green hairstreak, silver-washed fritillary, ringlets, and migrants such as the clouded yellow and painted lady.
Centuries of sheep grazing created these chalk grasslands. Left alone they would turn to scrub and eventually to woodland. Nowadays we mow once a year, after the wild flowers have set seed.
Sheepleas was once part of the West Horsley Place Estate, and both the woods and grazing land would have been used for their economic value. During the 1930's, parts of the West Horsley Estate were auctioned. Surrey County Council, concerned that the area would be developed, bought the current site to be protected as a Public Open Space.
Car parks off A246 (by church) Shere Road and Green Dene.
A visitor guide and self-guided trail leaflet is available for this reserve. Download your copy here.
Designation : SSSI and LNR
Grid reference : TQ084 514
Habitat : Woodland