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Wisley Common and Ockham & Chatley Heath

Over 800 acres of heathland and woodland.

These areas make up over 323 hectares (800 acres) of heathland and woodland. The lowland heathland area is a very scarce habitat and supports a specific and unusual range of wildlife. The three areas have been designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest by Natural England in recognition of their importance for nature conservation. They are also part of a European Special Protection Area.

The M25 cuts through the northern area of these open spaces and Wisley airfield provides a southern border. They straddle the A3, with Boldermere lake supporting a wide range aquatic life on the eastern side of the road.

Ockham & Wisley is a nationally important site for dragonflies and damselflies. Twenty species have been recorded here. Many rare birds can been seen on this site. One is the hobby, which is one of the few creatures that can actually catch dragonflies.

Two species of trees grow so readily on this site, that if left uncontrolled, they would take over the open heathland. Birch colonises heathland very quickly, especially on burnt areas. Scots Pine was introduced to Surrey for timber and readily seeds itself in heathland. Without management, heathland quickly reverts to woodland, and the flora and fauna that depend on it disappear. Surrey has lost 85% of its heaths in the last 200 years. Those that remain are an internationally important habitat.

If it is possible, heathlands are grazed in order to maintain them. The rangers also cut invading shrubs and tree seedlings, and clear some of the woods that were once heathland. It initially looks harsh, but the bare soil is soon covered with purple heather.

This habitat restoration started in the early 1990's and is already showing results. As the heather grows back, the rare heathland wildlife returns.

Semaphore Tower 

The Semaphore Tower is located on Chatley Heath. The Tower was once part of a chain which was used to pass messages between the Admiralty in Whitehall and the Royal Naval Dockyard in Portsmouth. It was built in 1822 and is now the only restored surviving tower in a line of signalling stations that stretched from London to Portsmouth. The Tower is open to the public once a month between March and September.

Admission for Open Days:

  • £3.00 for adults
  • £2.00 for concessions (pensioners/under 16 years/students)
  • Free for children under 5

Group visits outside of these dates can be arranged through Steve Hill on 07894 660999 or email:

Species and habitats


Nearby nature reserves

Manor Farm
2 miles - Surrey Wildlife Trust
The Forest & The Highlands
2 miles - Surrey Wildlife Trust
Papercourt Marshes
3 miles - Surrey Wildlife Trust

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Reserve information

Old Lane & Wisley Lane
KT11 1NA & GU23 6QD
Map reference
Great for...
getting away from it all
Best time to visit
Jun - Aug
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
Plan your journey
Opening Times
Open at all times
Visitor centre
Picnic facilities
Disabled toilet
Baby changing
296.56 hectares
Walking information
A self-guided trail leaflet is available to download
Car parks off Old Lane (KT11 1NA), Ockham & Wisley Lane (GU23 6QD)
Dogs allowed
Grazing animals
Cattle & goats
Reserve manager
Tel: 01483 795440


Factsheets and guides for your visit