Surrey's Wildlife Today

Surrey has an enviable variety of wildlife habitats, from the chalk grasslands and ancient woodlands of the North Downs, through scarce grazing marshes beside the rivers Thames, Wey and Mole to the extensive heaths and bogs characterising the west of the county.

The county has managed to retain a higher proportion of its original biodiversity than most. However, only an estimated 16% of Surrey retains any special value for wildlife.

These habitats support around 88 nationally protected species and over 270 that are in steep decline and therefore prioritised for conservation action. At least 74 in this category have not been seen for over 40 years and are most likely already locally extinct.

People and Wildlife

Surrey is also extremely crowded. We are the UK’s most densely populated non-urban county, at 6.8 persons per hectare. Over 70% of the county is part of Greater London’s Green Belt, so this population lives largely within contained clusters of historic urbanisation amidst a jealously-guarded and relatively empty sea of undeveloped land. The Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has existed since 1958 to protect 42,240 ha of the county’s most dramatic landscapes.

Many people choose to live and work in Surrey because of its idyllic character, beyond the perceived chaos of the capital. And by default, the county is extremely prosperous; in fact it is the wealthiest in the UK by some margin! This however, belies some stark contradictions and parts of Surrey suffer deprivation levels comparable with anywhere in the UK.

The social and economic activity within Surrey certainly poses a threat to our environment, but must also be seen as a possible solution. Effective wildlife management is an essential but largely hidden requirement to maintaining the countryside that is enjoyed by many thousands of visitors. SWT encourages people to actively help protect their local greenspace and enhance its biodiversity.

A National Vision

Some of the important sites and species in Surrey are protected by legislation, others by planning policy. National planning policy now clearly identifies the need to protect and enhance wild places, increase biodiversity and reinstate a coherent ecological network spanning the entire country; a living landscape that is rich in wildlife and valued by all. We want wildlife to thrive, to disperse and re-colonise our landscape so future generations can encounter, experience and enjoy our natural heritage.