On January 4th 2021, Surrey Wildlife Trust is commencing annual winter works at Chobham Common to maintain emergency service access, firebreak networks and improve the heathland habitat for birds and reptiles. The Trust apologises for any disruption to those visiting Chobham Common for winter walks or rides during the four to six weeks while the work is in progress.
Visitors are still welcome to the Chobham Common during the works, with Fishpool and Monument car parks remaining open throughout. Roundabout car park will remain open, although the overflow area will be temporarily closed. Longcross, Staple Hill and Jubilee car parks will also be temporarily closed whilst the works are carried out near to those areas.
The works will start in the north of Chobham Common in the first two weeks of January, so people are advised to visit the more southern areas of the Common during this period, where there are no works planned at that time.
In total nine hectares of scrub will be removed from Chobham Common. Some of the scrub will be cut and cleared mechanically using large vehicles along the fire breaks networks. In addition, a new fire break of 20 metres wide will be created on Burnt Hill, to improve emergency access and wildfire reslience in that area.
Ben Habgood, Surrey Wildlife Trust conservation manager of Thames Basin Heaths, said:
“The cutting, chipping and collecting machinery will create some noise and ground disturbance, leaving muddy and rutted tracks temporarily, which will be levelled following the completion of the works. Temporary rubber matting will be laid down in some, very limited locations across some rights of way to minimise ground disturbance by machinery. We ask the general public to follow the contractors signage while the works are in progress and thank them for their understanding and patience while this vital work is completed.”
As part of annual works, gorse has been mapped according to age and is rotationally cleared not only to improve the resilience of the Common in terms of fire risk but also to benefit key heathland wildlife species. The older, leggy and overgrown gorse is being removed as it is less valuable to wildlife, so opening up these areas will allow for species such as Woodlark, Nightjar and Dartford warbler to benefit. Reptiles will also be able to use the newly created open sandy areas.
Firebreak networks will be managed to improve emergency services access including gorse removal and some tree works to keep fire breaks open. Dense clumps of gorse will be removed in key areas to reduce fuel for fire, as it is a combustable vegetation in dry conditions. In two zones, hand-cutting and small fires will be managed as part of the January works.