Women who are inspiring generations of conservationists in Surrey

© Surrey Wildlife Trust

BBC Countryfile joined Surrey Wildlife Trust for a special Mother’s Day episode celebrating 60 years of conservation in Surrey

BBC Countryfile joined Surrey Wildlife Trust for a special Mother’s Day episode celebrating 60 years of conservation in Surrey, its amazing volunteers, landscape management and pioneering education reserve at Nower Wood near Leatherhead. Matt Baker met a woman, Mary Adler, who has inspired generations of conservationists including her son and granddaughter.

The Countryfile team visited the wild heathland landscape at Brentmoor Heath, north west of Woking, where Matt Baker met Mary Adler, whose passion for protecting the Surrey landscape not only inspired her son but dozens of other youngsters and fellow volunteers. Mary Adler a remarkable woman who has embodied the spirit of the Trust for more than 30 years, was awarded an MBE for her work to protect and enhance the heathland. 

Mary embraced the challenge of not only saving Brentmoor Heath from development but also whole-heartedly began to manage the 75 acres of heathland by becoming volunteer warden. A mother of three young children and with little knowledge to begin with, she found herself meeting wildlife experts for advice and leading a squadron of Royal Engineers. She said, ‘They dug an amazing pond and the dragonflies and palmate newts just followed. If you get the habitat right the wildlife comes.’ 

Her greatest achievement was in inspiring the younger generations including her son James Adler.  He said: ‘Growing up on Brentmoor Heath was amazing, this was our playground.  We were making camps, playing with snakes and chasing butterflies.’  Mary added: ‘We couldn’t go past any toadstool without James making us stop and making us really appreciate what we saw.’

A fitting tribute by Countryfile for Mother’s Day as James followed in his mother’s footsteps with a passion for nature and has now been working for the Surrey Wildlife Trust for 17 years. Today he is director of biodiversity at Surrey Wildlife Trust, managing over 7,500 hectares across the county for the benefit of wildlife, and is also land management advisor to the Wildlife Trusts.


Countryfile filming on Brentmoor Heath

© Surrey Wildlife Trust 

Later in the programme James Adler took Matt Baker to Pirbright Ranges, a vast expanse of vital lowland heathland.  A Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), it cannot be managed in the same way as other sites because it is MOD land with restricted access.  Left unmanaged, every few years there would be wildfires on the site, so the Trust introduced a traditional form of management using a 160-strong herd of native Red Deer. 

James Adler said: ‘The Red Deer graze the land which controls the scrub, manages the heather by creating diversity in structure, age and the wildlife is responding really well.’

Countryfile closed its Mothering Sunday tribute by meeting the third generation of the Adler family, Mary’s granddaughter, attending a Wild Tots session at Nower Wood Education Reserve. Aimee Clarke, director of people and engagement for Surrey Wildlife Trust, said: ‘The most important bit is being out in these beautiful woodlands. We get 15,000 people a year coming here, who experience being out in the wild, learning about the species, our natural history and why it’s so important in Surrey.’ 

Matt Baker said: ‘As Surrey Wildlife Trust is celebrating 60 years of conservation, I’ve come to Nower Wood education centre to see what the next sixty years holds. If this lot is anything to go by the future of conservation in Surrey is in enthusiastic hands.’  

Surrey Wildlife Trust is offering a range of 60th anniversary events, walks and talks including: Wild Surrey art and photography competition open for entries until 14 April, Wild Surrey Photography and Art Exhibition in Guildford from 25 May to 14 June, Bay Pond Open Day in Godstone from 15 June, Guildford Goes Wild on Guildford High Street on 1 & 2 June, Heath Week from 28 July to 2 August and Rivers Week from 22 to 29 September.

More about the history of the Trust, 60th anniversary events and how to get involved 

More information about Nower Wood Education Centre

Matt Baker & James Adler

© Surrey Wildlife Trust