The Gatwick Greenspace Partnership is part of Sussex Wildlife Trust and works at a variety of locally important sites for wildlife in and around Crawley, Horsham, Horley and Dorking on the Sussex/Surrey border, including the following;
This is one of the three sites owned by the Woodland Trust to be found in our project area and is a regular site for our practical tasks, especially during the busy Coppicing season (from October to March each year). This Ancient Semi-natural Woodland lies in the Surrey Weald, just north of Gatwick airport, but remains a relatively peaceful and un-spoilt sanctuary for wildlife, especially woodland butterflies such as the silver washed fritillary and the Speckled Wood.
Buchan Country Park
Just 2 miles from the centre of Crawley, you can find this beautiful Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI), which is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), owned by West Sussex County Council. Pre–dominantly an area of Wooded Heath, it also has areas of Sweet Chestnut Coppice, wet woodlands and semi-natural lakes and ponds, which provide the ideal habitat for the many species of dragonflies that the site is well known for. There is ample parking and a visitor centre, selling locally sourced produce, from Herbs to Honey on a seasonal basis.
Warnham Local Nature Reserve
Another wonderful site in our area, Warnham LNR, on the north west side of Horsham and owned by Horsham District Council, is just 10 minutes drive from the centre of town and yet , this often over-looked reserve, has a large 17 acre Millpond, marsh-land, wildflower meadows, Reed-beds and mixed Woodland. There is also a visitor centre, including a small cafeteria serving locally made food, toilets and parking facilities.
St Leonard’s Forest
This large area of wooded Heath and conifer plantation to the east of Horsham, is owned by the Forestry Commission and access is mainly from the Roost-Hole car park off Hammerpond Road. Just a short drive from the centre of Horsham and you can explore this remaining fragment of ancient royal hunting forest via a network of footpaths, bridleways and cross country cycle tracks. An important site for Heathland species such as adders, common lizards, dragonflies and nightjars.
Inholm’s Clay Pit Local Nature Reserve
A new site for our volunteer group this year, this hidden gem of a reserve is owned and managed by Surrey Wildlife Trust and is just a five minute drive from Dorking town. Another example of how an old brown-field (ex-industrial) site can be converted into a valuable sanctuary for wildlife close to an urban population, Inholm’s is a good place to look for chalk grassland plant species, such as the bee orchid, in early Summer.
Tilgate Park (and Tilgate Forest)
Combined, these two areas, provide the largest green space in the Crawley “urban fringe” for recreation and for wildlife. Tilgate Park is owned and managed by Crawley Borough Council and has recently benefitted from a large scale investment by the Environment Agency to increase the capacity of the main lake which included the planting of new reed beds, as well as the removal of large areas of invasiveRhododendron ponticum to return them to being semi-natural deciduous woodland.
Tilgate Forest adjoins Tilgate Park and is owned by the Forestry Commission. There is a network of trails allowing access for recreational use and plans to improve the access via Tilgate Park. It contains a valuable area of wooded Heath, which with our volunteers we are helping to restore and maintain for the benefit of wildlife.
Leechpool and Owlbeech Woods
Owned by Horsham District Council, these are really one site, situated on the north-east edge of Horsham. Where else can you find a mixed deciduous woodland and heathland area within walking distance from a town centre? Recent management work has encouraged breeding pairs of nightjars to return to Owlbeech Woods.
Another example of an old industrial site that has been converted into an important wildlife reserve, this is owned and managed by Surrey Wildlife Trust, with the help of volunteers. Tucked away behind a new housing development, this reserve is another little hidden gem which is well worth a visit, especially in the Summer, to see the wealth of insect life that is attracted by the diverse mix of habitats found here.
The second of three sites owned by the Woodland Trust that we hold regular task days at, Hammond’s Copse is situated near the rural village of Newdigate, Surrey and is a short walk from Newdigate Brickworks, so the two can be combined in a one day walk and it is interesting to compare the flora and fauna of a semi-ancient woodland with the more open, scrubby and aquatic habitat at the Brickworks.
The last of the three Woodland Trust sites in our project area, Glover’s Wood is an easy walk from the charming old village of Charlwood, Surrey. A regular site for our winter coppicing tasks, Glover’s (as well as Hammond’s Copse and Edolph’s Copse) also has several small ponds, which attract a rich variety of wildlife, especially during the Summer months.