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Ashtead woman announces nature reserve plans for village

By Leatherhead Advertiser  |  Posted: June 06, 2012

  • Ashtead woman Daphne Burnettis hoping to create a nature reserve in the village

  • Daphne Burnett is hoping to turn 14 acres of her land into a wildlife reserve RELM20120517A-017_C by Liam McAvoy

  • Daphne Burnett is hoping to turn 14 acres of her land into a wildlife reserve

  • It is currently being used by horses for grazing

  • The Rye feeds into the River Mole and plays a key role in draining water around Ashtead

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AN ASHTEAD woman hopes to create a nature reserve in the village.

Daphne Burnett bought a 48-acre plot next to Ashtead Woods Road in 1988 and has managed and maintained the land since then.

Now she wants to turn a 14-acre floodplain either side the Rye Brook – a tributary of the River Mole – into a reserve to protect the 38 species of birds and other animals living there, as well as hedges dating back to 17th Century.

"Since my childhood in Scotland, I have always loved the countryside," she said.

"This area of land in Surrey has been very special for me and I have managed it for 25 years. However I am now 65 and I can't look after it for another 25.

"I am reluctant to sell it because I feel developers might buy it and eventually it would be destroyed.

"I felt the best way forward was to start speaking to people directly, forming a small group with different interests and skills to advise me and help get the word out."

Mrs Burnett is already in discussions with groups such as the Environment Agency, Surrey Wildlife Trust, the Woodland Trust and the Lower Mole Countryside Management Project about how to enhance the environment and secure funding for the project. But she also hopes to recruit members of the public to reshape the river, create wetland habitats, plant trees and hedges and maintain the site – and she will have a stall at Ashtead Village Day on June 9 to meet anyone who is interested.

"This is a beautiful corridor for wildlife" she said. "When all the wildlife surveys have been completed, I want to look at how we can attract more species by developing wetlands, wildflower meadows and hopefully a Jubilee wood."

The land will remain in private ownership for the forseeable future and, apart from the two rights of way crossing the area, access will be limited to protect the environment.

In the long term, Mrs Burnett hopes to pass the land over to some form of charitable trust, which would allow access to volunteers, wildlife organisations, schools and universities hoping to undertake study projects.

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