Surrey Wildlife Trust - Thursley, Elstead, Ockley, Royal & Bagmoor Commons Public Consultation

Thursley, Elstead, Ockley, Royal & Bagmoor Commons Public Consultation

A notice has been published by Surrey Wildlife Trust and posted at various access points on theCommons:

Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT), in partnership with the Ministry of Defence/Defence Estates (MoD/DE) and Natural England (NE), is undertaking a major review of the management of Thursley, Ockley, Elstead, Royal and Bagmoor Commons, and has embarked on a consultation process to seek the views of members of the public, local communities, organisations, stakeholders and visitors to understand how they use, experience and value the Commons, in order to help decide how they should be managed for wildlife and people. 

The Commons are internationally important for their wildlife and are amongst the finest remaining examples of lowland heath in southern England; a globally rare and threatened habitat. Between them, the Commons are designated as a RAMSAR site (i.e. wetlands of international importance), a European Special Protection Area (SPA), a Special Area for Conservation (SAC), a National Nature Reserve (NNR) and as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). 

The Commons are a rich, diverse tapestry of mini-habitats dominated by a varied heather sward, with some bare ground, wetland and scrub perfect for wildlife. In order to prevent decline of these Commons we need to continually manage them to protect them from the invading scrub, trees, bracken and coarse grasses which can cause the loss of the diverse heathland. 

Over the last 250 years, nearly 90% of UK heathland has been lost so areas like these Commons are especially precious today, as they are a unique and cultural landscape formed and maintained by generations of local people. The Commons have been part of the history of the area for centuries, once providing local people with a source of income and a livelihood. The heathland provided them small wood, heather turves for fuel and grazing for their sheep and cattle. 

The mosaic-like habitat can today be achieved to some extent through a combination of management techniques such as mowing, controlled winter burning, turf-cutting and summer grazing. However without any management, the heathland can quickly be taken over by encroaching trees and scrub so it is not an option to do nothing and let the Commons decline.  

 The Commons are also immensely valuable wild open spaces for people to enjoy. The Commons have long been available for public access, subject to military use, and are popular with walkers, dog walkers, cyclists, runners, riders and naturalists throughout the year. People bring many benefits to the Commons from the incidental creation of wildlife habitat such as bare ground, to the reporting of fires and vandalism as well as in the support of volunteers. 

The Commons needs to be managed for the majority of users and for wildlife, landscape, health and safety and amenity, as well as for military training. There are inevitably choices to be made for future management, but the views of users and local stakeholders are important to us, before we decide on how to proceed. 

A number of drop-in days and events have taken place over the last two years, to discuss the issues with visitors, users and stakeholders. All of the feedback given at these events and drop in days and/or submitted separately, has been collated and analysed. 

 We are aware that notices have recently been placed at the main access points around the Commons, urging users and visitors to voice their concerns about the consultation to SWT. The Trust has recently posted their own notice at the main access points to rectify any misinformation and answer concerns. 

 A copy of the notice can be downloaded here:  Site Notice

A report detailing the responses on the future management of the Commons can also be downloaded below. 

 Please direct any enquiries to Zoe Grainger at Surrey Wildlife Trust, School Lane, Pirbright, Woking, Surrey GU24 0JN or e-mail

Further Information:

Public Consultation Leaflet

Public Consultation Background Paper

Actions Appraisal of Thursley, Ockley, Elstead, Royal & Bagmoor Commons

Report on First Stage of the Public Consultation

Phase 2 - Background Paper