HISTORY OF LINGFIELD NATURE RESERVES
In the beginning there were two parcels of land near the centre of our village with contiguous boundaries. The first parcel of approx. 10 acres (freehold still being owned by Tandridge District Council) was originally known as Bloomer’s and Jenner’s Fields. In March 1994 the Lingfield Wildlife Area was set up by TDC at the suggestion of Lingfield Parish Council, and a management committee formed to look after it. The aim was to establish an environmental project to improve the biodiversity of this site, stressing the importance for the success of the project that it had the involvement and support of the local community..
In 1995 Lingfield Parish Council concluded the freehold purchase of a separate parcel of land consisting of approx. 10.6 acres declared surplus to requirements by Surrey County Council. This land - which became known as Centenary Fields to mark the 100 years of Lingfield Parish Council - consisted of 12 allotments, a small field, 2 inter-linked hedged fields and included the open field adjoining the Lingfield Wildlife Area. Centenary Fields had a separate management committee including members of the Parish Council.
The total area enclosed by the reserves, including the allotments, butterfly garden, access tracks and the portion of Jenner's Field which is not under the direct management of the reserves committees is just over 10 hectares, or approximately 26 acres.
Both committees then had the responsibility of changing the plain rye grasslands and barbed wire fences into wildlife projects, and sought expert advice on ways this land could be made more environmentally interesting and educational. Ideas also produced by local people eventually saw the establishment on Centenary Fields of a Community Orchard, a Butterfly Scented Garden (with seats and facilities for the partially sighted and disadvantaged), a Quiet Garden and a Wildflower Meadow.
This was all happening in the mid-nineties but it became apparent that some of the management of the two Reserves had common denominators and the two committees amalgamated, and are now managed under a single Constitution.
The big day came when the Parish Council asked English Nature if Centenary Fields could become a Local Nature Reserve and - after tough and lengthy negotiations - Lingfield became only the second parish council in the UK to have their Reserve declared as an official “Local Nature Reserve”. Professor Gren Lucas came down from English Nature and gave us his blessing. Lingfield Parish Council entered into a formal agreement with the Committee, currently extending to 2017, for the management of Centenary Fields. Shortly thereafter the Lingfield Wildlife Area, which TDC leased to the management committee for 25 years from 2002, was granted the same status – a real achievement for both Reserves. The 2 Reserves have now become known as the Lingfield Nature Reserves.
Over the last 17 years, thousands of new trees, including 70 different fruit trees and many wildflowers have been planted and 620 metres of hedges have been laid. In 2000, to commemorate the Millennium, 2 ponds were created in the Wildlife Area behind the Scout Hut which have now matured and are full of wild life. Regular pond-dipping open days are held which attract large numbers of children and adults, all keen to learn about the wildlife of the ponds. Regular butterfly, moth and bird surveys are carried out to keep a check on the biodiversity of the Reserves and to promote education and community involvement.
(see the latest Survey reports.)
The fields are now managed as lowland meadows. They have an annual cut, bale and clear to lower the fertility of the soil and allow more wildflowers to flourish. The committee has worked very hard to apply for the various grant funding available which has helped stock the Reserves, build the field shelter, the ponds and dipping platforms, kissing gate entrances, bridges, steps, interpretation boards, signage, seating and a network of hardstanding paths.
This has all been assisted by the generosity of many people who have donated trees and money to help establish both Reserves. Many trees have been grown from collected tree seeds of local provenance.
This has recently included a small platform and bench installed at the edge of the smaller pond – funded by a very generous donation from the former Lingfield Conservation Society; which is proving very popular with our younger pond-dipping visitors.
The Community Orchard is planted as a traditional orchard with wide spacing between the trees. The trees are grown on strong, vigorous rootstock with many old varieties. Fruit trees are not grown for commercial use – enthusiastic volunteers have already attended a RHS Wisley pruning course. The fruit is shared between our visitors and the wildlife volunteers of all ages who attend the monthly work parties, tree planting and hedge maintenance sessions needed to keep the flourishing natural growth as a good habitat.
Regular visits are made by local youth groups, primary schools and other young people to follow the Tree Trail, for special pond dipping sessions or for a mini-beast hunt. We work closely with the Surrey Wildlife Trust. Both Reserves are flourishing with wildlife and everyone involved with running these Reserves is grateful for the support of local residents.
Educational visits made to the Nature Reserves by local schools increased in number during 2011. Pond-dipping was the most popular past time for the children, and they netted and identified lots of wildlife during their visits. Over 120 Year 1 age children came along in groups from both Lingfield and Dormansland Primary Schools and from Notre Dame. Visits were also made by local youth groups including Brownies, Rainbows and Beavers – despite the low water levels. Our thanks go to all the volunteers who gave their time to help with these visits.
In late 2011, it became clear that the quality of the larger pond as a habitat for aquatic wildlife had declined, and work was thus undertaken to remove much accumulated silt and to deepen the pond bed.
We are planning to extend and improve the footpaths around the Reserves during the next few months, in order to improve access for walkers and people using wheelchairs. Although the pond area is kept fenced and gated for safety reasons and to protect the wildlife, this large area of open land near the centre of Lingfield village is very much appreciated and well used. The Reserves are open to everyone at all times. There is no admission charge and we are grateful to both the District and Parish Councils for their contribution in supporting the work of so many people and organisations maintaining this local amenity.
For information contact – Sally Cole 01342 833814,
Anne Richards 01342 870200 or Julie Hearn 01342 835313