Ashtead Common National Nature Reserve
Ashtead Common NNR is a 500-acre wooded common in northeast Surrey which contains over 2,300 ancient oak pollards. The reserve’s diverse habitats, which include woodland, grassland, scrub and wetland habitats such as ponds, streams, ditches and springs, support a wide variety of plant and animal species including several hundred species of fungi, lichen and mosses. Some 50 different species of trees and shrubs and more than 300 species of wildflowers are found here, including greater yellow rattle, bluebell, wood anemone and southern marsh orchid. The large area of oak pollards (relic woodland pasture) provides an important habitat for bats, woodpeckers, owls and nuthatches, together with butterflies such as the purple emperor and purple hairstreak. Over 1,000 species of beetle have been recorded, of which more than 150 are internationally rare. Ashtead is home to a variety of amphibians and reptiles such as adders, as well as mammals such as bats, voles, foxes and roe deer.
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About The area
Surrey may be better known for its suburbia than its scenery, but the image is unjust. Over a quarter of the county’s landscapes are official Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and along the downs and the greensand ridge you can gaze to distant horizons with hardly a building in sight. This is one of England’s most wooded counties, and has more village greens than any other shire. You’ll find sandy tracks and cottage gardens, folded hillsides and welcoming village inns. There’s variety, too, as the fields and meadows of the east give way to the wooded downs and valleys west of the River Mole.
Of course there are also large built-up areas, mainly within and around the M25; but even here you can still find appealing visits and days out. On the fringe of Greater London you can picnic in Chaldon’s hay meadows, explore the wide open downs at Epsom, or drift idly beside the broad reaches of the stately River Thames. Deep in the Surrey countryside you’ll discover the Romans at Farley Heath, and mingle with the monks at England’s first Cistercian monastery. You’ll see buildings by great architects like Edwin Lutyens and Sir George Gilbert Scott, and meet authors too, from John Donne to Agatha Christie.
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