Hidden gem transformed into a wildlife haven

FOX Corner Community Wildlife Area is a hidden gem that is well worth visiting if you fancy a short country walk in a secluded setting.

The 5.5 hectare (14 acre) site was turned into a community wildlife reserve by a partnership of local residents, Guildford Borough Council, Surrey Wildlife Trust and Merrist Wood College.

The bridge over Hodge Brook, which was designed and built by local volunteers and opened in the autumn of 2018

The site, off the A322 Bagshot Road on the border of Woking and Guildford boroughs, was previously being treated as wasteland and used as a dumping ground.

It was compulsorily purchased by Guildford council in 1990 and has since been transformed into a self-sustaining and varied collection of habitats requiring the minimum of management.

Maintenance of the reserve is undertaken by volunteers, with the bigger projects carried out by contractors using funding from several sources, the largest being the SITA Environmental Trust. Visitors are welcome, including dogs if they are kept on a lead at all times.

An information board inside the entrance gate includes a map of the site, its history and some of the flora and fauna to look out for.

The main path which winds through the site has a surface of compacted gravel, allowing visitors with baby buggies and wheelchairs to move easily through the reserve’s woodland, meadow and wetland. The path has deteriorated a little over the years and although there were a few watery and muddy patches when we visited last month, it was easy to pass through.

Other grassy paths wind through the site to reach its fringes.

The Fox Corner Community Wildlife Area’s pond, with its dipping platform, is a draw for children

It’s worth taking a detour to visit the “wet area” to your left. It has a wildlife pond with a pond-dipping platform. From here, a boardwalk crosses a boggy area, leading to a grassy path alongside Stanford Brook. The path eventually loops to the right and passes through woodland to re-join the main path.

The route crosses a bridge over a stream, the Hodge Brook, then passes alongside an attractive small meadow. Eventually, the path reaches an iron gate adjacent to residences in Hockford Close, off Ash Road, marking the end of the reserve.

Turn around here and follow the main path back to the entrance. If you keep to the main path it’s about 1.3km (0.8 mile) there and back. You can explore the grassy paths for a longer walk.

The Fox Corner Community Wildlife Area has its own website at www.foxcornerwildlife.org.uk where you’ll find a plan of the site, its history and details of some of the flora and fauna to be found there, including the kingfisher, wren and great spotted woodpecker. Roe deer are often seen in the shadier parts of the reserve and butterflies are abundant in spring and summer.

The website’s news pages and photo gallery provide an interesting insight into the work necessary to create the reserve and to maintain it.

Fox Corner Community Wildlife Area is just off the A322, not far from the Fox Corner roundabout. From the Brookwood direction, turn right into Heath Mill Lane and the entrance is 30 metres on the left. Park in the road, as there no off-street car parking.

To really appreciate the wide variety of flora and fauna, choose a sunny day. You won’t be disappointed!

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