Horsell Common SSSI
At 750 acres in size, Horsell Common is the largest single open space in the Borough and represents approximately 80% of the Borough's total common land. The common to the north of Shores Road and Littlewick Road is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) providing an ideal habitat for a variety of wildlife. The sandpit where the Martians from H.G. Wells novel The War Of The Worlds landed is home to some rare types of bee and the spider-hunting wasp. Other animals resident on the Heath include roe deer, adders and woodcocks. Three different types of heather can be found on Horsell Common - Ling and Bell heather on dry parts and Cross Leaved Heath on the wetter areas. Areas of archaeological and historic interest include the three Bronze Age burial-mounds and the Muslim Burial Ground. Parking is available off Shores Road close to its junction with Chobham Road.
Horsell Common is owned and managed by the Horsell Common Preservation Society which may be contacted at P O Box 53, Woking, GU24 4YU or www.horsellcommon.org.uk
Horsell Common SSSI together with Council owned Sheet's Heath Common SSSI and Brookwood Heath SSSI were formally designated part of the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA) in May 2005 in recognition of the international importance of the heathland for a number of rare birds, including nightjars.
Sheet's Heath Common SSSI
Sheet's Heath SSSI comprises 65 acres of a mosaic of heathland and woodland habitats, located in the west of the Borough near Brookwood and within easy walking distance of the Basingstoke Canal. As on many other heathland sites in the Borough, visitors will see evidence of recent heathland management practices. These include extensive clearance of pine and birch scrub which, if left unchecked, would gradually invade the whole site, decreasing its value for rare and valuable heathland wildlife. The south facing slopes nearest to the Canal provide particularly suitable habitat for native reptiles, including adders, to bask in the sun. Limited parking is available just off Sheet's Heath Lane, with Brookwood Station being the closest railway station.
Brookwood Heath SSSI
Brookwood Heath SSSI is an extensive area of open heathland with views extending as far as the Ash Ranges. Brookwood Heath has been considerably enhanced by extensive scrub clearance which has restored valuable dry heathland habitat. Conservation grazing is carried out annually during the summer months by a variety of animals including goats, cattle and ponies. The open expanse of Ling creates a haze of purple heather flowers during August, as well as providing camouflage for the nightjar, a rare ground nesting bird. Visitors may hear the bird's eerie "churring" call at dusk on summer evenings.
The Heath also has a number of wetland habitats including an open ditch and pond, which enhance the biodiversity of the site by providing habitats for a variety of dragonflies and damselflies which bring colour to the small heathland pond during the summer months. On wetter areas, including parts of the firebreak which runs across the centre of the site, the insectivorous sundew may be found.
The Heath is next to Brookwood Cemetery, with limited parking available off Chapel Lane, Pirbright. Brookwood train station is a couple of miles away.
Smart's Heath Common and Prey Heath Common SSSIs
Smart's Heath Common SSSI is located in the south of the Borough near Mayford. Smart's Heath is grazed annually by cattle which helps to reduce invasion of pine, birch and gorse scrub and, to diversify habitats on the site, the area is particularly rich in wildflowers which grow alongside the footpaths.
Prey Heath Common SSSI to the south of Smart's Heath is of similar character and of particular interest for its wet heathland flora, which includes insectivorous sundew plants. Limited parking for Smart's Heath is available in Kemishford. Prey Heath is provided by a small car park off Prey Heath Road close to its junction with the A320. Worplesdon train station is close by.
Millmoor Common, located in Old Woking, is a Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI), designated for its attractive wildlflower meadow and mosaic of aquatic habitats. With its streams, ponds and hedgerows, the meadow is a haven for wildlife including ducks, swans, coots and moorhens, as well as a variety of meadow and aquatic species including white water-lilies, meadowsweet and yellow flag iris. A public footpath links Millmoor to Westfield Common and Send via the River Wey. A small parking area is available near the Gresham Press Printers, accessed over the Hipley Bridge from Old Woking High Street.
Water also plays a large part in the Borough's landscape and heritage. The canal banks are rich in wildlife which is relatively undisturbed by the pace of modern life, while towpaths provide ideal opportunities for interesting walks along well defined routes.
The Basingstoke Canal
The canal is 32 miles long in total, nine of which run through the Borough of Woking. It was completed in 1794 to carry agricultural produce to London but fell into disrepair in the 1950's. After 17 years of restoration work, the full length is open once more to boats, from its junction with the Wey Navigation at Byfleet to the Greywell Tunnel at Odiham, Hampshire. The Basingstoke Canal is widely regarded as the richest waterway in England for wildlife, with numerous rare plants and dragonflies. It therefore provides for many an interesting walk, as well as a facility for angling, canoeing and pleasure boating.
The management of the Canal is undertaken by the Basingstoke Canal Authority, for further information please contact them at
The Canal Centre Mytchett Place Road, Mytchett, Surrey. GU16 6DD
Tel: 01252 370073
The Wey Navigation
The Wey Navigation was opened in 1653 and passes through the Borough of Woking to link Guildford and, since 1763, Godalming with the Thames. It pre-dated the canal age by over 100 years and was built by Sir Richard Weston, whose grandfather built Sutton Place, the Woking house where the American oil magnate, Paul Getty, lived.
Regular Commercial barge traffic declined until it ceased in 1969 and the navigation was donated by its owner, Harry Stevens, to the National Trust. For more information contact the National Trust River Wey and Godalming Navigations Office
Dapdune Wharf, Wharf Road, Guildford, Surrey, GU1 4RR.
Tel: 01483 561389.
The Hoe Valley
The Hoe Valley path is a mosaic of woodland and wet and dry meadows, linked together by the Hoe Stream and a clearly way-marked path running for 2.5 miles from Mayford Bridge to Hoe Bridge in Old Woking. At Mayford Meadows Local Nature Reserve (LNR), wetland management to encourage the establishment of a rich, wet grassland flora is being carried out with numerous trees being coppiced and pollarded in order to enhance its biodiversity interest, and provide suitable habitat for the rare water vole.
Wild flowers often spotted include marsh marigolds, cuckoo flowers, purple loosestrife, meadowsweet and yellow water-lilies. In contrast, the nature trail at White Rose Lane Local Nature Reserve runs through damp alder woodland beside the Hoe Stream. A number of voluntary groups have worked here carrying out scrub clearance and removal of the highly invasive alien Himalayan Balsam which, if left uncontrolled, would spread rapidly across the site overshadowing and outcompeting native species. Wildlife observed within the site includes owls, bats, deer, frogs and various species of rare fungi.
For further information about these sites, please contact the Cultural and Community Development Team at Woking Borough Council
Tel: 01483 743690 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org