Surrey’s Last Wilderness

Surrey’s Last Wilderness is a five-year programme of heathland restoration run by the Surrey Heathland Project. With a major part of its funding coming from the Heritage Lottery Fund through English Nature’s Tomorrow’s Heathland Heritage programme, it is supported by a partnership of 13 organisations (listed at the bottom of the page).

In Surrey, nearly four fifths of the heathland area has been lost since the late 18th century. In part, this loss has been to agriculture, forestry and development, but lack of management is now the overwhelming reason for heathland loss.

The heathland landscape that we see around us is the product of centuries of use by people who have grazed their animals and taken fuel and other products from it.As traditional exploitation of heathland has declined, trees and bracken have taken over and its area has diminished disastrously. Without management, our remaining heathland would be lost, and with it a landscape of special character, rich in wildlife and history.

With three full-time members of staff, Dr Rob McGibbon, Marcus Turley and Christina Smith, Surrey’s Last Wilderness covers 26 sites (over 2500 hectares) in Surrey and part of Berkshire. Work started on 1st October 2002 and our aim is to restore this heathland to good condition by clearing invading birch and pine, controlling bracken and bringing back grazing. The work is being achieved through a combination of experienced contractors and volunteers and in places by large scale mechanised techniques, carried out by specialist contractors. Within Surrey’s Last Wilderness the Project has developed and now administers the heathland restoration programme, directing funding and managing contracts. Several of the project’s targets have been reached and exceeded in the first few years. A secure future for heathland rests with an appreciation by people that it is something worth conserving, so we are active in demonstrating the importance of heathland in the history of our area, and as a resource of enormous value now and for the future.

Within the 5 years of the programme we plan:

  • 371 hectares scrub clearance
  • 427 hectares bracken treatment
  • 135 hectares scrub spraying
  • 5 hectares scraping for heathland re-creation
  • 9 dams
  • Introduce grazing to a further 313 hectares

Progress within the first 4 years:

  • 792 hectares scrub clearance
  • 264 hectares bracken treatment
  • 240 hectares scrub spraying
  • 6 hectares scraping for heathland re-creation
  • 6 dams
  • 174 hectares fenced for grazing

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Contact details

Project Manager – Dr Rob McGibbon
Senior Project Officer – Marcus Turley

Project Officer – Christina Smith

Surrey Heathland Project, Artington House, Portsmouth Road, Guildford, Surrey GU2 4DZ
Telephone: 01483 579713
Fax: 01483 579740

The Heathland Project is supported by:

Surrey County Council, Guildford Borough Council, Waverley Borough Council, Woking Borough Council, Runnymede Borough Council, Witley Parish Council, Wonersh Parish Council, RSPB, English Nature, MoD and the Herpetological Conservation Trust

Surrey County Council
working in partnership
Surrey Countryside Management