Rye Meadows

Project Update.
Ashtead Rye Meadows.
August 2018.

The group Friends and Volunteers of Ashtead Rye Meadows Wetlands was launched at Ashtead Village Day 2012.

Jim Jones (Surrey Wildlife Trust), Ruth Hanniffy (The Environment Agency) and I took a pitch beside The Lower Mole Countryside Group at Village Day. The Leatherhead Advertiser produced an article "Ashtead Woman Wants Your Help" the week before to encourage interest.

Caroline Cardew-Smith signed up that day and has since gone on to create her own project on The River Mole. Geoff Ball joined us and during his time with us, he received a Community award. Thanks to Geoff we developed a core group of volunteers who work twice a month on projects.

David Baker had been to a few previous meetings and signed up that day. Our thanks to David for everything he has done over the years to keep an excellent Group together, manage the website and carry out many jobs behind the scenes. David received The Rotary Award last year at Village Day and is Chairman of Ashtead Rye Meadows Wetlands. Steve Bridges also signed up that year and has given us financial support and much encouragement. We have grown in numbers and soon might have to have a waiting list for volunteers.

This year we continue maintaining all the previous works, carried out over the years. The list is endless; river meanders, ponds, scrapes, berms, trees, hedges, footpaths, fences, dead hedging, ditches, bird counts by Peter Firth, RiverFly monitoring (Nigel Bond), Open Days, Village Days, Heritage Days and River Mole Discovery Day.

We are now looking at our next 5 year Plan. The Biggest Challenge for the future is to encourage the Local Schools, and groups of any age to visit. Some outstanding works still outstanding are improving access to the meadows, completing the meanders on the Centenary Field stretch of the river, and installing a composting toilet. The undergrounding of the overhead 33KV electric cables (Peter Williams) is a long slow process.

Cathy Brett (http://www.cathybrett.co.uk/), a Local Artist has joined our team, and we are very excited about the work she is producing and look forward to developing her involvement.

My husband and I have moved away from the area but will stay involved and visit often. The 14-acre site is protected from development in perpetuity by Fields in Trust and it is our wish that this Haven will be loved by many Ashtead Residents young and not so young.

The Rye Meadows are open on Heritage Weekend from 11am until 3pm on Saturday 15th September. See web site for details www.ryemeadows.org.uk.

Daphne Burnett.

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Visit the Rye Meadows web site to see details of the commemoration of the new Centenary Field opened on 24th May 2017 to remember the 62 residents of Ashtead who fell in the Great War. Go to Home/Photo Album and scroll to the bottom of the page to view the many photos taken on the day. Also we recommend you click the YouTube link to hear the profiles of the fallen serve personnel read by local schoolchildren from the City of London Freemen's School, The Greville School, St. Peter's School, West Ashtead School and Downsend School. As well as the voices recording the profiles of the fallen, you will see footage of the Great War and photos of the Centenary Field's commemoration.

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For many years, Daphne Burnett has had a vision for the fields that abut the Rye Brook on her land. Now her vision is coming to fruition and plans are well advanced to begin the work of turning this area into a wetland haven for plants, birds and wildlife.

The Project now has its own web site www.ryemeadows.org.uk. Visit this for full details of what's planned, how to contact the team, how to volunteer to assist and dates for future work.

Volunteer Days are the first and third Tuesday in each month. To enquire please either visit the web site on the above link, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We look forward to seeing you.

Daphne writes as follows:-

RYE MEADOWS, ASHTEAD

HISTORY

In 1988 an area of approximately 48 acres of land adjacent to Ashtead Woods Road was acquired by Rye_Meadows_1my husband and myself from the estate of the late Lord Barnby, who had expressed the strong desire that the land be retained in single ownership to preserve the character of an area of land which, with the exception of some peripheral building, has remained little changed for many centuries. The land is bisected by the Rye Brook, which is designated a "main river" and is a tributary of the River Mole.

Over the last 24 years some of the land, mainly in the upper area, has been used for low intensity grazing for horses. The income from this has contributed to the cost of the general maintenance of the whole area and, inter alia, the clearing of natural and man-made debris from the environs of the Rye, tree felling and clearance where necessary for safety reasons, and the cutting and preservation of hedges. In addition significant work has been undertaken over the years in keeping clear the two footpaths which traverse the land from Preston Grove and Fairholme Crescent, giving direct access to Ashtead Common. This work has also included the building and restoration of stiles.

During this period, I have taken responsibility for managing the land and have made it available to and worked with individuals and institutions interested in the environment. These include a Hedgerow Survey for the Lower Mole Countryside Management Project carried out by local historian and keen supporter of the preservation of the environment, Jack Willis, in which he noted that almost all the surface water from Ashtead village flows into the Rye. The land from Barnett Wood Lane gently slopes to within 100 metres of the watercourse. This area immediately south of the Rye was originally known as The Great Marsh and an Ashtead Court Roll of 1483 makes mention of its clearance, drainage and conversion into pasture land. The system of ditches from Barnett Wood Lane in the south and from Ashtead Common to the north continues to this day and is crucial for the proper drainage of the area. The land from the north of the Rye to the boundary with the houses on the southern border has been designated by the Environment Agency as Flood Plain and so any blocking or filling in of ditches exacerbates the risk of flooding. The oldest hedges are thought to date back to at least 1638.

Contact has been maintained with the Lower Mole Countryside Management Project and one of the boundary hedges was made available to enable a hedge laying exercise to be carried out by a group of volunteers. Subsequently a hedge bordering on Ashtead Common was made available to the Corporation of London for the same purpose.

Advice has been taken and followed from the People's Trust for Endangered Species on the best practice in the management of hedgerows and access has been granted for the study of species who inhabit that environment.

Most recently, Peter Firth, a local ornithologist, who has observed birdlife on Ashtead Common for twenty years and produces a monthly diary on his findings, has commenced a survey of the 48 acre site. In December 2011, he noted that 38 species had been observed. However, a smaller number of migratory birds than might have been expected haveRye_Meadows been observed.

In the past help was provided by a number of agencies. More recently this has been replaced by an increasing level of regulation and, due to ever tighter budgets, a diminishing level of support.

The lower area from the northern side of the Rye southwards, much of which is Flood Plain, forms part of a natural corridor along the Rye westwards from Ashtead Common. It has huge potential to provide a mosaic of habitats for many types of wild life and it is this area of approximately 14 acres which is the subject of a proposed long term environmental restoration and development project.

THE VISION

Having managed the land for almost a quarter of a century, I would like to enhance for the long term benefit of the environment and the village of Ashtead this wildlife corridor. Over the past couple of years I have been developing my vision with the assistance of:-

The Community Foundation for Surrey

The Environment Agency

Surrey Wildlife Trust

The Woodland Trust

Helen Cocker and Conor Morrow of the Lower Mole Countryside Management Project

David Baker, Nigel Bond and Allan Mornement - Committee Members

Stephanie Weinman, a landscape architect

Plus many more regular and enthusiastic volunteers.

The plan includes the following:-

  • reshaping the river channel

  • recreating meanders

  • developing ponds and scrapes

  • generally creating new habitats for important species

  • planting hedging and trees indigenous to the area to enhance nesting sites for birds

  • light grazing of horses to encourage wild flower meadows

  • ongoing maintenance

  • encouraging other groups and specialist societies to visit and record their findings

In order to protect this corridor and ensure the benefits of the project are maintained, and because the land will remain in private ownership, apart from the rights of way, only limited access will be possible. This will be granted to the specialist societies and interest groups mentioned above, to schools and universities for study projects, and to volunteers who will play an integral part in the carrying out of the plan. As a result, although the land borders Ashtead Common, this 14 acre site will be unique to the area.

Daphne Burnett