West Horsley Place is set within a 380 acre estate. The estate combines a wide variety of arable fields, ley pastures, some semi-improved pockets of grassland, interlinking woodland shaws and old hedgerows with copses and woodland. As well as other features including ponds, ditches, an orchard, parkland trees and formal gardens.

ancient lollesworth woodsThe estate is adjacent to Sheepleas SSSI (Surrey Wildlife Trust) and Hatchlands Park (National Trust) and forms an important wildlife corridor. It is also within two Biodiversity Opportunity Areas (BOA). It is important as a greenspace between two residential areas and has the potential to be of regional significance for biodiversity. The West Horsley Place landscape is significant in terms of its position and potential as part of a connected nature recovery network within the Surrey Hills. The ‘unmanaged’ nature of some of the landscape – particularly the woodlands – means that it is likely that further surveys will identify more regionally or nationally significant species. We need to understand more about the natural heritage of the estate to inform habitat management and visitor experience plans to avoid inadvertent loss of at-risk species or habitats and inform future management plans.

Habitats

A Phase 1 habitat survey carried out by Surrey Wildlife Trust in spring 2019 identified twelve different habitats, including five Habitats of Principle Importance (HPI):

· Wood-pasture & Parkland

· Lowland Mixed Deciduous Woodland

· Traditional Orchards

· Hedgerows

· Arable Field Margins

The ancient woodland is designated as a Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI). There are also archaeological features including a series of three medieval fishponds. These are a scheduled ancient monument. 

Early Purple OrchidFlora and Fauna

There are a wide range of Notable Species including GB Red list (GBRL), England Red List (ERL) or Surrey Rare species. Species of Principle Importance (SPI) at West Horsley Place include the Noctule Bat, Brown Long-eared Bat, Cuckoo, Spotted Flycatcher, House Sparrow and White Admiral.

Plants and trees

266 different species of plant have been recorded at WHP. Of these 72 plants have conservation status, of which six are on the Great Britain Red Data List for plants, eight are on the England Red Data List for plants and three are on the Surrey Rare Plant Register. Plants found on the estate include Black Poplar, Bluebell and Wild Daffodil found in the woodlands, as well as Loose Silky-bent, Corn Spurrey, Prickly Poppy, Broad- leaved Spurge, Dwarf Spurge and Sainfoin found in arable fields.

WHP has areas of ancient woodland that are over 400 years old. Over 31 ancient woodland indicator species have been recorded in our woodlands, including Early Purple-orchid, Pignut and Field Rose. This is high number of indicator species as generally fifteen or more ancient woodland indicators would indicate a woodland is likely to be ancient in origin.

Birds and Mammals

Mammals known to be present on the estate include Badger, Stoat, Weasel and a variety of bats including Serotine Bat, Daubenton’s Bat, Leisler’s Bat, Noctule Bat, Common Pipistrelle Bat and Brown Long-eared Bat.

roe deerBirds recorded on the estate include Skylark, Kestrel, Tawny Owl, Barn Owl, Little Owl, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Stonechat, Wheatear, Spotted Flycatcher, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Marsh Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Goldfinch and Linnet.

All of our habitat and building restoration has been very careful managed with support from ecology experts to ensure that we cause minimal disturbance to these rare species. Planned improvements to habitats across the estate will aim to enhance wildlife corridors and encourage local populations of Hazel Dormouse, Hedgehog, Harvest Mice, shrews, voles and mice, as well as Soprano Pipistrelle Bats, Alchathoe Bats, Whiskered Bats and Natterer’s Bats to use the estate.

Butterflies, moths and other Invertebrates

The butterfly composition is similar to that of Sheepleas with White Admiral, Chalk Hill Blue and Silver-washed Fritillary known to be present. Hedgerows are likely to support Brown Hairstreak and possibly also White-Letter Hairstreak. However there are a vast number of species that have been recorded in the surrounding area around the estate, in particular from Sheepleas SSSI that could also be found on the estate such as butterflies including Purple Emperor, Brown Hairstreak, Silver-spotted Skipper, Dingy Skipper, White-letter Hairstreak, Small Blue, Grizzled Skipper, moths such as Grey Dagger and Knot Grass, beetles including Cardinal Click Beetle and a Ship Timber Beetle, bees such as Plain Mini-mining Bee, Sharp-collared Furrow Bee and Swollen- thighed Blood Bee, ants including Brown Tree Ant as well as flies, hoverflies, spiders and snails.

Future Plans

We are working with Surrey Wildlife Trust to develop our plans for the estate. Our current plans include:

  • Developing a 50 year vision and detailed management plans for the estate.
  • Holding a Bioblitz event to recruit volunteer biodiversity recorders and citizen scientists to help us carry out surveys to record all of the species across the estate.
  • Working with Surrey Wildlife Trust to train volunteers to restore historic hedgerows across the estate as part of their Hedgerow Heritage Project. 
  • Developing a whole organisation approach to sustainability for West Horsley Place.