Preserve Our Reserve
Thursley National Nature Reserve Support Fund
Update - May 2021
As we approach the first anniversary of the devastating fire that affected so much of Thursley Common at the end of May 2020, we have great news to announce as the various strands that we have been working on over the last 12 months all seem to be coming together.
Natural England (NE) have been considering various ideas in terms of how the boardwalks might be restored. Should they be restored exactly as they were, or are there options that might be better? What materials should be used? How can the work be done as rapidly as possible without adversely affecting the nature in the area?
Their plans have been developed and discussed over the last few months, whilst the Preserve Our Reserve (POR) group were actively pursuing a number of financing routes to ensure that, once the NE plans were agreed, there was funding in place to at least begin the rebuilding process.
You will all be aware of the fantastic generosity of the local community in raising over £50,000 in the immediate aftermath of the fire. Since then, we have applied to Waverley Borough Council for some Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funding, and we are delighted to be able to report that we have just received confirmation that they have awarded us a significant grant of £98,000 towards the project.
The third tranche of funding will come from NE and they have recently confirmed that a budget of £150,000 has been allocated to the boardwalks project.
This all means that, rather than replacing the boardwalks section by section over a number of years, which we had feared might prove necessary, we can now look at the project in its entirety which will not only enable us to achieve our objectives sooner, but also help us to minimise the overall disruption to the Common while the works are taking place.
NE are therefore now in a position to move forward with the detailed planning, specification and tendering process to replace the boardwalks. This will take time and there will inevitably be some revisions and fine tuning as the project develops, and there may well be planning considerations to take into account too, but nevertheless the outline plans are beginning to become clear.
In putting their proposals together, NE were guided by some critical constraints and objectives. The project had to:
- Provide safe access to Pudmore Pond from the Moat carpark
- Be compatible with the principles of ‘access for all’
- Safeguard the ecology of the site
- Meet high standards of sustainability
- Not increase the fire risk, and
- Represent good value for money
Their conclusions decided that hard timber should be used for the platforms, with recycled plastic being used for the substructure. In addition, raised causeways will replace boardwalks in certain areas. The final route of the new trail is not yet confirmed by NE, but it is proposed that it will include a circular trail along much of the former route.
Our next challenge is to push the project forward while at the same time recognising the necessity of following correct procedures in terms of design, planning, specifying and procurement – and of course respecting different seasonal pressures when working in a SSSI … within the further restraints of the British weather!
Nevertheless, real, substantial and exciting progress has been made. To get the funding in place was a significant step, and we remain very grateful to all those who contributed – private individuals and public bodies alike.
Now we need to push forward with the detailed implementation of the plan. There is a huge amount of detail to work through which is bound to take time, so we ask for your continued patience … albeit within the very positive context that real progress is being made.
On Saturday 30th May 2020 at 4:30pm a devastating fire broke out on the Thursley National Nature Reserve affecting 150 hectares. Firefighters from four counties fought the blaze over three days and nights.
The level of public support following the devastating fire has been overwhelming and we are now extremely anxious to harness all the kind offers of help that we have received. While many would like to help in a practical way on the Common, others have said that they would like to make a financial contribution.
Elstead and Thursley Parish Councils have joined together to launch the ‘Preserve Our Reserve’ campaign to raise funds both to help restore the Common to its beautiful best and also to support longer-term projects so that everyone can enjoy the Common safely for many years to come.
Our initial fund-raising target is £20,000 which will help to clear and make safe the devastated areas. Thereafter we would like to continue to fundraise to provide for future projects such as part time wardens, info boards to name only a few initial ideas. In addition to the fund-raising we are also collating a list of people who have offered their services and we will be working with the Thursley NNR Manager to coordinate these activities.
The link to the GoFundMe page is: https://www.gofundme.com/f/preserve-our-reserve-thursley-nnr-support-fund