Renowned worldwide as the site of the first Martian landing in “The War of the Worlds” by H G Wells (who lived in Woking), Horsell Common is a 355 hectares (885 acres) area of dramatic Surrey woodland and heathland.
The most vivid memory of my first visit to Woking was driving between acres of wild woods interspersed with patches of heath on many of the roads to the north of the town centre. Horsell Common is surprisingly big!
The main portion lies between Carthouse Lane to the west and Chertsey Road to the east, extending south as far as Woking Town Centre. There are outlying parcels of land such as Broomhall Common and Black Patch. There are even small parcels in Bisley and Castle Grove, Chobham.
The Common has a rich mosaic of heathland habitats, ranging from open heath and acidic grassland to bog, heathland pools, secondary woodland and scrub. It supports a variety of characteristic heathland plants and animals, including several which are local or rare.Large areas have been designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and Natural England has commended the Common for its outstanding wildlife value.
The Common is owned and managed by The Horsell Common Preservation Society (HCPS), which has a policy of active management to preserve a balanced woodland and heathland ecology, while providing free access to the public for recreation and enjoyment. In 2007 a Site Management Agreement for much of the Common was drawn up together with Natural England.
The Society’s web site includes comprehensive information on the Common and the work being carried out to maintain it. The site includes an informative map and a link to a Google Earth image on its page at http://www.horsellcommon.co.uk/map_of_common.php
Walking on Horsell Common
The Common has numerous paths and bridleways. HCPS is developing some of these to ease public access. The “Find a Walk” page (CLICK HERE) includes an easy walk for the disabled. Note that this is not surfaced and tends to collect water in large puddles after rain, while parts can become waterlogged.
The Bedser Trail
A circular route designed especially with wheelchair users in mind was opened during the winter of 2011/12. It’s called The Bedser Trail (after Sir Alec Bedser); you can read about its construction here: http://www.horsellcommon.co.uk/news.php#Sir_Alec_Bedser
A map of the 1.25 km trail is here: http://www.horsellcommon.co.uk/documents/Bedse_trail_map.pdf
Although short in length, the trail provides a wide variety of habitats in: woodland, heath, and a boggy section where there is a superb boardwalk (see photo). Seats are provided at intervals: some of these are works of art, having been skilfully carved on site from timber!
Two bronze age barrows provide points of interest as you pass through the heath section. If walking the trail clockwise, the larger barrow to your right is a bell barrow, the smaller to your left is a disc barrow. The bell barrow is circular in shape and has a central mound about 1.2m high and 28m in diameter. Bell barrows are rare nationally; the majority of the known examples occur further west in Wessex. The existence of these barrows indicates that Horsell was probably an important site for early bronze age man.
The Common’s car park in Monument Road provides the start and finishing point of the Bedser Trail. It has dedicated spaces for disabled visitors and an excellent hard surface. Click here to see its location on Streetmap: http://tinyurl.com/3m6rdzz
HCPS, Woking Borough Council and their partners are doing much to open up Horsell Common to the public. I’m hoping to find new route opportunities for wheelchair walks within the Common in future.
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