CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Surrey Life today CLICK HERE

Hindhead Tunnel will reunite Surrey countryside say National Trust

PUBLISHED: 14:09 27 July 2011 | UPDATED: 12:57 12 January 2015

Hindhead Tunnel will reunite Surrey countryside say National Trust

Hindhead Tunnel will reunite Surrey countryside say National Trust

One-and-a-half thousand acres of stunning heathland will be reunited, thanks to the country's longest 'under-land' road tunnel. Here, the National Trust's Emma Brien reveals how the Hindhead Tunnel will change more than just the view

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine July 2011

NICHOLAS OWEN VISITS THE HINDHEAD TUNNEL FOR SURREY LIFE


***

Share your National Trust attractions photography @ www.surreylife.co.uk/photos

***

Marking an historic moment for Hindhead Commons and for the National Trust, this month will see the A3, which has dissected this remarkable landscape, disrupted views and created noise, pollution and traffic for over a hundred years, reopen beneath nearly three quarters of a million cubic metres of earth. The opening of the Hindhead Tunnel, as it will be known, means that the two halves of the commons will be reunited, bringing enormous benefits all round.

A significant past
The Hindhead Commons site is particularly significant for the National Trust as it was one of the charity’s first major acquisitions. Local people, including Sir Robert Hunter, founder member of the Trust, raised money to purchase the land, protecting a way of life and guaranteeing access for everyone. Today, these principles are still at the heart of what the Trust does, but Hindhead has not been an easy area to manage.

One of the largest wildernesses in south east England, the commons also have some of the most magnificent views and support an array of rare and threatened species, but things were not always like this.

The thousand year-old tradition of grazing livestock died out in the mid 20th century, and, like many lowland heaths, it became over-run by invasive scrub, mostly pine and birch. As the heathlands vanished, it left many species dependent on this habitat struggling to survive.

However, in more recent years, the Trust has carried out successful heathland restoration in both the Devil’s Punch Bowl and on Hindhead Commons, which has resulted in parts of these areas being awarded the highest levels of environmental recognition: SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and SPA (Special Protection Area).

Now, a new chapter in the Hindhead story, with the opening of the tunnel, or rather the burying of the old A3, will see further benefits to the landscape and its wildlife.

“We are determined to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says head ranger, Matt Cusack. “We will be improving the area even further for wildlife, restoring more of the native heathland landscape and creating new walks, footpaths and cycle routes.”

Balancing the needs and expectations of the public with that of wildlife is a tricky one to get right, but one the National Trust faces every day.

For example, while the A3 ran around the edge of the Punch Bowl, a scrub cover was allowed to grow to help obscure the road and reduce the impact of the noise and fumes. Matt and his team can now thin this to create heathland corridors for wildlife from Highcombe Edge, through the Devil’s Punch Bowl, all the way across to Hindhead Commons.

“Without open corridors to link significant areas of heath, many of the vulnerable species will not migrate and breed,” he says. “This may seem odd, but if you or I went to the coast we would probably stay on the beach rather than venture into the sea across to the mainland – it’s a similar situation for our heathland wildlife.”

A heathland corridor has recently been created at Highcombe, which currently looks very bare, but as Matt explains: “In five to ten years time, this area will be covered in heathland vegetation, including heather, and will be rich with wildlife.”

Other species to benefit significantly from a reunited common will be ground-nesting birds, such as woodlarks and nightjars. These, and other birds, have never nested within about 200 yards of the road, so potentially their habitat will increase dramatically.

A bright future
The tunnel scheme will also bring major benefits for visitors too. With the tunnel open, the first change people will notice is of course the tranquillity, especially as the main car park will become the end of the road through Hindhead village.

The thinning of the trees along the byway (just above the old A3) will also open up amazing views all around the Punch Bowl, so that you can walk or cycle along a hard surface and for the first time in decades really feel like you are in a wilderness. The trees around the top of Gibbet Hill will also be thinned to create 360 degree views. And by next spring there will be three way-marked walks to choose from.

Another big change, later this summer, will be the removal of the rangers’ portacabin and yard, as they move to the Witley Centre.

“This will allow us to properly link Hindhead Commons to the main arrival point,” says Matt. “Scrub thinning around the car park has already created a much more open feel with wonderful views over the Punch Bowl, but this change allows us to open up views south towards Haslemere and restore the land back to its native heath.”

There are also major plans to replace the café with a new visitor centre that will include upgraded restaurant services and a small shop. It is hoped this will provide a lovely, peaceful spot to enjoy afternoon tea and the glorious, uninterrupted views. It will also, no doubt, be a great place for families with young children to let off some steam together outdoors. 

Meanwhile, for those who want to explore further afield, two brand-new circular walks are being created, with explanatory panels at significant points along the route, and guides available from noticeboard leaflet dispensers.

The first route along Highcombe Edge’s open heath is already laid out and passes the Robertson Memorial before descending into the Punch Bowl and back along Sailors’ Lane, while the second, slightly longer route, will explore Hidden Hindhead passing historic landmarks, such as the Gibbet, the Sailor’s Stone and the Temple of the Four Winds.

So, from this summer, Hindhead will not only be free from major tailbacks and traffic congestion, it will also be a place that people will come to from far and wide to discover nature, enjoy the outdoors and relax.

More from Surrey Life

Surrey is full of secret hideaways and hidden gems. Slades Farm on the Wintershall Estate is definitely one of them

Read more
Yesterday, 16:05

The new hotel is set to open in spring 2019 and will be located in the heart of the vineyard, offering sweeping views over the North Downs Way.

Read more
Tue, 10:53

From Santa’s Grottos, to Victorian Christmas markets and late-night shopping, we’ve covered what’s on in Surrey this season

Read more
Tue, 10:47

Whether you're looking for fine dining, pub grub or exotic dishes, eating out in Surrey has something for everyone. Here's our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs

Read more
Tue, 10:41

Having bloomed in Brighton’s restaurant scene over the past decade, The Chilli Pickle opened its second site in Guildford this summer

Read more
Mon, 14:32

Historic Royal Palaces and IMG have announced that Kylie Minogue is the first headliner confirmed for Hampton Court Palace Festival 2019. These will be her only London shows of summer 2019. Here’s how you can get tickets

Read more
Mon, 12:56

Enjoy this linear rail to ramble section of the Thames Down Link route taking the short train-ride from Box Hill & Westhumble to Ashtead before walking back

Read more
Mon, 12:13

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend (16, 17 and 18 November): art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Friday, November 9, 2018

We round up 10 of the most beautiful photos of Surrey shared on Instagram this week…

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

It’s that time of year when our beautiful countryside is alight with the colours of autumn. Here, we pick out some of her favourite spots to enjoy the seasonal splendour – as well as some perfect places for a post-walk refresher

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Found on the stretch of the River Thames between Weybridge and East Molesey, Sunbury-on-Thames is blessed with a village feel where it meets the water. From antique hunts to the joys of river life, here are a few of our favourite reasons to visit

Read more
Monday, November 5, 2018

Verity & Violet are Loui and Jess – a singing duo from Surrey who specialise in blending vintage classics with modern favourites. The two have achieved success in the capital, but are now hoping to attract an audience closer to home

Read more
Friday, November 2, 2018

With the Christmas celebrations seemingly starting earlier every year, it all feels a little too ‘soon’ sometimes, but what if you want to look your best for Christmas & New year celebrations and are considering having cosmetic non-surgical procedures? The Bella Vou Pantiles Clinic offers surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures and treatments from a purpose-built private clinic in the heart of Royal Tunbridge Wells

Read more
Thursday, November 1, 2018

Living in England’s most densely wooded county, it’s always a pleasure to witness Surrey donning its autumn finery. Here’s some of the best places to do just that - plus a few pub pit stops to enjoy on route!

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search