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Surrey Hills Society call for conservation volunteers in 2014

PUBLISHED: 09:52 04 February 2014 | UPDATED: 09:52 04 February 2014

Surrey Hills Society

Surrey Hills Society

Archant

The chairman of the Surrey Hills Society, Chris Howard, on why your county needs you during the year ahead

Planning for change or just looking to do something a bit different in 2014?

Well there are certainly lots of opportunities to try something new this year in the Surrey Hills.

Conservation volunteers are out in force over the winter months, when birds are not nesting, pulling up baby pine trees that are invading our rare heathland habitat.

They are also out clearing famous views from encroaching scrub or learning to lay hedges in the traditional manner, which is not only attractive to look at but also good for our wildlife.

Check out the Surrey Wildlife Trust or the National Trust websites for details of their volunteering opportunities.

Alternatively, join me on Saturday March 1 on Headley Heath with National Trust ranger, Will Frost, to have an introduction to practical volunteering with the Surrey Hills Society.

Interestingly, the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is actually not that ‘natural’.

Our beautiful views here are in fact a culmination of thousands of years of adaption by man. The wooded hillsides have been a source of fuel and timber for London and Portsmouth for centuries. The heathlands have been grazed by nomadic shepherds and their flocks for probably even longer. The animals kept the trees at bay and enabled a wide variety of species to develop around this habitat.

Since the war, heathlands have been shrinking at an alarming rate – until, that is, about 15 years ago when Surrey received a large Heritage Lottery Funding bid. This enabled environmentalists and lots of volunteers to turn back the clock, strip out the trees and reintroduce the heather and let it thrive again.

Similarly, the trees of Surrey have not been managed effectively in recent times and many woods are overgrown, hedgerows disappeared and views obscured, while bluebells struggle to find the light they need to survive.

Today, the beautiful Surrey Hills needs your help to stay beautiful. So why not do something different this year and try a bit of practical volunteering.

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For more information about helping out in our local countryside or getting involved with the Surrey Hills Society, please pay a visit to their website at surreyhillssociety.org

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