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The West Horsley Place Trust – the charity established to save Grade I listed West Horsley Place and its surrounding estate so that they can be enjoyed by the public – today announces an important National Lottery Heritage funded collaboration with Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) to enrich biodiversity across the 380-acre estate.

Once Covid-19 restrictions allow, West Horsley Place will begin to work in partnership with SWT on a project to restore and renew hedgerows on the historic estate, helping to protect endangered wildlife and contributing to a county-wide Nature Recovery Network.

The project, Preserving Surrey’s Hedgerow Heritage, will give young people an opportunity to learn traditional hedge planting and laying skills, helping them to create vital habitat for the county’s wildlife and enabling the next generation of hedge-layers.

And, by reconnecting the local community with the natural heritage of West Horsley Place, the charity will begin to realise its vision for the 21st century historic estate as an inclusive, accessible and sustainable place that promotes wellbeing and inspires people to flourish.

Located between the Surrey villages of East and West Horsley, West Horsley Place is an ancient estate which, as surveys carried out by SWT show, includes a number of habitats and species of national priority for conservation, as well as indicators of Ancient Woodland. These include wet woodland, historic parkland, several old field ponds and a traditional orchard. Species include the Marsh tit, White Admiral butterfly, Brown Long-eared bat and Grass snake.

But in the course of the 20th century, the wider estate and Grade I listed 15th century manor house standing at the centre of West Horsley Place gradually fell into disrepair, eventually being placed on the Historic England Heritage at Risk register.

Now, the West Horsley Place Trust is seeking to rescue West Horsley Place so that the house and estate are saved for the future and can be enjoyed by the public. By working in partnership with other charities, the Trust is committed to ensuring that West Horsley Place serves its community by helping to improve lives.

Ben Pearce, Director of West Horsley Place Trust, said:

“We are really pleased to be able to work in partnership with Surrey Wildlife Trust to realise our vision of creating a sustainable estate for the 21st century with natural heritage and environmental responsibility at its heart. This project forms part of our long-term plan to protect habitats and wildlife, and to enhance biodiversity here.”

“We believe that historic estates like ours have an important role to play in enhancing the wellbeing of the communities they serve. This year, we will begin to explore how our natural heritage can help our communities recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic through a new project which has been generously funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Amongst other activities, there will also be a ‘Bioblitz’ to discover more about the species living on the estate.”

Katy Fielding, Project Manager at Surrey Wildlife Trust, said:

“For hundreds of years, hedge-layers on estates like West Horsley Place maintained hedgerows to mark ownership boundaries, contain livestock and shelter crops from extreme weather. In the past these healthy and well connected networks of hedgerows have been essential habitat providing a source of food, shelter and safe passage for priority species of plants and animals across the landscape.”

“But more recently the intensification of farming and the trend towards larger fields have meant that half of our hedgerows have disappeared. In addition, 93% of Surrey’s remaining hedgerows are now in poor condition.”

“The result is that more than 130 key species that depend on hedgerows are now at risk of extinction, including dormice and hedgehogs. A third of all wildlife in our county is already extinct or heading towards extinction.”

Katy Fielding adds:

“By working in partnership with other landowners and organisations like the West Horsley Place Trust to inspire and teach the local community to restore, renew and create hedgerows we will encourage stewardship and create resilient nature recovery networks across our county.”

One of these networks will be encouraged through the activity at West Horsley Place. Originally part of the West Horsley Place estate, neighbouring Sheepleas was one of the first nature reserves to be created in the early 20th century by Sir Charles Rothschild, founder of the UK’s Wildlife Trusts. Since 2002, Sheepleas has been managed by SWT and it is hoped that this project will enable the important wildlife corridor between these two areas to return.

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