Our special habitats
Plants and animals all like different living conditions and many creatures thrive on the commons because of the varied habitats: woodlands, open grassland plains, marshy ponds and wet heathland. The area is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) by Natural England.
Grass and scrub
The light grassland plains have the greatest diversity of wildlife on the commons. Here, the wide variety of plant species attract immense numbers of insects that are in turn a food source for the numerous birds that shelter and nest in the protection of the thorny scrub.
Ponds and wetlands
Nearly all the ponds are man-made (created by the monks from Chertsey Abbey for rearing fish and for watering livestock many years ago). The area is home to a wonderful array of aquatic life, including dragonfly nymphs, newts, grass snakes, toads and frogs. Yellow flags (wild iris), water mint, spearwort and water-plantain thrive in the damp ground and at the water’s edge.
Many trees make up our woodland. On the woodland edge you can see the broad crowns of magnificent veteran oaks. In the autumn you can hear the hooting of tawny owls at dusk here and in the spring the drumming of great spotted woodpeckers. In Hill House wood there are a number of hornbeam trees and bluebells flourish in the spring.
To keep all our wonderful habitats they need a helping hand. If we didn’t cut or slow down the coarse grasses, scrub and young trees the grasslands would change rapidly into woodland. Our dedicated volunteers help us with this never-ending task.
and munching cattle too
We also graze animals - cattle munch down the competitive species and give small delicate plants, such as the southern marsh orchid, room to grow and spread.