Things to see and do at Frensham Little Pond
A haven for wildlife through every season, there’s plenty to see and do at Frensham Little Pond and common. Take up birdwatching, wander through fragrant woodland or simply enjoy the tranquil water and open views across prickly heathland. It’s a great place to unwind and take life at a slower pace.
Walking at Frensham Little Pond
Whether you have half an hour or a whole day to spare, Frensham Little Pond has a walk just for you. The heathland is mainly flat and dry, ideal for kids in buggies and wheelchair users. You can hike to the Great Pond and beyond or enjoy a refreshing stroll around our Little Pond (around 45 minutes).
Venture up to Snowball Ridge, which can be seen from the main car park, and admire the views across the sparkling pond. The views over the ever-changing heathland, with rusts and greens rolling into purple and mauves, is equally spectacular.
Birdwatching at Frensham Little Pond
Frensham Little Pond is the perfect location to take up birdwatching. The best spots are Snowball Ridge, the bird sanctuary on the south side of the pond or the viewing platform, complete with telescope, near Tern Café. Bring your binoculars, a comfy stool and a bird guide and look out for tree pipits, linnets and more.
Elegant mute swans, grey herons and great crested grebes exude a serene authority compared to the noisy gulls, Canada and greylag geese. Moorhens and coots bob in and out of the reed beds and mallards will come and introduce themselves if you are by the café. More wary fowl such as the tufted duck and goosanders will stay in the middle of the lake. Look for the bright plumage of teals, Mandarin ducks and shovelers. Kingfishers can be spotted near the café area.
Winter at Frensham Little Pond
The tranquillity of Frensham Little Pond with its lake, woods and heathland is the perfect place to enjoy the magic of winter. As frost covers the land and the leaves fall, you’ll be able to spot birds hunting for food, winter berries and colourful fungi. Discover some of these seasonal highlights at the pond.
Listen for winter birds
In the woodland, listen out for the drumming of spotted woodpeckers and the chuckling ‘yaffle’ of green woodpeckers. As the light falls earlier in the afternoon, you might be lucky to see a white barn owl or chunky little owl, but if you don’t, keep an ear out for the distinctive t-whit-t’woo of tawny owls. As you walk up the ridge towards Frensham Common, you might hear the cat-like cries of buzzards as they soar above you.
Watch for winter birds
Spot kestrels hovering above the heather as they hunt for prey and watch out for woodland birds such as the bright blue flying jay. On the water, there are herons, swans, coots, moorhens, the great crested grebe, the shelduck and the widgeon to look out for. Other winter visitors include bramblings, fieldfares and redwings, while waxwings can be seen perched high chomping on rowan berries.
Enjoy winter colours
You’ll see plenty of scarlet in the scenery during the colder months. Red dogwood stems can shine in the winter sunshine, and red berries including holly, rosehips and guelder rose make an appearance. In January and February, you may find snowdrops, burnished hazel catkins and even blooming yellow gorse flowers.
Find the different textures of winter foliage
Look out for the wispy strands of lichen on older trees, which indicate pure air. You’ll also see wild clematis seed heads, known as old man’s beard for the way they cover undergrowth. Holly and ivy provide some green contrast to bare branches.
Look out for colourful fungi
Colourful fungi can still be found amongst the leaf litter or on decaying wood in the broadleaf woodland, on oaks, beeches and ash. Look out for white candle snuff fungus, scarlet elfcap, blood red beefsteak fungus and black lumps of King Alfred’s cakes, which look like pieces of coal.
Habitats to explore
Frensham Little Pond is an important site which supports a mosaic of habitats including dry and wet heath, ponds, reedbeds, alder carr and a range of transitional phases from open heath to secondary coniferous and deciduous woodland.
The Little Pond is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) by Natural England for its rare heathland habitat, as well as a Special Protection Area (SPA) for its internationally important rare and vulnerable species of birds.
The sandy heathland has evolved over many years. Up until the beginning of the twentieth century, local people used to graze their animals here and come to cut bracken and wood, creating a virtually treeless landscape. Many unique plants and wildlife developed as a result of this process.
The pond was created in medieval times to provide fresh fish and waterfowl for the Bishop of Winchester. It’s home to a variety of wildfowl and a wonderful array of aquatic life, including dragonfly and damselfly nymphs, newts, toads and frogs. The pond’s banks are fringed with yellow iris, purple loose-strife, reeds, rushes and sedges.
'Marginal fen' habitat
The flora around the pond is mainly common reed and could be referred to as a ‘marginal fen’ habitat. This habitat supports some rarer birds, such as reed and sedge warblers and water rail. Migratory birds such as bittern and osprey are known to visit here too.
Tall Scots pine trees thrive on the common. Some very old granny pines can be found to the north of the pond, which are believed to have been used as ornamental landscape trees when the area was owned by the Pierrepont Estate.
Along the northern boundary of the common, you’ll find a series of old and ancient oaks. The oldest would have been planted at least 500 years ago. Growing alongside it is a prickly evergreen shrub known as the ‘butcher’s broom’, named as such because butchers would use it to scrape down their chopping boards.
Wildlife to see at Frensham Little Pond
Keep an eye out for grass snakes, roe deer, colourful butterflies and more during your visit to Frensham Little Pond.
On the common, look out for badgers, rabbits, roe deer and foxes. Bank voles and yellow-necked mice can be found too. Less welcome visitors include the mink, which preys on young birds. A recent outline survey of bats has revealed the possible presence of nine species at Frensham. This includes the nathusius' pipistrelle and Daubenton's, which are nationally scarce.
Please don't swim at Frensham Little Pond. The pond is a designated SSSI as it has special wildlife habitats. The water quality isn't tested and there are no lifeguards to watch over people’s safety. Dogs are also not allowed to swim in the water or enter the beach areas.
Help us look after our wildlife
During the dry weather our heathland is at great risk from fire. Please leave your barbecues at home and take care if smoking. If you’re out on the heath from March to the end of September, please help protect our special ground-nesting birds by keeping your dog under close control and out of the heather.
More to enjoy
Activities for children
Children are welcome to bring their fishing nets and enjoy an hour or two pond dipping on the southern side of the pond. There are also sandy beaches along the pond, and the woodland makes for a great place to play hide and seek. If we’re lucky enough to have snow in the winter months, Snowball Ridge is a fantastic place for sledging.
When you’re out and about don’t forget to schedule in a break at Tern Café. Savour warming cups of tea and treat yourself to a light snack by the serene pond.
See the ancient dam
Look out for the ancient dam which was originally built in the 13th century to create a fishpond for the Bishop of Winchester. The dam was renovated in 2013 and ensures that the water stays in the pond for you and the wildlife to enjoy.
Today a peaceful pond and haven for wildlife, Frensham Little Pond was once the site of early industrial action and was even used as a military training ground.
Find out how the changing seasons affect the birds you’ll see out and about, with spotting tips and photo galleries to guide you.
A rich and varied landscape buzzing with wildlife
Spectacular views and walks in the Surrey Hills countryside
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