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Archive for June, 2010

Green Belt and a National Nature Reserve – decaying asylums, veteran trees, Roman history and deer

Chessington to Ashtead, Surrey

Veteran Oak, Ashtead Common

Stag-headed veteran Oak, Ashtead Common. Despite being dead, such trees still provides valuable wildlife habitat, particularly when allowed to remain standing as here

One of my interests for many years has been veteran trees, not just because they make such an amazing habitat for other wildlife (each tree can be an entire ecosystem, involving birds, bats, other plants, invertebrates and saprophytic decay fungi) but also for their incredible size and the sense of awe that results from seeing, exploring and touching an organism that can be several hundred years old. There are many sites in Britain that can boast substantial populations of ‘vets’, many of which I’ve visited (including Richmond Park in Surrey, and Bradgate Park in Leicestershire), but one location that I have never explored is Ashtead Common National Nature Reserve, near Leatherhead in Surrey. I combined a visit to Ashtead with a walk through Green Belt on the very edge of London.

Start: Chessington South Station TQ179633

Finish: Ashtead Station TQ180590

Length: 5½ miles/3-4 hours

How to get there: Chessington South is at the end of a branch line from London Waterloo and is in Travelcard Zone 6. There is a half-hourly service operated by South West Trains, journey time 35 minutes. The return journey is from Ashtead, served by both Southwest Trains services from London Waterloo to Dorking and Guildford, and Southern services from London Victoria to Dorking and Horsham; both journeys back to the centre of London take roughly 40 minutes.

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Meandering through the marshes

Following the Saxon Shore from Faversham to Teynham, Kent

View east from Uplees Marshes

Looking east along the Swale from the Saxon Shore Way, Uplees Marshes

In need of solitude I decided to visit the remoteness of the North Kent Marshes, and wasn’t disappointed. An isolated area of windswept beauty with much of interest to ornithologists in particular, I followed the Saxon Shore Way from Faversham, along the banks of the Swale, passing much of historical and wildlife interest on the way to Conyer before heading south to Teynham and the train home.

Start: Faversham Station TR015609

Finish: Teynham Station TQ956631

Length: 12 miles/5 hours

How to get there: Both stations are served by Southeastern services from London Victoria to Dover Priory and Ramsgate taking roughly 75 minutes. Alternatively, the new High Speed services from St Pancras International reach Faversham in slightly over an hour.

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