Unstead: SWT award

Unstead Wetlands (David Hodson)

On 3 August 2023, Surrey Wildlife Trust hosted a Community Celebratory Evening and announced the winners of the Community Champion Awards. These awards celebrate the individual and collective actions being taken for nature by Surrey community groups. The event saw representatives from 35 different community groups come together, all with a common collective goal: to support nature’s recovery in Surrey.

The Rising Star Award was presented to Unstead Nature Community Group which manages Unstead Wetland Nature Reserve (formerly known as Unstead Sewage Farm): a 25.7 acre (10.4 hectare) site located in the River Wey valley, near Peasmarsh, south of Guildford. The site has a rich birding history and, in the 1990s, an Unstead Bird and Wildlife Group was established, which helped transform the site into one of the best in the county. However, the group disbanded in the 2000s and Unstead SF had been neglected until a few years ago.

Since September 2020, the habitat on the site is being restored by the newly formed Unstead Nature Community Group, in conjunction with Thames Water Biodiversity team. They run regular volunteer working parties on the reserve, currently on each Thursday (10am – 3pm) plus occasionally on one Sunday per month when necessary.. The objective is to develop a rich mosaic of habitats to encourage a growing list of species. The historic bird records show that Unstead SF has a site list of 194 species, making it one of the best small birding sites in Surrey in its heyday.

The reserve is a mixture of mixed woodland, wet woodland, reedbed, open areas of water and both wet and dry meadows. Access to view the reserve is by a public footpath running along the southern boundary of the reserve. There is another footpath which leads to a hide, constructed by Thames Water in 2000 and recently restored by Unstead Nature Community Group, overlooking a section of the site known as North Meadow. Further details and the latest newsletters can be found on their website: unstead-reserve.org/

(Photo: David Hodson)